Flip Fail #5 Practice Makes Progress Part 1

Addressing three questions about “practice” that need some quiet reflection. 


Click the Mic for the audioblog version

In the Flip Fails #4, I ended with a list of concepts that my failures had forced me to reflect upon.  Here are the first three as they popped into my head while writing:

  1. How much skill practice does a student need to become proficient?
  2. What type of skill practice is most effective?
  3. Where/when is practice effective?

Practice Vs. Learning

For this particular failure I suppose I need to clarify that I am a math teacher. It should not be overly surprising that I was a somewhat early adopter of the flipped classroom, as science and math tended to be areas in which flipped was used early in its rise toward the mainstream. One reason for this, beyond the fact that Sams and Bergmann were science teachers, is that in math and science the line between lecture and homework can be pretty clearly delineated.  This easy separation of activity provided flipped learning both a good place to begin its gestation, but has unfortunately stayed on as a misconception that is counterproductive. You see there is an inherent failure in attempting to separate learning and practice in any way, that is the source of flip failure.

Poor Utilization

In my classroom, as mentioned previously, both I and the students found simply moving lecture home and practice into the classroom was exceedingly boring.  What we were doing was using a group space where we were together to do individualized work. We were in a group space and I was in essence asking students to build walls between themselves and to work independently.  It took it took me personally doing the flip classroom for the semester with upper-level students, then another semester with students from all over the academic spectrum, to understand that the practice component of my system was part of the problem.

The Traditional

Traditionally, in math classrooms you have the teacher come in, collect, then grade a certain amount of last night’s practice.  This is followed by a presentation of methods and examples done by the teacher with either a few practice problems for students to do individually or to answer in small groups.  Finally, homework is sent home based on an estimated 30 minutes of independent practice, usually consisting of 20 to 30 problems. I don’t care whether you are a flipped teacher or not, this is bad practice

Voluntarily listening closely to someone else doing something is by its nature not engaging at a junior high or high school level. Then to expect students to be happy about it when that lecturer gives more of the same types of school mimicry for them to do, only to be followed by a pile of the same thing to be done later in the evening seems to be stretching all expectations we may have of teenagers.

Flipping Control

Flipping your classroom means that you are not simply flipping what is done in a particular location, you are flipping the locus of control.  Rather than the teacher commanding the half-hearted attention of 20 to 35 students about a topic some already know, and some have never seen, the flipped classroom allows us to first start from a student’s perspective with a need for a particular skill. Rather than starting from a “how-to” of the skill, we can start with the need for that skill and its relevance to the student. Once that is established to whatever level is necessary for each student, then the instruction or “how-to” component can be given digitally to each student to watch as quickly, or as slowly, as many times, or not at all, as is necessary for the student to be able to work the process.  

UP NEXT: Flip Fail #5 (part 2) “My Best Answers … So Far” 

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.

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