Posted on 03-Nov-14

If you have children in elementary or high school, you may have heard of the “flipped classroom,” a current trend in K-12 education. What’s flipped is a certain paradigm of homework and classwork. Instead of students listening to lectures in class and working on problems at home, in a flipped classroom students listen to lectures (often short teacher-created videos) as homework and use class time for problem-solving activities, group work, or projects.

Boosters of the flipped classroom point to its advantages: students can review the video lecture, or parts of it, as often as needed for understanding. Using class time for problem solving and group work is more engaging, and it lets the teacher monitor students’ progress and adjust the activities accordingly. There’s no need for a student to work fifteen problems on finding common denominators if she’s clearly got it after doing four of them.

Detractors argue that the flipped classroom’s reliance on technology increases the digital divide that already exists in American society. They caution that in-class activities and exercises must be carefully planned and monitored, or else it will be possible for some students to “hide” behind more active classmates. And they worry about whether flipped classrooms will boost students’ performance on high-stakes tests.

Research on the effectiveness of flipped classrooms is being conducted at a great pace. So far, results are mixed—unsurprising when one considers how many variations exist on the flipped classroom model.

But regardless of the long-term fate of flipped classrooms in K-12 education, consider how some of the underlying assumptions compare with principles of adult learning. Flipped classrooms . . .

  • promote learners’ engagement with content in problem-solving activities
  • recognize that learners come with different levels of preparation, experience, and related knowledge, and allow learners to explore at their own levels
  • facilitate one-on-one or small-group coaching
  • lend themselves to “mastery learning.” Learners pass from level to level by demonstrating mastery of the material. They can proceed at their own pace, and go as far as they like.
  • How much of your class time do you currently devote to information transfer in the form of lectures? How much of that transfer can be accomplished outside of class?
  • Do you have a repertoire of problems or case studies for in-class work, so that you can accommodate learners at various levels of experience and sophistication?
  • Are you prepared to put time into planning both in-class and out-of-class activities?
  • How can you ensure that your participants complete their “homework”?
  • Does the flipped classroom model apply to computer and web-mediated classes?
  • How will you evaluate the success of your flipped classroom?

It’s striking how consistent these assumptions are with the basic principles of adult education that underlie current CE/T practices. At least since Malcolm Knowles introduced the concept of andragogy (and probably before), CE/T professionals have focused on helping learners with widely diverse levels of knowledge and skill to solve real-world problems through planned learning experiences. Every CE/T practitioner knows that class time is precious, and that learning by doing is necessary if learners are to be able to apply new knowledge and skills.

Want to flip your CE/T classroom? Here are some questions to consider:

Learning about flipped classrooms in K-12 settings can give you some good ideas for reducing lecture time, bumping up learning engagement, and enhancing your ability to accommodate learners at different levels. Here are some resources to get you started:

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