The Flipped Classroom

This is a thought I’ve just recently started having, as I’ve started teaching in a “flipped” classroom, and I’m not sure if it’s at all true. I wanted to share it in case someone who is more knowledgeable about the world of education and education research would comment. To briefly summarize, a “flipped classroom” idea is that the concepts are delivered to you outside the classroom (e.g., through videos and notes) and then the class time is spent on problem solving and group work, applying the concepts already learned.

My initial thought was that this is a good system for teaching concepts to the median student, but was not effective for the very best and very worst students. I thought that, since this method implies you have to put in work outside of class to be able to do anything in-class, the students who were not putting in enough work outside of class would quickly fall behind in a way that left them unable to catch up, since attending class would be useless for them. However, those who did put in the work would benefit.

Very preliminarily, I’m finding that something like the exact opposite is true. The flipped classroom is not useful for people who are relatively diligent, but really great for people who do no work whatsoever. Since my job as an instructor becomes more tutor-like, I am able to go through problems with people who don’t get them at all. Since the people who don’t do the assigned work will not get the in-class problems at all, I spend almost all of my time with them. As long as they admit they don’t understand what’s happening and are receptive to help, which is obviously not the case for everyone.

As a result, in my implementation at least, the class of student who benefits greatly is “the student who wants to learn but doesn’t put in even the minimum amount of effort to do so”. Whereas the median student basically has very little reason to come to class. This looks good on evaluation metrics (a much larger percentage of the class gets C’s or above than before, say), but I’m pretty sure it’s non-ideal.

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