I Gave Up My Flipped Classroom, Should You?

Top Feature October 19 / October 22, 2019

 – Dan Jones –

“This is so stupid. I have been flipping my class for years, and they think they can just come along and tell me that there are now “standards” for Flipped Learning. So dumb! I am great at what I do, and no one seems to complain about the way I am doing it. Sure, some kids just don’t get it, but that is because they are lazy and don’t want to put in the work. If those students were more invested, things would be perfect. Wait, what do you mean my students are not performing well on their assessments. They should be retaining this stuff; I mean, I am flipping my class, which is what educators should be doing. I just don’t understand how someone can tell me how to do things in my classroom. They don’t even know me, and they don’t even know what has been working with my students. The issues within my classroom are not my fault! If things need to change, it is the students and their parents that need to change, so don’t even start to tell me that I need to do things differently. This is my classroom!” Sound familiar?

So it’s been a year since the Academy of Active Learning Arts and Sciences (AALAS)  and 100 delegates from 49 countries collaborated to create the Flipped Learning Global Standards.  The standards along with the implementation tool, the Global Elements of Effective Flipped  (GEEFL) are a powerful roadmap for success with Flipped Learning as Dr. Thomas Menella points out in 187 Ways to Improve Flipped Learning. So why isn’t every flipped educator embracing the standards and GEEFL?  Two ideas floated in a recent discussion were that educators don’t like to be told what to do and don’t like change.

We are professionals, after all, and the moment someone says, “You need to…,” we often dig in our heels and say, “OH HECK NO!” We educators are the professionals, and if we are being told what to do, then that means the person doing the telling views us as lacking understanding and sees themselves as more knowledgeable. Why did we go to school for all of those years and spend all of that money getting our bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate degrees if someone else is still going to tell us how to do our job? This point was underscored this month in education week article, Putting the ‘professional’ back in Teacher Professional Development.

Fixed mindset?

Education is in constant flux because someone is always coming out with a new and better way of doing things. It happens at an almost comical rate that we have lost any and all confidence that there is anything new or better that will actually make a difference. So if we are honest, there is no real point in investing in the newest thing. We should all just stick to the tried and true; after all, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. 

Not only have I walked a mile in the shoes of the thought process above, but I have also run a marathon in those shoes. I think, no… , I know that I have even instigated that thought process for others. At first blush, there seems to be a great deal of truth in the argument, and teachers HATE being told how to conduct their instructional methods. If we are going to make a change, it has to be a natural, organic change that we instigate for ourselves. If real change is going to happen, it cannot be forced or mandated. That route will only lead to jaded surface-level implementation, and nothing will improve.

School of hard knocks

I had to hit rock bottom in my career, ready to walk out the door and never return before I was ready to make a real and lasting change. The fact is, I was out of options. I knew change needed to happen, but I had no idea what that even meant. My administrators told me that I needed to teach differently, but how do you teach other than stand in front of your students, tell them what they need to know, and have them spit it back to you on a test? My administrators responded with, “Don’t know, but you will figure this out.” Fast forward a few years, and my flipped classroom was struggling. I didn’t know what I was doing, and a framework didn’t exist for what I was doing. Mind you, I had some successes with my classroom, and I knew that it was the right way to teach. But I didn’t really want to embark on something that was going to cause me to have to do more work. If I may speak honestly, I had been hoping Flipped Learning would transform my circumstances; you know, make things easier because that was what I was looking for, but what it was actually doing was transforming my educational perspective. As issues would arise, I would problem solve how to deal with it, but then another issue would come to the forefront, and I would have to deal with that, too. As I solved each issue, it became very clear that I was no longer looking for easier; I was looking for better. 

I tried to quit teaching, but my administrators stepped in and said no. They told me that I am a teacher; it was who I was. Sometimes our very being compels us to do, but what I came to realize was that sometimes we need to do to become something greater than what we were. The more time I invested in flipping my classroom, the more it became clear that some of my old habits, old ways of thinking, and old perspectives began to slip away. Every time I altered my flipped classroom to address this issue or that issue, it wasn’t because I wanted to be my students’ favorite teacher or the best teacher in my building or my district. I wasn’t trying to be an A+ teacher, I just wanted to provide my students with the best education they had ever experienced. 

Choice: An asset and liability

When all is said and done, we have two choices. We can say “yes” or “no” to the advancements that have been made in the Flipped Learning space. “No” is an easy response. It doesn’t require anything from us. Nothing changes, and we continue as we always have: “Twenty years of tradition, unmarred by progress,” as my friend and FLGI colleague Peter Santoro likes to say. We can continue to do what we think is best for our students. Or we can say “yes.” “Yes” provides us with experiences and opportunities that “no” denies us. “Yes” opens our eyes to a world that exists outside of our ego-driven perspectives. No one likes to think that they have a big ego or that their ego gets in the way, but let’s be real: the moment we think we hold all of the cards or have all of the answers (even if it is just about MY classroom), we become blinded, deafened, and impaired by our ego. The moment we realize that we are not the be-all to end-all is the moment that we allow our educational philosophy to be interrupted. We give permission for our great vision, plans, and ideals to move in a different direction, to be refocused. 

Sharing my Classroom

The Global Elements of Effective Flipped Learning are not telling you what to do, but they are showing you the ingredients for what your students need. How you combine those ingredients is up to you. You still get to be in charge of how you implement those ingredients to appeal to the uniqueness of your situation. As educators, we need to realize that often we fight battles just for the sake of fighting a battle (like teenagers rebelling against parents, we just want to be right), but it is when we surrender our classroom to the support of a community of flipped educators that there is an actual victory in the education we are providing. At that point, it is no longer my classroom; it becomes our classroom. 

Dan Jones
Dan Jones Jones
Dan Jones is a middle school social studies teacher at the Richland School of Academic Arts. He earned a BS in Middle Grades Education from Ashland University and a Master's Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from American College of Education. Dan is the author of Flipped 3.0 Project Based Learning: An Insanely Simple Guide. He is a founding member of the FLGI International Faculty and has earned numerous FLGI certifications including the certification Flipped Learning 3.0 Master Class Facilitator Certification Level - I.

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