The flipped classroom style has become a popular teaching method in college math and science classes. In the flipped classroom model, students watch video lessons given by instructors at home, and when they come to class, they discuss the ideas in the video with their instructors or do relevant assignments. The learning process in a flipped classroom shifts from a teacher-centric lecture model to a student-centric model. While this sounds like a good thing, it can reduce the quality of education received by students.
The success of the flipped classroom relies on how many students actually finish watching the assigned video clips before class. If a student comes to class without doing the assignment, they might find it hard to contribute to the discussion or feel lost when their fellow classmates are doing projects. Though students should be responsible for the results of their own inaction, the flipped classroom shifts the burden of the learning process onto the student instead of the teacher. If they fail to watch the assigned video clips, the consequences are grave. In a traditional lecture mode, even if a student fails to finish all of their assignments, they can still absorb most of the materials in the classroom.
Since the flipped classroom method shifts most of the learning from in-class to outside the classroom, the students can end up having fragmented knowledge and fail to accomplish the learning objectives. Additionally, a flipped classroom doesn’t have tangible benefits for motivated, hardworking students. These students would have most likely finished their given assignments with or without a flipped classroom, so changing the location of their work does not make much of a difference, and it could even decrease the efficiency of their learning.
Before this was implemented, students could raise questions in class whenever necessary and their questions were answered on the spot. However, in a flipped classroom, their main learning source is the lectures, and the students have no outlet for their questions besides watching the videos over again. Even in the best-case scenario, where all of the students are dedicated self-starters and the video clips are all brilliantly made, a flipped classroom would be completely irrelevant. Students could just take open resources classes from Massive Open Online Resource instead of enrolling in a physical school.
In the end, flipped classrooms do not solve the fundamental issue of low engagement in class materials. If the materials do not stir students’ interests, there is no way to salvage the class.
Students taking responsibility for their learning should not come from a forced change in learning sequence, but from within the students, because it takes more than a few videos to achieve that.
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A version of this article appeared in the Monday, November 21st print edition. Email Phoebe Kuo at [email protected]