– Terra Graves –
When I was a classroom teacher, I often told my students, “I’m preparing you for middle school” to justify any assignment they perceived as too challenging.
Students: Mrs. Graves, why do we have so much homework?
Me: I’m preparing you for middle school.
Students: Mrs. Graves, why do we have to keep our binders organized?
Me: I’m preparing you for middle school.
Students: Mrs. Graves, why do we have to do these big projects?
Me: I’m preparing you for middle school.
(I think you get the idea.)
I looked forward to the day when my former students would come visit me and say, “Wow, Mrs. Graves, you were right! You really prepared me for middle school!” Unfortunately, this didn’t happen. Ouch. Students would still come back to visit me, but they would tell me how much EASIER middle school was compared to my class. Really? Were my expectations too high or were their middle school teachers’ too low?
As we prepare to open three new schools (one elementary and two middle schools) in the fall, I have been thinking about what happens to the students at these schools once they move on to the next level. They will spend several years in a 1:1 school with teachers, who have been highly trained in the use of technology AND in the student-centered pedagogy that we feel best prepares them for college or career. What happens to them when the next school they go to does not provide the same learning environment?
Even if their next K-12 school experience comes close to what they experienced in the new school(s) they attend, what if the students get to college and they discover that their professors are still very traditional (lecture > notes > test)? Does that mean the K-12 system didn’t prepare them appropriately? If K-12 schools are invested in student-centered learning, shouldn’t higher ed follow suit?
If all higher ed professors were like Thomas Mennella, and every university was like MEF University in Turkey, I would be able to relax. Alas, this is not reality. How can K-12 systems influence higher ed systems to live up to the same expectations of our students heading their way? No really; I’m asking you. While I await your wonderful ideas, I will speculate on what it might take.
Speculation #1: Survey higher ed institutions for current practices around Flipped Learning
Faculty Focus prepared this report, “Flipped Classroom Trends: A Survey of College Faculty” in Summer 2014, in which there were some interesting findings. Some of them were:
While none of these stats are surprising, this was conducted five years ago. I wonder what the data says now. FLR readers are well aware of the time it takes to start flipping, and you also know the benefits of its consistent practice. What can current higher ed FL practitioners do to promote the practice? What can K-12 FL practitioners do to support them?
Speculation #2: Identify areas of need for higher ed institutions regarding professional learning to support “expected practices”
In this essay from 2011, Student-Centered Learning in Higher Education, Gloria Brown Wright, Central Connecticut State University shares this “book report” of Learner-Centered Teaching by Marilynn Weimer. Basically, Weimer shares the five key changes to practice needed (see list below) along with suggestions on how to work toward these changes:
These practices are nothing new to FL practitioners. We can point to many elements of the Global Elements of Effective Flipped Learning that support these key changes.
Key Change #1 The balance of power in the classroom
It is recommended that the instructor takes on a facilitator mindset (guide on the side) rather than the typical “control-freak” mindset of most educators. FL allows students to have more control over their learning process and products. FL practitioners know that one of the first steps is relinquishing a lot of control to students. Once we have navigated that step, we create a learning environment (both digitally and physically) in which students can take control.
Wright shares this idea from Weimer’s book, “… professors [can] begin sharing power with students from the start by, for example, providing them with a list of assignments from which they choose a specified number that they will do.
Key Change #2: The function of the course content
21st Century Learning Design seeks to integrate skills such as self-regulation, problem-solving, and critical thinking (higher Bloom’s) into any academic subject. This undertaking not only helps students learn the content, but it also gives them skills which extend beyond the classroom.
Wright writes, “Weimer (2002) appeals to college instructors to ‘use’ course content, not just as an end in itself, but as a means of helping students learn how to learn. The skills to be developed include study skills, time management, the ability to express oneself orally and in writing, and computational skills. She emphasizes that the professor’s guidance is needed to help students use the course concepts to acquire skills of critical thinking and problem solving. The slower pace required for active-learning strategies will allow for constructive interaction with the subject matter, producing students who are more mature and self-regulating learners with sophisticated learning skills. The result will be classrooms filled with enthusiastic students and teaching faculty who experience a high degree of job satisfaction.”
Key Change #3: The role of the teacher versus the role of the student
Wright shares additional studies that showed, “In planning classroom activities, the focus was on identifying the tasks students needed to do in order to learn the material rather than on the tasks teachers needed to do to prepare the class presentation. The students engaged in dialogue, which had the potential to challenge beliefs and produce conceptual changes.”
This is the amazing experience that FL provides! Students are empowered to take control over their learning, make decisions with a group, get creative, and seriously engage in the process. While FL practitioners must spend a lot of time and energy to create the learning environment as mentioned above, the “heavy lifting” of instruction is removed from the educator. Students benefit from bearing this burden.
Below, we see that this key change corresponds to several of the GEEFL:
Key Change #4: The responsibility of learning
Students who have more control over their learning process by default must be responsible for their learning. Again, educators must “redesign and conduct the course in a way that requires students to hold up their end of the educational contract. Faculty should follow through on consequences instead of making adjustments to accommodate students’ failure to accomplish agreed upon expectations of the course.”
It’s all about being purposeful in your learning design.
Key Change #5: The purpose and processes of evaluation
“I learn so much from multiple-choice tests!” said no student ever. Evaluation of learning/assessments is important to the learning process. When students have a choice in how they show what they know, they are more than happy to put in the effort to create a product of learning. No one ever saves their Scantron forms from school in a scrapbook. However, when students have choice, they are not only excited to do the work, they learn MORE about the content/topic than they would have in a traditional classroom. Isn’t that what we want?
Speculation #3: Connect higher ed institutions with FLGI Leadership, International Faculty, etc.
I believe this work is already underway, but I am sure that more can be done. If you work in higher ed, I encourage you to continue advocating for FL at your institution. Share FLR with your administration! Make connections in the FLGI community and brainstorm ways to influence change. Check out Thomas Mennella’s article Reinventing Professional Learning in Higher Education, which focuses on FLGI’s new PD model.
High school teachers are awaiting the day when former students come to visit and tell them, “College is amazing! Professors are flipping their classes, we have more choice about how we learn, and we work collaboratively on projects that we get to choose.” (It’s already happening…check out Peter Santoro’s article titled How Can We Prepare Teachers to Prepare Students for College?
If you have some ideas on how K-12 and higher ed can best work together on this, please share them in the comments below.
This article is the sixth in a series. If you haven’t read the others, feel free to check them out below!