Craft Be Cherished. Rules Be Damned

IMG_20151212_113750One of the reasons I love the Flipped Classroom is that while it has a singular philosophy (What Is The Best Use Of My Face To Face Time With My Students?), I am free to design it around the needs of my school, my students, and myself.

Recently, I was talking with a teacher who is just starting on her Flipped Classroom adventure. Unfortunately, she has seen far more struggles than successes. When she reached out to her supervisor for advice (a flipped teacher himself), he said that every class should begin with a 20 minute debriefing of the material the students learned in the instructional videos. Immediately this set off warning lights in my head.

First, what if the students don’t need the debriefing? If a student understands the lesson completely, why should he/she have to wait 20 minutes before starting on the day’s assignments? You end up holding up some by slowing the class down for a few. If a student is truly confused, that will be evident in their inability to get the other assignments finished in a timely manner in class. Since the other students are working diligently on the material they understand, the teacher is free to work in small groups or one on one with struggling learners. Also, the teacher should have differentiated assignments for each lesson, providing ample opportunity for struggling learners to get the support and practice they need before attempting major assessments.

Second, if you want students to learn the material from a video and you then review all of the material in class, what was the point of watching the video? I get into arguments all the time with teachers about homework and in almost every case, the teacher is one who reviews the answers of the homework in class. The students, even the best students, will stop doing the work on their own if you are going to tell them the answers. Every one of these teachers complains that they don’t understand why their students are getting A’s on HW and failing the tests. Students will only do work they find meaningful. It is time to redesign the assignment to meet their needs and still reinforce the learning.

Third, what works in one classroom doesn’t necessarily work in all. If her students are struggling with understanding the material, she needs to find a way to reinforce the learning that meets their needs. This may be a Q & A period at the beginning or it may be some sort of Entrance Ticket or DO NOW to test their understanding. More than likely, it is a problem with the instructional videos and those need to be closely examined to see if they meet the objectives of the lesson. But the important part is the teacher needs to evaluate the learning environment and tailor something that will work for HER students in HER classroom.

Teaching is an art. Learning environments cannot be one size fits all, but rather artisanally crafted. Let’s stop standardizing education and just focus on learning.

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