Studying the flipped classroom this week, I began to notice some more unique features of a curriculum-driven model of education enabled by the flipped classroom. CreatEd Institute provides an outstanding example of the classic flipped classroom in which the students’ initial exposure to the content of the curriculum is facilitated by personal study. Then, socratic dialogue enables further wrestling with the ideas presented by the content once the students return to the facilitated classroom. In a classic flipped classroom like this, the experts who wrote the curriculum function as the content experts leaving the classroom facilitator to function as a learning expert rather than a content guru.
In working with this school to achieve formal licensing with the state of North Carolina, I referred to Mortimer Adler’s Paideia Proposal as a model in which the teacher functions as a weaver, of sorts, facilitating the students interdisciplinary discovery of ideas that transcend one particular set of expertise. If we can presume that the curriculum is the expert, then the function of the teacher in the classroom changes from expert to facilitator. There is no need for the teacher to be the content expert when the curriculum is in the room. Technology has made it easy to bring this expertise into the classroom changing the role of the teacher from that of a lecturer into that of a facilitator guiding the way to greater discoveries than students could make on their own (aka. Lev Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development).
I think it is quite likely that formal education will experience a general shift toward this type of learning unless assumptions about knowledge change into something that must be cultivated by the individual (more of a constructivist epistemology). As long as knowledge remains some abstract and scientifically sterilized collection of information, the trajectory of the flipped classroom will be toward the teacher as a facilitator of information transfer. Teachers supervise the students’ encounter with the experts and hold more of a role in classroom facilitation than in content curation or presentation. I experienced this in the 4th grade classroom of Poudre School District when the curriculum drove the class. The authority of the teacher was limited to the classroom where perhaps he or she came alongside the students to help them with challenges presented by the book (or in some cases by the computer). It can be difficult for teacher’s to navigate the authority conflicts with a curriculum that might present an alternative perspective (Puttick, Drayton, & Karp, 2015).
21st – Century Flipped
An intermediary option for learning in a flipped classroom model is emerging with the 21st Century Learning trend (Belanca, 2010), which places an increased focus on the tools and process of learning, collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking (the 4C’s). Information about these kinds of things does not necessarily lead to their practice. If students are going to learn these things, someone is going to have to show them how. For example, Developing a Digital Learning Literacy. Students need someone to show them how to use the tools at their disposal for effective learning.
Flipped to Human-Centered
Finally, the human-centered learning model presents a method of learning that shifts the focus of the classroom from the content to the cultivation of individual curiosity, courage, and capacity to learn. These kinds of things may grow alongside instruction in the 21st Century Skills and do not preclude exposure to content, but they require a teacher who exemplifies, models, and guides students on a journey through which they learn to know. This kind of knowing is entirely different from remembering information, because knowing (in terms of a developing relationship – more on this in my upcoming book) shapes the individual in a way that regurgitation cannot.
Thanks to emerging technologies students may choose to expose themselves to any discipline, theory, idea, or question that captures their attention while remaining under the instruction of one who demonstrates learning more fully than they can imitate without years of practice. In this flipped classroom, the teacher is not an expert in information but an expert in individuals. Personalized assessment takes place relative to growth of character and capacity rather than breadth of content. The classroom becomes a place of discovery, a virtual laboratory for exploring any field of interest.
Let’s flip more than the order of learning activities!
Adler, M. J. (1998). Paideia proposal. Simon and Schuster.
Bellanca, J. A. (Ed.). (2010). 21st century skills: Rethinking how students learn. Solution Tree Press.
Puttick, G., Drayton, B., & Karp, J. (2015). Digital Curriculum in the Classroom: Authority, Control, and Teacher Role. International Journal of Emerging Technologies in Learning, 10(6), 11–20. https://doi.org/10.3991/ijet.v10i6.4825