– Jake Habegger –
Being at home for an extended period of time has led to a bit of an existential crisis for me. I recently rewatched Simon Sinek’s TedTalk about the Golden Circle for inspiration about my Why. Luckily, I did not end this temporary crisis of faith by deciding that teaching wasn’t for me. I did, however, refocus on what is important in my classroom, whether digital or physical. I am very good at talking about and focusing on my How and my What. By focusing on my Why instead, I know that I will be much more effective in changing the lives of my students while also becoming more satisfied with my own life.
Upon reflecting, I found that I focus a lot on Flipped Learning as my How to do my What. But, instead, I realized that I need to focus on the message of Flipped Learning itself. In this pandemic, people are hearing most about the What, some about the How, and very little about the Why of flipped and active learning. This leads to a question: What is the Why of Flipped Learning? What is the message that people need to hear? Instead of being seen as a bandage to get through quarantine, let’s talk about why Flipped Learning can change the world.
The Why of Flipped Learning
I have been interviewing flipped teachers lately for a project of mine, and the Why of flipping for them seems to always boil down to the same basic theme: reach every student, every day. There appear to be two main branches stemming from this idea: building relationships and active learning.
Relationships: As any flipped educator will tell you, flipping gives more time in the classroom to do the important things by moving the direct and passive instruction into the individual space (as video lectures, readings, etc.). As we have all experienced in life, relationship building is the foundation for building trust and respect for others. If we have more time to make one-on-one connections with our students, they are much more likely to “buy in” to whatever we are selling as teachers. The loyalty that is gained from authentic relationships is more effective than any teaching strategy could ever hope to achieve.
Active Learning: Having more time in class also means that teachers can employ active learning strategies with their students. Maimonides famously said, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” When we lecture, we are giving our students information. When we engage students in the learning process through Project-Based Learning, Socratic seminars, simulations, and other active strategies, our students begin to take ownership of their learning that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.
You may not have caught it, but we have just looked into a bit of the Why, How, and What of Flipped Learning. Let’s break it down.
Why: Reach every student, every day. At the end of the day, the goal of a teacher is very simple, yet very difficult. I currently teach 100 individual people from all walks of life every day. If I can meet this goal, that is a success for me.
How: Create classroom time by moving direct instruction to the individual space. Yes, the Why is a noble goal that we all hope to reach. However, when focusing on delivering material in the traditional teaching model it is nearly impossible to also reach many individual students simultaneously. By moving the direct instruction out of the classroom, we expand the most crucial resource a teacher has: time in the class to guide and support each individual student.
What: Build relationships and utilize active learning strategies. At the end of the day, we reach students emotionally by building relationships with them and academically by making them a major stakeholder in their own learning process. This sounds challenging, but with the Why and How of Flipped Learning already in hand, the What becomes manageable. Develop genuine active learning exercises for your students to explore, circulate around the room as students engage with them, and the relationships will follow.
Short-term thinking would have you believe that the Why of Flipped Learning is to get us through the next two months. Nothing could be further from the truth. Instead of looking at Flipped Learning as a short-term band-aid to deal with school closures and social distancing, we need to view it as a long-term solution to the one thing that matters most: reaching every single student, every single day.