Counterpoint: Should Schreiber implement a flipped-classroom model?


Dan Bidikov, Editor-in-Chief

American education is not perfect—and it does not look like there is a way to make it perfect.  At least, there didn’t, until educators nationwide started toting the flipped classroom model.  Advocating the use of video lectures as more than just a supplement to lectures, flipped classroom teachers think it is best to leave class time exclusively for discussion.

The theory of flipped classrooms, however, is so full of inconsistencies and so unfeasible in practice that it cannot be seen as an adequate solution to the problems of modern education.

Most of the issues with pushing the flipped classroom model are related to the fact that it is not definitely effective.  Proponents of the flipped classroom model constantly cite examples of studies in which the model has worked—teachers in some districts flaunt the reduced failure rates in their classes and students in flipped classes outperforming those in traditional lectures.  These studies are, to say the least, unscientific, comparing groups of completely different students sometimes in different subjects, and with no control over the variables.

These “studies” claim success in school subjects ranging from science to English.  In math and science, concept-based courses, there is a clear cut curriculum and order of material that needs to be followed in order for the material to be learned properly.  This same structure of learning does not apply in humanities courses, where the value of the material is discerned via class participation and writing.

It is not easy, or really possible, to build this kind of classroom environment into a video lecture.  Therefore, there is no way to tell how any teacher of the humanities might successfully flip their classroom structure.

The flipped classroom model is unreliable in that it does not fit all subjects, and cannot possibly treat the education of certain subjects.  Are teachers of certain subjects in certain districts supposed to flip their courses while others do not? There is no easy way to implement the flipped classroom model, and no guarantee that such a risky endeavor will actually prove successful.

It is clear that there are too many issues in assessing the strategy’s effectiveness to say whether or not it is effective.  So why might the model be ineffective?

There is a dependence on students in every educational model.  To say that any laziness or tiredness of students will be alleviated by the presence of video lectures is both impossible to predict and likely incorrect.  If students spend so much time at home watching lectures, why would they be any more willing to be engaged in forced classroom discussion?

Flipping the classroom removes a connection between students and teachers that is necessary to properly learn any subject.  There is no interactivity in a video lecture.  The classroom setting allows for instant discussion about the material.  This means that the material is often not as effectively learned through video lecture as it would be in a classroom.

“In relatively simple classes watching videos can be an efficient means of absorbing the material, but having tried to learn calculus from online videos, I can attest that in difficult classes, having a human instructor is an invaluable tool,” said Zach Herron.  “To whom do I ask questions when the video starts to cover new and complicated material that I don’t understand? The computer will certainly not answer any questions that are any more in depth than exactly what is occurring in the video.”