From 'Sage on the Stage' to 'Guide on the Side'
November 28, 2011 5:23 AM   Subscribe

A radical new idea is turning schools upside down. 'Flip the Classroom' is based on a simple concept: kids watch podcast video presentations of lecture material on their own time - at home. They then do the 'homework' at school, in an environment where the teachers can guide and support them, instructing on specific points as required. Colorado teachers Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams have been pioneering the technique, and their Learning4Mastery website is a fount of information on it.

Watch their 20 minute podcast outlining how they got started in this and how they have refined the techniques over the years, and then browse this page of links to other sources of information, including The Flipped Class Network, a community of teachers using 'vodcasting' in the classroom.
posted by woodblock100 (65 comments total) 51 users marked this as a favorite

 
The main issue I would see with this is assuming that the students have the right environment at home for paying attention to lectures. In the classroom, the teacher can (at least try to) set up an environment where the students can give him their undivided attention. At home, all bets are off.
posted by xingcat at 5:28 AM on November 28, 2011 [11 favorites]


This has been going on for years in university....see POGIL as one example. It is a noble concept, and students who are already engaged or on the border of being engaged often do well.

(one of many) problems is: if the students don't do the pre-work or reading at home, the class is screwed.
posted by lalochezia at 5:35 AM on November 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


From a control systems POV, both systems are about equally terrible.

In the traditional one, the teacher emits control sequences and knows immediately about how well they've been received[1]. But not until hours later does the student execute them and even more hours later (at best!) the teacher checks the output. Such a long loop is bound to not perform well.

In this new system, the teacher emits control sequences but does not know the fidelity with which they've been received[1]. Once again, hours later, the student executes but not the teacher immediately checks the output. If the output is incorrect, we now have a synchronization problem. The teacher doesn't know how well the sequences were received or which segments were lacking. Re-emit the whole sequence? Just the portion needing repetition, determined somehow? On a per-student basis? Massive inefficiency.

[1]A good teacher can tell how well a student is absorbing material, but only if the teacher knows and can observe the student in real time.
posted by DU at 5:37 AM on November 28, 2011 [17 favorites]


The main issue I would see with this is assuming that the students have the right environment at home for paying attention to lectures. In the classroom, the teacher can (at least try to) set up an environment where the students can give him their undivided attention. At home, all bets are off.

I think this is an important point, with the added caveat that the homes that are most likely to be difficult places to watch a lecture are very likely to be the homes of the already less privileged. It's a pretty well known fact to people who work with low-income students that their homes can be chaotic places, full of people and noise, and finding time at home to read, do homework, etc. is one of the challenges of working with those children. To that end, this seems like it would have the unintentional effect of reinforcing existing patterns of student success.

I think something like this could be useful (or at least an interesting experiment), but it's not going to work with all, or even necessarily most, children, and I think it could be a real disaster if not applied correctly.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:37 AM on November 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Once again, hours later, the student executes but now the teacher immediately checks the output.
posted by DU at 5:38 AM on November 28, 2011


THIS WOULD HAVE WORKED SO MUCH BETTER FOR ME
posted by Blasdelb at 5:38 AM on November 28, 2011 [25 favorites]


I've helped with faculty experimenting with this at the uni level, and it seemed to go well. I think there were still some students who prefer to listen to a person, but it's overall just a phenomenally better use of instructor time. Ours was a very self selected group, but the equivalent problem to not reading the book seemed to be less than one might expect. The daily interaction with the material in-class meant that one couldn't coast for long. I could see it working less well in subjects that don't modularize well.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 5:39 AM on November 28, 2011


...it's overall just a phenomenally better use of instructor time.

Yet another project optimizing the wrong variable.
posted by DU at 5:42 AM on November 28, 2011 [10 favorites]


This would not have worked for me at all. A huge portion of my learning comes from actual lectures from a live human. I'm very easily distracted but somehow never during live lectures. A one hour live lecture is more than capable of holding my attention, but I've never been able to listen to a 15 minute TED talk in one stretch. There's something about a person who can actually respond to you and change their lesson the fly that's infinitely more effective than a pre-recorded lecture.
posted by peacheater at 6:03 AM on November 28, 2011 [7 favorites]


'Flip the Classroom' is based on a simple concept: kids watch podcast video presentations of lecture material on their own time - at home. They then do the 'homework' at school, in an environment where the teachers can guide and support them, instructing on specific points as required.

"Mr. Principal, sir? We don't have a computer at my house, what should I do?"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:04 AM on November 28, 2011 [8 favorites]


I can't find it now, but there was an article a few months ago in the New York Times about a school district where some kids do Khan Academy math work at home and are then coached through practice at school.
posted by bentley at 6:05 AM on November 28, 2011


about a school district ...

May not be the same one you read, but this one describes that kind of situation.
posted by woodblock100 at 6:08 AM on November 28, 2011


Ya, we have that too. It's called "University." Can't see why it wouldn't work for the young uns too, everyone ALWAYS did their readings, right?
posted by Yowser at 6:10 AM on November 28, 2011


So instead of not helping with homework, parents can not help with watching podcasts and either way the student is equally unprepared for the next day. Sounds like a plan.
posted by three blind mice at 6:15 AM on November 28, 2011


Not sure how radically new this is -- we discussed the Khan Academy a couple years back.
posted by swift at 6:16 AM on November 28, 2011


Yes, I have tried this somewhat at the University level, and I end up with a significant number of the students not doing the reading, and that disrupts the "activity time" in turn. These days, I try to intersperse relatively brief lectures with skill practice, but that doesn't always work if the material doesn't chunk right.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:22 AM on November 28, 2011


How about...teach the material in class. Then have after hours classroom time for kids to do the homework in an environment where they are safe and supported? Oh right, that costs too much.
posted by reformedjerk at 6:24 AM on November 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


How about: teach the material in class and then do work right there in the class moments later. Yes, you'll teach less material, but they'll know it better. You could make up the lost material by eliminating the obsolete summer vacation.

Oh and triple teacher salaries.
posted by DU at 6:27 AM on November 28, 2011 [14 favorites]


Seconding DU... I'd kill to have had classes taught like that.
posted by Yowser at 6:29 AM on November 28, 2011


How about...teach the material in class. Then have after hours classroom time for kids to do the homework in an environment where they are safe and supported? Oh right, that costs too much.

If what you propose means mandatory after hours classroom time, you can see that the costs are only one part of what breaks the plan.

The important factor here is that technology makes the one size fit all approach to teaching less viable.
posted by 2N2222 at 6:34 AM on November 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


My impression from chatting to a handful of teachers is that one of the biggest predictors of a child's achievement in school is the attitude of the parents towards education: if a kid is being raised to think that education is important, teachers should be respected and that hard work can pay off, then they'll tend to do well. This effect is described in Freakonomics, in which it's claimed that kids whose families unsuccessfully applied to transfer them into better highschools did almost as well as the ones who were actually transferred: the teaching environment was important, but the home's attitude to education was probably more so.

Teachers in non-selective schools are already in a constant battling against this disparity, trying to get the kids of disinterested or outright scornful parents to engage with the material during supervised classes. A model which relies so heavily on learning the basics at home (instead of watching TV, squabbling with siblings, chores or paid work, etc) seems like it would leave these kids behind completely. Unless you're going to accept taking a sink-or-swim attitude to these kids (which can only harm hopes of social/class mobility), there'd have to be a second teacher for every class to take these kids aside and play catch-up in school hours.

So it might be a great system for teaching kids who're already committed to education and/or have a home environment that will make education a priority. But I'd be very worried about trying this sort of thing with kids that lack that interest and support.
posted by metaBugs at 6:39 AM on November 28, 2011 [7 favorites]


First addressing this comment:
DU said in re 'tradtional schools': Such a long loop is bound to not perform well.

First - the 'traditional school' is a myth. Every class and every school is different and the experiences vary widely. This has always been the case.

Second - the long loop. The long loop (Lecture, practice, practice, practice, test, wait, grade) has, for a long time, been seen as a substandard method. I quiz my students at the start of every class and those quizzes are instantly checked. This has been considered best practice for decades and gives me a good progress and understanding benchmark.
posted by Fuka at 6:41 AM on November 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think all of this stuff is fascinating. Education is becoming so expensive, and I think there are lots of ways technology could help (e.g. Google Hangouts, Skype and so on). I think that technology will have a huge impact on higher education too.

But... The students have to want to learn, and need to be in a home environment that is conducive to study and learning.
posted by DanCall at 6:43 AM on November 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


How about: teach the material in class and then do work right there in the class moments later.

One of the real problems with Metafilter discussions of education is the pretty much everyone thinks they know what's going in classrooms, even if they haven't been in a K-12 school in 20 years.

What you suggest is exactly what a lot of teachers do. It's certainly how I was taught some subjects, mainly math; the teacher taught a lesson then we started on our "homework" with the teacher coming around to make sure we knew what we were doing. From what I can tell from my wife's planning and discussions, it's how she and her peers teach. There are teachers who do simply lecture and send kids home with homework, but it's not how we're training teachers to teach, and I'd wager that they're in the minority.

We've got plenty of really bright people working on best practices for education, if there's something you can describe in a sentence on Metafilter someone has probably already thought of it.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:49 AM on November 28, 2011 [22 favorites]


I have a hard time imagining it working so well in a creative writing class, or a history class, or anything like that. But for a class where the goal is to nail down a specific skill or process (music, math, basic science, foreign language, etc) and where there's *one* right way to do it, the lectures really take a back seat.

What made my HS physics class amazing was the fact that more than half the students came in and did their homework at 7:00 every morning with the teacher. Having your work checked as you did it was a HUGE advantage. Especially in physics, where things sound easy and logical in the lecture and then make absolutely no sense when you need to apply the math yourself. He gave good lectures, but the real value added came from him walking around and working with students one-on-one or addressing problems everyone was having.

Actually, now that I think of it, what made it good was probably the fact that the teacher was so amazing that he inspired high school seniors to come in at 7am...
posted by pjaust at 6:53 AM on November 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


YouTube lessons → Related Videos → buttslol.

I can't see this ending badly.
posted by scruss at 6:56 AM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


(more) We are addressing the wrong issues here - again. As a teacher, I am very unpopular when I point this (and the solutions to this) out.

The amount of knowledge that the species possesses is growing too large for our curretn model. Assuming that everyone needs to learn everything on every subject and can do this in a 7 hr day during a 9 1/2 month school year is ridiculous and unrealistic.

At least one of these things has to be done (especially post grade 8):

The day needs to be lengthened. I feel that 9 or even 10 hr days, 4 days a week, would support this better.
Students who are not displaying an academic aptitude by grade nine need to be channeled out of academics and into vocational studies suitable to their needs, desires, aptitudes and personality. This need not be a permanent arrangement (i.e. you're not a plumber for life if you don't want to be. Not that being a plumber is in any way bad), but this is, imo, a best practice.
Summer vacation needs to be shortened, possibly down to a month.
Students who do not have dedicated IT in the home need to have it publicly provided, even if it is as simple as an OLPC machine.
The 'traditional' curriculum needs to be modified and some topics need to be eliminated or shortened.

At a certain point we will have more knowledge than an average person can learn, we need to decide what and how much is really important.
posted by Fuka at 6:58 AM on November 28, 2011 [7 favorites]


The total amount of human knowledge has long ago surpassed what any single person can absorb, Fuka.
posted by Harald74 at 7:02 AM on November 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


How about: teach the material in class and then do work right there in the class moments later.

My teaching experience is limited to college math classrooms, but in that context what you suggest is already quite common. It feels like the right thing to do, but I don't know of much empirical work demonstrating that it improves student learning -- nor have I seen, anecdotally, any evidence that students in my classroom (where we do this a lot) learn more than students whose professors take a more straight-lecture approach.
posted by escabeche at 7:06 AM on November 28, 2011


this is how homeschoolers have been working successfully for years via independent study cooperatives. i dont see why this can't be an option for public schoolers via schools dedicated to this particular system. not all schools have to use it.
posted by liza at 7:11 AM on November 28, 2011 [2 favorites]



In this new system, the teacher emits control sequences but does not know the fidelity with which they've been received[1]. Once again, hours later, the student executes but not the teacher immediately checks the output. If the output is incorrect, we now have a synchronization problem. The teacher doesn't know how well the sequences were received or which segments were lacking.

Any teacher worth their salt can easily tell what is lacking by watching a student do the work. Here, the teacher is basing their evaluation on evidence. The act of creating work and generating mistakes is very telling in how the student understands the material. Being able to tell what a student is lacking during lecture when the student is not working is much harder. It's easier to give oneself the illusion of knowing whether or not the student "gets it," but that illusion is not based on evidence from actual work.
posted by yeolcoatl at 7:12 AM on November 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is not too far removed from how one of my classes works now. They handle what would be the "in-class" material at home, then I answer questions for a couple of minutes at the start of class, and then they take a quiz, and then they complete projects much of the time in class. It's worked so much better for me (and more importantly, for them) that I'm seriously considering moving in this direction in all of my classes.

Now to be fair, it could be as much a compatibility with my own teaching style as anything else. Lots of delivery methods are usable (even some of the old-school, "boring" ones) if the teacher is effective at it. I might have just stumbled on what I do well. Who knows.

I've seriously considered whether I should podcast my Accounting curriculum in some way for next year. If nothing else, it's a better way to earn my Professional Development hours than watching something boring provided by the district.

To be fair, though, the detractors are right about one thing: if my students don't handle their business at home, then they still struggle here.
posted by parliboy at 7:14 AM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


How about instead of students having to do anything outside of school in varying environments you just increase the school day an hour or two and have all work done under supervision?
posted by zeoslap at 7:15 AM on November 28, 2011


the institute of play is doing some very interesting work developing a new approach to public schools based on the principles of games. not turning school into a game, but blending learning with the the principles of game play (the things that make games challenging/rewarding/fun). "gamification" is one of those things that the kids would call "trending".

i have found with my own kids that the most innovative learning activities at their schools (now and in the past) blend normally separate subjects into comprehensive research + development projects that challenge the students to create real things in an interdisciplinary manner. the institute for play is making this the general concept for a whole school. i think there is a ton of promise here.
posted by rude.boy at 7:20 AM on November 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


Assuming that everyone needs to learn everything on every subject...

You seem to be somewhat overstating the goal of elementary school.

What you suggest is exactly what a lot of teachers do. It's certainly how I was taught some subjects, mainly math...

Having been in a K-12 school mere weeks ago, I know that this happens with some teachers teaching some subjects to some students (e.g. those that don't have to leave the classroom during the normal "work with the teacher" time).

My point is that flipping the problem over doesn't help much in closing and shortening the control loop. The fact that some teachers have noticed something is a good idea doesn't mean it is yet enshrined as a central principle: Feedback early and often. And not graded, high-stress quizzes. You can tell how well someone knows something if you have time to interact with them. Cut classroom sizes by 2 (or 3 or 4).
posted by DU at 7:21 AM on November 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


The amount of knowledge that the species possesses is growing too large for our curretn model. Assuming that everyone needs to learn everything on every subject and can do this in a 7 hr day during a 9 1/2 month school year is ridiculous and unrealistic.
No one has ever suggested that we need to teach the entire amount of knowledge that the species possesses to school children; even if you change the length of the school day or school year, this is still going to be a completely unrealistic goal.
posted by peacheater at 7:34 AM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


THIS WOULD HAVE WORKED SO MUCH BETTER FOR ME

...

This would not have worked for me at all.

As a trepid parent approaching public education, I'm sort of amazed at two things (well, aside from the de facto segregation) ...

1. That our educational system (40-50 minute classes, with bells between) hasn't evolved much at all in 100 years

2. That our educational system doesn't account well at all for the fact that different people learn differently.

This method doesn't seem so flipped to me -- instead of reading, kids are watching video lectures. (As their site indicates) it's likely better suited for science and other more practical types of learning (e.g. organic chemistry) than with things like History, Literature, and Civics, where the Socratic method is more applicable.

Every class and every school is different and the experiences vary widely.

Really? Classes, sure, but schools? Perhaps in private education, but from my (admittedly) limited experience, most of the public schools in the U.S. are very much the same, particularly at the high-school level.
posted by mrgrimm at 7:58 AM on November 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think it is not crazy to say that more time in class spent doing work together, and having students learn from seeing each other's tackling of the work, will create a good atmosphere for learning. Maybe better than the setting where a group of students are supposed to sit still and focus and listen and not interact, and questions become interruptions if they become too numerous.

Kids can sit and listen (and rewind and skip etc) in a school library and maybe have a better chance of absorbing material. Students could mark off timestamps in the material and attach questions so the teacher can address those later and not hold the class up, there could be kids who like the headphones route, others might want to form study groups etc.

I just see a lot of possibilities for success in this upside down way - not to exclude other ways.
posted by drowsy at 7:59 AM on November 28, 2011


Education in America is failing because our society is failing. There's no teaching method that will overcome an environment where there are tens of millions of parents trying to keep the lights on and something in the fridge.
posted by deanklear at 8:09 AM on November 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


Using a "factory model" approach for educating anyone can sometimes work when trying to teach someone how to memorize something or take a test where questions have one right answer.

Unfortunately, many complex problems that require solving don't have a "right" answer. Instead, they have many possible answers with different trade-offs. Interpretation is required. Analysis is required. Exploration of options, etc.

The old "lecture and quiz" model of education is the worst model of teaching anything that needs more processing than rote memorization.

I'm with DU...you need more immediate feedback on how students are doing, more awareness of who is falling behind on a daily/weekly basis (not just once a year during a standardized test), more time/ability to assess what different students need to supplement deficiencies in their individual education support systems (Access to internet? ESL? Parents who cannot or will not assist with schoolwork?) Class sizes need to be cut dramatically, especially for grades K-6. More exposure to multidisciplinary work, project-based learning, etc.

Unfortunately, the U.S. has created an educational model based upon efficiencies (cost and time) for the schools, not based upon value provided to the students.
posted by jeanmari at 8:14 AM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


extracurriculars after school are one of the only items in school that probably, kept me alive and kicking through the bad years of school (and I was good at academics). lengthening the day, but not the year, would remove much of that. sports, debate club, all that are valuable.

adhering ridgidly to any format is going to be a bad idea.

any of you folks interested in education that want to run for your school board? that's where many decisions (salaries, sometimes even books) get made.
posted by ejaned8 at 8:18 AM on November 28, 2011


In my AP calculus class in high school, we had a double block. So instead of gavin the class every other day, we had the class every day. One lecture day, one day to do homework/quiz corrections/test reviews in class, with the teach there to help with questions.
Never in my life have I learned anything better. It helps that she was a veritable genius with more teaching skill than anyone I'd ever met, but still. It helped so friggin much to be able to correct confusion and wrong assumptions, right then and there, while I was making them.

So, I can see how this, in theory, might be a good idea. Have the teacher there to help with the application of the information, instead of the retention of the info. Since, after all, you're supposed to be learning to use things, not just to remember them.
But I think an even better idea is to have the teacher present for both. And if that means longer classes, days, years, then I'm fine with that.
posted by FirstMateKate at 8:20 AM on November 28, 2011


... some of the opinions expressed here about what school is supposed to do are a bit odd to me. ...

How about instead of students having to do anything outside of school in varying environments you just increase the school day an hour or two and have all work done under supervision?

IMO, (Primary) school is supposed to teach you (1) how to think critically and (2) supply you with the necessary knowledge (of all sorts) and confidence in your abilities to do so.

I don't see how longer days and shorter summers would do ANYTHING to help. (This from a kid who loved going to school.)

In other words, no one cares whether or not you can quote Shakespeare, but you do need to comprehend complicated conversation and solve problems laterally.

(Secondary education, sure. There is an actual amount of specialized knowledge that you have to internally process and maintain ... forever.)

if the students don't do the pre-work or reading at home, the class is screwed.

This problem seems pretty much inherent in any literature or history class.

Maybe better than the setting where a group of students are supposed to sit still and focus and listen and not interact, and questions become interruptions if they become too numerous.

Maybe I'm off, but in U.S. (again, primary) public education, I don't think kids have sat silently listening to lectures for a long time, if ever. Teachers introduce concepts and discuss them with the class. Or at least they are supposed to.

What this system seems to do, aside from all the benefits of digital archiving (sick students, distant learning, special needs, class conflicts) is jumpstart the interactive discussion with a pre-watched experiment or lecture.

I don't think it's anything that new, but I like it (for now, at least). It's obvious that the next generation of kids is going to be weaned on computer/device screens. Anything that gets educational material on kids' phones/devices is OK by me.

Of course, there is a serious fundamental problem of kids without or with limited access to technology, but I'm thinking that problem gets "fixed" shortly (I have a vision of free (compostable?) Kindles being passed out at street corners like the Wall Street Journal.)
posted by mrgrimm at 8:28 AM on November 28, 2011


IMO, (Primary) school is supposed to teach you (1) how to think critically and (2) supply you with the necessary knowledge (of all sorts) and confidence in your abilities to do so.

dang. forgot the most important part. (3) become an independent learner. That would be why I would argue that "homework" or reading/working/doing projects outside of class, is invaluable.

In my AP calculus class in high school, we had a double block. So instead of gavin the class every other day, we had the class every day. One lecture day, one day to do homework/quiz corrections/test reviews in class, with the teach there to help with questions.

IIRC, this is pretty much the model for U.S. secondary education. Two lectures a week with two study group sessions on the other days (with Fridays reserved for drinking and grab-assing).
posted by mrgrimm at 8:31 AM on November 28, 2011


"Mr. Principal, sir? We don't have a computer at my house, what should I do?"

What's why our school gives every student a laptop to use at home.

In my AP calculus class in high school...

Thing is, from most teachers I've talked to, flipping the classroom would ideally start with the AP students. While the material is (or should be) harder than your "normal" classes, those students are also supposed to be more of the "go get 'em!" type of kids who are willing to watch podcasts at home and be more self-sufficient.
posted by jmd82 at 8:36 AM on November 28, 2011


Two thoughts.

1. This is essentially tutoring. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but it is not a new concept. Also, homeschoolers have worked this way for 30+ years. It absolutely can work, but it requires self-motivated kids willing to try to learn on their own.

2. Given the amount of available stuff that could be taught, and the amount of time and energy that will get spent fighting over what should be taught, it would be best to dial school back to the essentials. Make sure kids can read, write and handle math up through Algebra I / Geometry. Then let them decide what else they want to learn. I'm not sure exactly how to scale that up to mass education, but it has worked fabulously for my kids.
posted by COD at 8:37 AM on November 28, 2011


I teach American and World History in a public high school to students ranging from 9th to 12th in college prep, honors, and dual-enrollment courses.

We have a 4x4 block schedule in our school: students take 4 courses for 18 weeks and switch to 4 new courses in mid-January. Each block is roughly 90 minutes long.

Lecture is a mainstay in our classes, but I have found great success with Socratic seminars. It is a difficult process guiding 9th graders to eventually conduct a seminar completely on their own. I watch youngsters struggle to unlearn the idea that there can only be one correct answer to a question.
posted by Hale Poetry at 8:40 AM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Education in America is failing because our society is failing.

No, I'm sorry, you have it backwards. Our U.S. society is failing BECAUSE education in America is failing. We have resisted investing in education for so long, have stuck to this outdated-Henry Ford/Frederick Taylor-time-and-motion model of education, that it has absolutely wrecked our country. It has now become a multi-generational problem of enormous proportions.

The symptoms of it were simply masked for decades (I'm talking about since the early 1900's)...they existed, but were buried under the fact that the U.S. benefited from other imbalances in the system that worked to mask them...the different economic bubbles, the manufacturing boom after WWII, the cash-rich years where the U.S. was able to take advantage of the poorer economies of other areas of the world, the list goes on and on. You could see it beginning to happen among the lower class and then the lower middle class when wages for unskilled jobs began to drop through the floor, or unskilled jobs began to be shipped to other countries. Now it is hitting the middle class, too.

Anyone who can't afford (either through their own money, skills or investment of their own time) to purchase a better education for their kids is at the mercy of a public education system that has been gutted. We're heading back to the "good old days" when only the rich could afford a decent education, and the rest of the country wrote their times tables on coal shovels by firelight. Except now, for those without coal shovels, there will be no fall back jobs (like farming, manufacturing, or trades) that pay enough to buy fuel, food or shelter without a decent education.

Maybe I'm off, but in U.S. (again, primary) public education, I don't think kids have sat silently listening to lectures for a long time, if ever. Teachers introduce concepts and discuss them with the class.

You went to school in a predominantly white, middle class suburb then? Have you ever sat in a room of 35-40 3rd graders and 1 teacher, where the kids have wildly different levels of ability, maybe one-third of those kids ESL? Just the amount of time it takes to handle classroom management and logistics issues is mind-blowing. Riding herd on a "discussion of concepts" with a class that size means that 90% of the class has to be silent and listening for the entire 30-35 minutes that is allocated to discuss these concepts for that subject.

I've been in private school classrooms of 15 kids, and public school classrooms of 30 kids. The difference, just because of class size, is staggering. Add in constant interruptions from the school office, having to keep in mind which kids have the bathroom pass and haven't come back in 20 minutes, who is kicking who under the desk, these three kids have transferred in from other districts/countries and are woefully behind the rest of the class, we've run out of books for everyone, etc. etc? I'm surprised that teachers are able to get ANYTHING done in a class period, never mind be willing to come back to school again the next day.
posted by jeanmari at 8:40 AM on November 28, 2011 [11 favorites]


I don't see how longer days and shorter summers would do ANYTHING to help. (This from a kid who loved going to school.)
There's this huge issue where kids who from more disadvantaged backgrounds find it difficult to keep learning during the summers and after school. There was this study that showed that the biggest gap between learners from poor and underprivileged backgrounds and those from more affluent, educated ones was produced during the summer holidays -- presumably during those days the privileged kids were having enriching experiences, learning to read better, going to museums, while perhaps the same was not happening for the other kids.

So from that perspective, longer days and shorter vacations are supposed to help prevent this gap from increasing (and it increases in a cumulative fashion, so what is a small gap in 2nd grade has widened to an insurmountable one by 9th grade.).

Any proposal that aims to fix American elementary education would have to figure out what to do about kids who don't get much parental support at home.
posted by peacheater at 8:42 AM on November 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


escabeche, there has been a significant body of research demonstrating that active learning (as opposed to the traditional lecture/lab model) is more effective in teaching physics.

There was a great summary of this on American Radio Works called Don't Lecture Me. Both the radio program itself and the articles on the ARW website are good introductions to this field of research. Memail me and I can provide some references (or I can post them in thread, if there's general interest.
posted by BrashTech at 8:42 AM on November 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


IMO, (Primary) school is supposed to teach you (1) how to think critically and (2) supply you with the necessary knowledge (of all sorts) and confidence in your abilities to do so.

There are also a few skills that need to be picked up like reading, writing and basic arithmetic. Maybe the beginnings of basic concepts in science, history, geography, depending on the kids' ages. And, in many cases, simply being able to take instruction and function in a classroom environment after growing up in a chaotic environment or one in which they're not accustomed to ever being told "no" and having it stick.

These are all things that need to be learned and practiced, or they're forgotten. Two months out of school is an eternity for children, and in families where practice isn't built into the routine (e.g. not reading stories together) there can be a very noticeable drop in numeracy, literacy, etc over the summer holiday.
posted by metaBugs at 8:47 AM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


lalochezia: "This has been going on for years in university....see POGIL as one example. It is a noble concept, and students who are already engaged or on the border of being engaged often do well.

(one of many) problems is: if the students don't do the pre-work or reading at home, the class is screwed.
"

We ran our Operating systems implementation class this way. Short video lectures you watch on your own time, brief quizzes at the start of class to keep people on their toes, and then on to the lab work.
posted by pwnguin at 9:00 AM on November 28, 2011



In the US we are loathe to invest in our infrastructure. This applies to roads, sewers and education.

I taught in a troubled school. We had block scheduling so I had four classes with about 32 kids (36 were scheduled for each class, but 32 was where we hovered for attendance) for 4 days a week. Fridays were for 8 hour remediation classes.

As an English teacher I had to teach the State Acheivement test, the State Standards, the 6 skills of writing and a butt-load of other state and district mandated stuff.

My kids just didn't do homework. I'm talking about a 3% (1 kid) return rate on assignments. So we broke the day down into initial writing exercise (a small thing to get them seated and working the minute they hit the classroom), silent reading (15-20 minutes), the lesson (textbook reading, newspaper, grammar, writing, whatever), written exercise and then bigger, on-going projects.

Because our need was great, and I made a bargain to get and keep the same classroom all day, I didn't get a prep period. My school days went from 6:30 AM to 4:00 PM. (let's not discuss the amount of time I spent grading outside of school) The kids were in the classroom from 7:00 AM to 3:45PM. Many rode the bus to and from school for 45 minutes to an hour.

My kids were hungry, tired, stressed and dealing with adult problems. Some had children themselves. My kids had learning disabilities, handicaps, didn't speak English as a first language or as in one case, didn't know how to read or write, despite having been passed through to my 9th grade, regular English class.

Teachers deal with so much more than just trying to cram English Literature into your kids brain for 50 minutes (or two hours) per day.

I played the Mozart in class. I let them draw with markers and crayons. Some created dances to express the lesson. We are aware of and teach to each competancy, we incorporate the learning styles of each student, we have to read, understand and implement the IEP (individual educational plans) for each of the kids identified as having educational needs above and beyond the conventional classroom.

It's exhausting and frustrating and at times rewarding. After two years, I burned out. I couldn't take the disrespectful attitudes of the students, the lackadaisical attitude of the administration and parents, the "no child left behind" idiocy and the complete lack of everything that I needed to succeed in actually teaching my students.

Sure, some teachers have the luxury of trying out new teaching methods with high-tech gadgets, new-fangled ideas and a supportive administration. Most have to make do with spit and bailing wire, with some chewing gum thrown in to make something stick.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:03 AM on November 28, 2011 [17 favorites]


jeanmari, I agree with everything you are saying, but I think we're just on different sides of a chicken and egg scenario. If the parents can't get enough money to feed their family, when are they going to have time to get involved in their children's education? And if the problem is that the education system is broken, just exactly how are the disenfranchised poor going to make any meaningful changes if they are still fighting to put food on the table?

It's tough to put money back into education on a local level when nobody has money to begin with. What we need is a public works program, but instead of repairing just transportation infrastructure, we need to rebuild our nation's educational system and root out as much moneyed interest as possible. And, perhaps more than anything else, there needs to be full transparency on what local K-12 schools are spending their money on.

There's also going to have to be a value shift in American society. Right now we're paying hedge managers billions of dollars to wreck our economy, and telling teachers earning below the median national income that they are lucky to have the privilege of buying school supplies.
posted by deanklear at 9:07 AM on November 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


This will probably work very well for a small subset of students, while shafting the rest of them. However, it does ratchet up the number of students per teacher, because after all, why pay a teacher full salary if they're not actually in the classroom with kids? Teaching demoted to podcasting does not really sound like my idea of the school of the future.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 9:31 AM on November 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


deanklear-- You're not going to get any arguments from me. Public works, yes, like...two years ago, please. Transparency, yes.

However, I would point out that it is only a more tangled problem right NOW...we have NO excuse for not having invested more in education back in the decades when we absolutely could afford to, but did not.

I was just pointing out that the failure of society did not come first, our public education system has been suffering from our poor priorities and ridiculous, "scientific management" approach for many, many decades now. The problem with our educational system did come first, and now that the confounding factors that masked the extent of the problem are being stripped away, more people are beginning to see just how deep and wide the effects are (and will continue to be) on us all.

If the parents can't get enough money to feed their family, when are they going to have time to get involved in their children's education? And if the problem is that the education system is broken, just exactly how are the disenfranchised poor going to make any meaningful changes if they are still fighting to put food on the table?


Absolutely. Which is why the idea that our educational system can be repaired through "flipping" is only feasible for the most privileged in the U.S. Handing out Kindles and iPads? Expecting kids to watch lectures online? Where is the money coming for that? Many neighbors in my urban neighborhood can't afford groceries, forget about the Internet. And now our public libraries (the only place where they CAN access the internet for free) are being closed and gutted as well. Video lectures do well for a limited amount of subjects and a limited class of people...but they are not going to "save" education, nor are they even desirable for learning how to solve ill-structured, complex problems.

And learning Shakespeare? Is not about memorizing Hamlet, dammit. It's about interpreting the MEANING of the written word; it's learning about archetypes in literature; it's about sentence structure; expressing emotion; history and politics; patterns of human behavior; the structure of story. I learned more about how to parse the meaning of an essay on the SAT (or later, the meaning of an academic text or what the heck my client was actually trying to say) through wrestling with the meaning of Macbeth (which I still hate, by the way) than any lecture--videotaped or in person.
posted by jeanmari at 9:31 AM on November 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sorry, that last paragraph was in response to this comment. Not deanklear.
posted by jeanmari at 9:34 AM on November 28, 2011


Every time I think about the US educational system, the thing that really jumps out is how schools are funded using property taxes! It just seems like almost the worst possible system for ensuring that everyone has a fair chance at a good education. As it is, people from poorer, underprivileged backgrounds get the double whammy of less parental support at home and less funding available for school, leading to larger class sizes, fewer extras and resources available. At the same time, teacher performance seems to be assessed in the most asinine way possible, just looking at student test scores, with no attempt at understanding how the different backgrounds of students and different resources available must necessarily impact test scores. It's really crazy, if a scientific study attempted to assess teacher performance without controlling for these variables, it would not get published, yet somehow this is the metric the government wants to use.
posted by peacheater at 10:52 AM on November 28, 2011 [8 favorites]


jeanmari: "Which is why the idea that our educational system can be repaired through "flipping" is only feasible for the most privileged in the U.S. Handing out Kindles and iPads"

Or DVD players, which can be had for ten dollars and are built into two of the three major game consoles. I'd link directly to the slide at 14:45, but the # time notation no longer works. I thought Google Video was being killed off anyways...
posted by pwnguin at 10:59 AM on November 28, 2011


It's the same demo/fam/practice/test cycle I like already, but with a video instead of assigned readings or something. It's a great idea - it would be even better with some sort of computer-based training that paced the information to quizzes.

Problem 1: it relies on technology that everyone may not have.

Problem 2 (and the way this has always failed to work as designed): some of the students will not do it. That leaves you with a dilemma. Give up on those students for this cycle, or turn your guided-practice lesson into the demo that the students should already have done at the expense of the important you-do-it-with-me-helping phase. Then throw them right into today's un-guided practice (homework assignment) unprepared.

Luckily, I have the option of prioritizing my limited attention in class to those who have done the reading and are at the required readiness level for what we're doing. Public school teachers can't do that.
posted by ctmf at 11:10 AM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have a hard time imagining it working so well in a creative writing class, or a history class, or anything like that. But for a class where the goal is to nail down a specific skill or process (music, math, basic science, foreign language, etc) and where there's *one* right way to do it, the lectures really take a back seat.

On a technical point: there's no *one* right way to do math, either, and I really, really, really wish that the students I get in university (and those that don't get that far!) had learned math more as a reasoning process and less as a memorize algorithms and get the "right answer" process in their pre-university education. (I'm not a huge fan of the Khan Academy videos for this reason, though I think there are certainly pros as well as potential cons to the general idea of having students watch videos outside of class and then do more interactive activities in class.)
posted by eviemath at 3:54 PM on November 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


On a technical point: there's no *one* right way to do math

This is not just a technical point!
posted by madcaptenor at 4:30 PM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


sage on the stage
guide on the side
peer in the rear

is how the whole thing goes.

history of changes in modern philosophy of education, from "we know, you learn" to "you learn, we'll be there if you need us."
posted by cogneuro at 8:07 PM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is really interesting. Great post.

Given the state of education in the country, whether this is *the* correct method or not, I think at least trying out these sorts of pseudo-radical departures from current models is absolutely a fantastic thing, and I generally wish there were more resources and wherewithal to try dramatically different approaches to education. I mean, there is a certain degree of variation and different approaches to teaching and learning at least (significantly) until around third grade - regular public school situation, Montessori, Reggio Emilia, et al., but then it really seems to taper off after that and it becomes this one homogenized type of thing (with a few notable exceptions, natch). But why is that?

Good on these teachers. Even if it turns out to be a failure, or more likely partial failure partial success, we will have gained something. And more out of the box types of approaches to teaching, especially given the insane resource constraints, the demand on teachers to teach to certain tests, and weird curricular debates that exist in the current climate, I think would be a great benefit. I'm no Dewey, but that's my guess.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:04 PM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just imagine all the money we could save if we sold off school properties and did not need to spend money maintaining these buildings.

Just imagine how wonderful it would be to have kids grow up without having to know people with different faiths, different perspectives, different livelihoods.

Just imagine the way we can force more responsibility on the poor to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, but issuing a laptop to the children. If the laptop breaks? Or if they must sell it to get grocery money? Well then, that's their own fault that the child will never break out of the cycle of poverty.

Just imagine all the working mothers who will stay at home where they belong, so that they can supervise their children during the day.

Some people are imagining this. Gleefully.
posted by Houstonian at 4:46 AM on November 29, 2011


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