Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Think About It... You Have Time

When anyone ever asks me why I started flipping my classrooms, my answer is always the same - "I wanted to improve the quality of learning in the actual classroom". I don't mean to sound all 'high and mighty', but it is the truth. The traditional classroom model wasn't doing it for me; I needed to do something more. Hence, the flip.

The benefits of the flipped classroom have been covered, and covered, and covered, and covered, and... well you get the idea. Most discuss the engagement of students, the connection they have with their teachers, and the ability of teachers to assess students' learning more effectively. This is all well and good, and the data supports it; but one thing that is not discussed enough is the enhancement in critical thinking. This is the one observation that struck me the most 'post-flip'. It's not something I necessarily planned on, but upon reflection, I realize that the flip allowed me so much more time to do activities; and this gave me the opportunity (finally) to really focus on improving the thinking during those activities.

There's no singular way to improve critical thinking; and really this is no different from a traditional classroom. No matter what the classroom, critical thinking is still composed of analyzing, evaluating, reasoning, decision-making, and problem solving.

Therefore, having the students reflect on their work, and answer those 'why' and 'how' questions should be done in any classroom.  The difference is, you have much more time to really answer those questions; while still providing the students with enough time to engage in hands-on activities.

My class time now is not rushed; I have plenty of time at the end of the period to really debrief, and have the students think about what they did for the class. With the flip, the students are now provided with the opportunity to share what they have learned, to discuss, to challenge, and to provide reasoning for their actions; something that may have been rushed previously.

I also have the time now to begin every class with discussions between the students - NOT directed by me. They are able to engage and question each other, because they have that opportunity. Every class (well most) begins the same way whereby the students discuss the previous nights video through summary, their own discussion questions, and then a question I pose to them. We have learned how to properly discuss, and are working on this very important skill. The students are beginning to see how discussion of concepts matter; as compared to simply copying down lecture notes of these concepts during class.

So whether you're considering the flip because of better engagement, assessment, or in my case, improved critical thinking, either way, you have lots of time to figure it out.

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