Context matters in discussions of flipped classes
Posted by Melissa on January 29, 2014
Today, between dealing with a bunch of departmental business and reading for the Carleton English Department Tristram Shandy marathon, I was able to drop in on a local learning community lunchtime discussion of flipping the classroom. This learning community is planned by fabulous members of our IT and library staff, and I thoroughly enjoyed the discussion. One of the interesting topics that came up is whether the expression “flipping the classroom”, as it is usually employed, gives a misguided impression of what goes on in classes at small liberal arts colleges.
Often when people hear about “flipping the classroom” they hear about putting recorded lectures on-line for students to view outside of class, with class time then being used for group work, problem-solving activities, and discussions. At a place like Carleton, even without flipping the classroom, much class time is already filled with group work, problem solving activities, and discussions. So if classrooms are already interactive, what does flipping the classroom mean in a Carleton context? I don’t recall who first articulated the idea in our discussion (not me — comment if you deserve the credit) that at a place like Carleton we aren’t using technology to get rid of long boring lectures during class time, but rather we are using technology to optimize the face-to-face, interactive classes that we already have. In our context, flipping allows us to make classroom activities richer and aimed more particularly at places where members of a class are stumbling. Perhaps, such nuance doesn’t matter in the big picture conversation, but it is a distinction worth making when engaging with folks who are skeptical that technology has much to contribute to the small liberal arts college classroom.