A very common initial misstep for recently minted flipped classrooms is a teacher who is not fully committed to reorganizing their class in a meaningful way. In most cases, this is evidenced by flip teachers reteaching the flip lesson in the classroom space. This is a scenario that I guarantee every flip teacher will see or has seen.
A Common Occurrence
A teacher assigns a component of learning to the individual space and the following day the students come to the classroom having not completed the learning component. At this point the teacher doubles down on failure and re-teaches, re-lecturers, or repeats whatever learning component the students were responsible for the night before.
At this point the cycle of failure is complete with both the students having failed to hold up their responsibilities, and the teacher absolving the student of their responsibilities by reteaching. In short there is a situation of “you have failed”, “I have failed”, “this is a failure”. While this wasn’t a big problem for me when I initially flipped, there have been days since where I have allowed myself to be roped into this cycle of failure because on a given day it was easier to accept failure then it was to continue to reach for success. Regardless, the message to the student is since I am not holding you accountable none of this must be meaningful and therefore none of us need to accomplish anything.
Stick to the Plan
The key to avoiding this failure is good planning and commitment to good teaching. Moving to a flipped classroom was the largest undertaking since my first year of teaching, and for many teachers it will be the same thing. If we start this flip journey with the right motives to provide great learning opportunities for our students focused on their learning, then it shouldn’t be too hard following through on the commitment to good teaching and good planning that prepares these students for what you ask them to do.
I can promise you that in any flipped classroom at any age level or any topic you will have this situation with at least a few students who are going to come to your class unprepared, and they will blame you and the flip model for their unpreparedness. It is at this point that we have a critical conversation with that student to clarify that it is not the process that came up short today, it is our level of preparation that came up short today. In light of their unpreparedness we need to provide the students and opportunity to go back and gather the proper preparation so that they can move forward with you and the rest of the class. For me, this amounts to using an extra laptop, Chromebook, old desktop computer, etc., and a desk at the back of the room or in the hallway for the student to go complete the assigned preparatory work before rejoining the group space.
An Efficient Solution
While this may seem counter-productive in terms of efficiency, it is actually the quickest route to reinforce to the students that their preparation is a key component to their learning, and to the class environment as a whole. If we have done appropriate planning for a flipped classroom the individual preparatory work should not be taking more than 15 to 20 minutes. Rather than write off an entire class of 45 minutes for 30 students by reteaching the lesson, by sending one or a few students to an individual learning space only the small handful that came unprepared will lose out on a portion of that group space-time. Additionally, this method reinforces that the broader lesson that this material is valuable, this time is valuable, and that I value you enough to hold you accountable for coming prepared to class.
Some might suggest that another way to address this situation is to have a student come in on their otherwise free time from recess, lunch, study period, study hall, before school, or after school to redo this preparatory work. That can be effective, if that is the only option, but the best time to address a lack of preparation is immediately, in order to get that student caught up as quickly as possible. Additionally, by taking the students time from other places we are linking learning with discipline, and potentially shortchanging other learning areas. In both of those previous cases we certainly don’t want learning mentally or emotionally connected with discipline. We also want those students learning whatever other subjects, content, and activities that they need to be learning as well-rounded individuals. I hope you can see a stark contrast in my approach to absent students from my initial flip attempts recorded in the previous Flip Fail blog.
Another potential solution is simply extending the deadline for preparation for that student to the following day. While I am a big proponent of teacher’s control of due dates and by extension their control the level of flexibility, this is a solution that needs to be used sparingly because it can easily be seen as an opportunity to push to tomorrow what should have been done today. This is an easy habit to get into, and not something we wish to reinforce on a regular basis, especially for our learners who are organizationally and time management challenged. You never want to rule out a given solution in a particular case, but the best time to address lack of preparation is immediately.
Allow the Framework to Work
Regardless of the way you, as the teacher, choose to address students who failed to complete their preparatory component what we must keep in mind is that if the component was important enough to assign, it is also important enough to do before moving on to something else. I understand the concern that the classroom component they will be missing is important, we have students in any teaching model that come to class unprepared, and in turn waste a certain amount of opportunity from the in class component by their choice. What a flipped learning framework allows us to do, for both group space and individual space, is minimize the impact of a failure by a student in their individual space. One or two unprepared students no longer have to impact significantly the opportunity for the rest of the students who came prepared to the group space, while also allowing those unprepared students a path back to the group space.
Your #flipblogs turn:
Having set the course for this series I would like to encourage anyone that has a flip fail story to blog, vlog, pod, tweet, twitch or in some way share your story of Flip Failure. If you would like to share it at #flipblogs or tweet the link to @flippedlearning we would love to share your story here. One Caveat, as much as we love a good face plant, we want to know how you recovered or learned from that experience.