Monday, November 12, 2012

Flipping Out: the Triumphs and Struggles of Switched Instruction

A couple weeks ago when I attended a breakout session by Karl Fisch, during which he shared all the innnovative methodoligies he's implementing in his Algebra class, one of which includes the concept of flipped instruction.  My particular point of pride was when he said, "English is the original flipped classroom". At least in the way many of us have come to teach it. 

In my classes, with the possible exception of the days we have time to begin our reading in class, reading transpires outside the classroom and, instead, we dedicate our class time to reflection, group work, and discussion.  I love this idea in theory; I emphasize to my students that some parts of our learning can take place independently (reading) and some parts require us to be together (group work, whole class discussion).  Therefore, I think the latter is the best way to spend our class time. When students prepare, I see the triumph in this methodology.  Recently, for instance, my sophomore Honors students have impressed me so much in their discussions over our Gothic short stories.  (Here is a peek into the outer circle's discussion.)  Having read those stories outside of class, students come in to discuss, and because they're so well-prepared, we're learning a lot from one another as we discuss these stories.

The struggles, on the other hand, come in when students arrive not having completed the reading.  Last week, I was very frustrated when it was clear the majority of my freshmen were behind in their reading.  Because my classroom is flipped, not only did their lack of preparedness negatively affect their learning as they were unable to participate in what I had planned, it also negatively affected their classmates who were stuck working with these individuals.  Though they may have prepared, because some of their classmates didn't, they were now denied the opportunity to learn from, and have their thinking challenged by, their classmates.

Stubbornly, perhaps, I am not willing to change my teaching model.  I realize I need to consider make a more concerted effort to begin our reading in class; however, I will never use all our class time to read.  We can do that outside of class.

My question, then, is what to do with those students who don't prepare.  I know many other teachers implement flipped instruction, and I'm eager for some sagacious words.  When your classroom is flipped, how do you address those students who don't do the reading or watch the lectures?  How can we all make the most of our class time when some don't do their part?