Critiques on social and education issues
Sitting in lectures has never been a favourite pastime of mine. The scenery of the room rarely has more than 3 colours, and that’s including the door and the doorknob. The acoustics of the room are either so good that a single snore can be heard across the room, or so bad that the lecturer cannot be heard.
Most of all, I’m not the type that learns best while sitting and merely “absorbing”.
And that’s what lecturing assumes. Lecturing is an incredibly traditional method of “teaching” that assumes the student is a sponge. However, real learning is not solely absorption. Real learning requires understanding the concepts in the student’s own terms, then applying it and questioning the validity of these concepts so that he or she may test the boundaries. Many teachers and professors only do the first two points, but if the student is not critical of what he or she has learned, then how can the student contribute to the betterment of society?
This is why the flipped classroom was introduced.
In traditional classrooms starting from primary school, this is the typical plan of a teacher during a typical lesson:
Because most of the period is gone, there isn’t a lot of time for students to apply the knowledge they are expected to have learned (read: absorbed), let alone questioning the concepts.
The flipped classroom “flips” the situation. Instead of the teacher lecturing to an entire class during class time, the students listen/watch lectures at home, or do the readings at home, then discuss the readings and homework next class.
Sound familiar? This is the ideal that universities are trying to achieve. The prof assigns a reading, you read it at home, you may be expected to write a summary paper, and a discussion about the readings take place the next class.
One of my classes is a flipped classroom, and I do not enjoy it.
In theory, the flipped classroom is pretty good. I’ve briefly mentioned it here, but I want to critique the glorification of the flipped classroom. Not everything new works well, after all.
The flipped classroom assumes that all students can understand the material with relatively little error. In truth, this is absolutely not true. What happens when the student misunderstands the concepts, and continues to do his or her assignment? This results in something that is taboo for all teachers who truly care about their students’ learning: fossilization.
Fossilization is the process through which an error is ingrained in the student’s understanding of a concept due to a prolonged duration of not fixing the error. This happens when the teacher does not correct the student’s error at the time of committing the error.
Students encounter all types of bumps down the road when interpreting a text or a piece for themselves. Even if the teacher corrects the mistakes in the next day, it will definitely take much longer for the student to fix the error in his or her memory than if the teacher corrected them on the spot.
Secondly, courses that are highly abstract (ex. liberal arts and humanities) are not recommended to use the flipped classroom. Obviously not all types of subjects are suitable for the flipped classroom. Abstract subjects are extremely prone to interpretation, and this can lead to misunderstood concepts left, right, and centre. Subjects like maths and hard sciences have less chance to have debatable errors, so the flipped classroom would be beneficial for these types of courses.
I’m not suggesting that lectures be condoned for abstract subjects, but there can be a presence of a forum for students and the teacher to communicate in, like a subreddit or an EdModo to discuss difficult concepts.
Some teachers claim that students can move at their own pace because flipped classroom is student-centered. However, this assumes that all students have the self-discipline to actually do the work. This may be true for university students, and less true for high school students, and even less true (if there’s any more “true” left to use) for elementary school students. Setting your own goals and your own pace and following through requires a strong sense of commitment, a high level of interest and good self-discipline to really benefit. Yes, the flipped classroom is individualized, but is it tailored to students’ needs?
All educators should be cautious when deciding to use the flipped classroom. Lectures can be disengaging, but at the same time, the lecturer can use props and different ways of speaking in short periods of time to engage the audience. The main bit about lectures that makes it highly unsuccessful is lectures that are too long for what the topic is worth. In general, a lecture that is longer than an hour should definitely warrant a 5-10 minute break.
Sitting in a lecture isn’t always bad. After all, it’s a lot better than standing in a lecture.