Today's learners are in a unique and enviable position. Their universe of available knowledge is nearly unconstrained. The Internet gives them access to an immeasurable amount of information, instantly received at a very low cost or free. The educator in each of us sees the potential here to vastly accelerate student learning. Developing some criteria that may help to guide this transformation in terms of classroom instruction is a good starting point.
The "flipped classroom" is the moniker given to a construct for making better use of students' new and remarkable access to information. In the flipped classroom, direct instruction is the gambit of the home, while the classroom is the time for what we might call coached instruction or guided practice.
The basic idea is that the traditional stream of direct instruction-often a lecture--is reassigned to students as homework to be viewed via video or guided animation or podcast on the student's own time. The teacher then uses the next day's in-class time to coach students individually, ask and answer questions, conduct experiments, deepen the learning or otherwise do everything but lecture.
Until recently, high quality online lectures covering the grounds of K-12 education were hard to find. But websites like Kahn Academy and many others have tackled that ambitious task. You can find impressive videos on almost any strand of instruction you can think of.
As schools consider the flipped instruction model, what criteria might be used to determine what should be required of the direction instruction and the coaching component? Put another way, how do we know that the video is going to work for our students and what are we going to do after that?
Because there is no definitive framework for the flipped classroom, feel free to amend or enhance these suggested criteria with ones of your own.
Direct InstructionBelow, I refer mostly to "video" as the format used in the direct instruction. But I do so just for the sake of convenience and recognize that the direct instruction may have many different formats. When thinking of the direction instruction, we should ask does the video?
__ Cover the content
The video must of course address the material described in the curriculum and do so in a way that is comprehensive and accurate.
__ Describe and organize the learningEven if the information in the direct instruction is comprehensive, many videos don't frame the learning for the learner at the start. The author may assume the student "knows where they are." Does the author put things in context and tell the student what they are going to learn in the video and/or what is prerequisite?
__ Scaffold the concepts or skills to be learned
A video that covers the information in terms of the content but does not scaffold the actual learning during the video may not help the learner to actually learn. The content, concepts and underlying skills must be organized so that the learning builds up. This is essentially a question about ordering.
__ Allow for discussion amongst other learners
Learners often can help each other through forums. Is there a way for learners to ask and answer each other's questions on the same site where they receive the video?
__ Frame the learning in different ways
Does the author represent the information in different ways or perspectives? If there are multiple approaches to the content, does the author explain or address those alternatives?
__ Help the learner to self-assess
Some authors provide both the direct instruction and quizzes to help the learner know whether s/he has mastered the content at relevant times. Can the learner do a self-check for understanding?
__ Engage the learner
Ultimately, our hope is that the very best of direct instruction is what the student receives-the most interesting teacher teaching in the most interesting way. Will this author's video interest the student?
The Coaching instruction
The coaching instruction is the art of teaching. This is when the teacher actually works with students one-on-one to reinforce or hopefully enhance what was learned in the direct instruction. Because there are so many ways of doing this, from asking questions to creating experiments to dramatizing events to revising essays, there isn't a set of criteria to address every form of coaching. But there is one thing that should remain true of all coaching instruction: The teacher should strive to construct mediated learning experiences (MLE) with students during the coaching component.
The term MLE is attributed to Dr. Reuven Feuerstein of Israel, a psychologist, educator, and student of Jean Piaget. During an MLE, the role of the teacher is to stand between the learner and the underlying content and continually filter, frame, focus and guide the cognitive acts of the learner until he or she has reached understanding.The teacher should:
___ Present himself or herself as exploring the content with rather than to the learner
___ Intend to teach not just the content but the underlying cognitive skills that underlie its acquisition
___ Help the learner evaluate his or her own learning
___ Bridge what was learned to other uses.
MLEs place a premium on the idea of engagement between teacher and learner rather than placing a primacy on the delivery of content itself. The opportunities for MLEs with the individual student are far fewer during a lecture, when the primary objective is often simply to present the content to all.
The flipped classroom thus places a premium on the capacity of teachers to create MLE's more so than being master-presenters of the underlying content.
Creating MLEs is the part of teaching most congruent with our hope for individualized student learning. It allows lecture and other direct instruction to be outsourced to the proverbial Einstein's of lecture, while giving the classroom teacher time to bring his or her teaching skill to meet the immediate needs of the individual student.
The concept of the flipped classroom will be fleshed out over time. It will be most interesting to see how the incredible breadth of the Internet may be combined with the particular skills of teachers to enhance our students' educational futures.