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The Problem with the Flipped Classroom Movement

Author: Mark Page-Botelho Posted: 2014-02-17

The flipped classroom is just that, a classroom with the times attributed to certain tasks that are flipped. It is not student centered, but just a rehash of sage-on-the-stage direct instruction. The problem with the flipped classroom or student centered learning is that the students dictate the pace. In addition a great deal of learning takes place in group settings with dialog. We do not live in a schedule free world. Most schools have an Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate curriculum. Both of which have time constraints due to testing. In addition, many schools use SAT testing for college entrance, and classes have to end with a certain amount of learning that needs to take place. Students have a timeline. Allowing students to learn at their own pace could lead to a lot of problems.

Probably the biggest hurdle and problem with the flipped classroom is the heavy reliance on student motivation. Part of the reason that teenagers are not full fledge adults is that many have a difficult time taking care of themselves. Relying on teenagers to take care of their own schedules and work ethic could be a behavior management problem especially when parents are sending their children off to school to learn. Relying on the parents to be responsible for their own child’s learning at home will be haphazard at best. Just because parents can have kids doesn’t mean they know how to get them to do their homework. If the parents don't’ do it then the school will have to create more procedures to deal with the influx of non self-directed students.

Guiding students and presenting ideas in a number of different ways can take place with or without a teacher, within a group, or individually. Individualized learning, the hallmark of the flipped classroom, for students does take place in a traditional classroom. A matter of fact a traditional teacher centered classroom already has aspects of a flipped classroom, such as homework and one on one instruction! As Blooms taxonomy suggests, there are many different types of learners, not everyone learns best through a screen or book. The danger with the flipped classroom is that teachers will assign a limited variety of resources. This is the same problem as a direct instruction classroom.

In a true student-centered learning environment, which doesn’t have to be a flipped model, students choose what resources to use at anytime. Students can use time at home or in the classroom to explore and experiment with their learning. The flipped classroom model does have one aspect correct in that meaningful learning activities can occur during the face-to-face time, but meaningful learning can take place in solitude as well. A well rounded holistic classroom includes many facets of teaching pedagogy. This include direct instruction, guided discussions,  inquiry based, rote memorization, constructivism, real-world projects, and project based learning to name a few methodologies. To limit a classroom teacher to one method of teaching limits the creative aspects of being human and a trained professional who can take into account the individual learning needs of students. The flipped classroom although making some gains in student directed learning, actually limits the possibilities for student learning.

As with any new innovative teaching methodology there will be proponents and detractors. As educators we need to take an objective viewpoint. This may also include experimentation to learn the intricacies to and find for oneself the ins and outs. What we must also do however is to look at the hard evidence done by researchers in the field. One such study done by the Stanford Graduate School of Education found that doing the hands on first unlike the flipped classroom, is far more effective than watching or reading about the material first. The key is that students learning more in a well rounded classroom. Educators and administrators looking for a magical new pedagogy of teaching is like looking for the fountain of youth. It doesn't exist! "We just continue to adjust and tweak the various control measures, still hoping to find the one plan or design that will give us what we need"  (, 1997). Teachers need to be well trained and supported by the ir schools in their personal endeavors to learn and grow. This is the most effective method for improving student learning, but it takes a lot of hard work on the part of everyone involved. 1997. Margaret J. Wheatley: Goodbye, Command and Control. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 17 Feb 2014].


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