For a while now, the paradigm of ‘flipping’ the classroom and reversing the way teachers and lecturers traditionally approach developing students knowledge has been gaining quite a lot of credence in educational circles.
The flipped classroom has been made popular by Salman Khan and the Khan Academy and is based around the concept of students getting the input they would traditionally receive from the lecture or lesson in the form of videos or set texts that they study before class. Then in the classroom they do more practical work (similar to the kinds of tasks they would usually do as homework) while the teacher monitors and acts as support.
There’s a lot to be said for this approach, especially in the traditional lecture based classroom, but for us as communicative language teachers I often wonder if this is really anything new. I’ve known teachers for years who have been setting grammar study as homework and then doing the more practical communicative tasks in the classroom.
More recently I’ve started to question this approach though, because it still has elements of the PPP type - ‘I’ll tell you what you need to produce and then you produce it’ about it.
Whether we have input in the classroom or through pre-reading or viewing we are still assuming that without the teacher priming students with information, they have no idea how to work things out for themselves.
Recently, whilst working on ELT and technology training courses for teachers, I have been trying to address this and push trainees to try to work things out for themselves and then reflect on what they have learned.
Instead of preparing my trainees with video input or lectures before the class, I’ve dropped them straight into more practical activities in class and pushed them to face some of the challenges of working with technology for language learning. This then has enabled me to follow up with plenary and input materials that are far more discursive and interactive and which encourage much more reflection on what the trainees have already experienced.
I’ve found that my trainees enjoy this approach and are much more engaged than they have been when I have started with input. They also seem to be able to develop much deeper insights into some of the problems students will face when working with technology, mainly because far more goes wrong in the classroom and they are able to work out strategies for coping with this.
I have had some initial complaints from trainees, especially inservice teachers who come to classes with the expectation that they will have an outline of what they will learn in each session and they often feel uncomfortable with being dropped into things that they have to deal with unprepared. I try to be sympathetic to these teachers whilst at the same time stressing that in order to develop as teachers we need to step or be pushed a little outside of our comfort zones, because that’s where we really start to learn.
I hope you can give this a try too.
You can find out more about the Khan Academy here: http://www.khanacademy.org/
You can find more articles about technology in education here: http://www.scoop.it/t/learning-technology/