Archive for July 2012
Given all the press around the Flipped Classroom, Khan Academy, and Ted-Ed, long overdue discussions around the use of lectures in the classroom have evolved. Educators are questioning when, how, and what types of lectures best serve and address student learning.
Along with this development, research is being conducted with students about how they want to be taught and what they learn via a lecture model of education. For example, according to “Learn Now, Lecture Later,” a new report released by CDW-G, only 23% of students are satisfied with the way the teachers spend their class time.
Along with surveying students about their preferences, educators are examining best classroom practices. Eric Mazur, a Harvard Physics professor, has been promoting the removal of lectures from the college classroom.
In 1990, after seven years of teaching at Harvard, Eric Mazur, was delivering clear, polished lectures and demonstrations and getting high student evaluations for his introductory Physics 11 course, populated mainly by premed and engineering students who were successfully solving complicated problems. Then he discovered that his success as a teacher “was a complete illusion, a house of cards.”
The epiphany came via an article in the American Journal of Physics by Arizona State professor David Hestenes. He had devised a very simple test, couched in everyday language, to check students’ understanding of one of the most fundamental concepts of physics—force—and had administered it to thousands of undergraduates in the southwestern United States. Astonishingly, the test showed that their introductory courses had taught them next to nothing, After a semester of physics, they still held the same misconceptions as they had at the beginning of the term. (http://harvardmagazine.com/2012/03/twilight-of-the-lecture/)
This is part of a movement as Physicists Seek To Lose The Lecture As Teaching Tool, and Mazur has become a type of ambassador for losing the lecture in higher education settings.
At an educational technology conference, Building Learning Communities (BLC) conference, Harvard University physics professor Eric Mazur used a simple experiment to drive home his point that lecturing is an outdated—and largely ineffective—strategy for imparting knowledge. He participants to think of a skill they were good at, then explain how they mastered this skill. While the responses from the crowd varied—some cited practice or experience, while others said trial and error—no one answered “lecture,” Mazur noted wryly.
I believe that given the choice of learning modalities (for any topic), few folks would choose the lecture. A sub-premise I hold is that many of those is high school, college, and adult education would choose lectures from a list of options because that is the manner in which they were trained in formal schooling. They have developed a mindset (an illusion?) that learning comes through lectures.
Lectures do have a purpose within the learning environment by not as the primary method of learning content delivery:
- To learn what the experts have to say
- To learn a skill or process
- To inspire
Video Lectures to Learn What the Experts Believe
In The Flipped Classroom: The Full Picture, I propose that the use of video lectures should fall within a larger framework of a learning cycle, one driven by student-centric, hands-on experiences. The videos are used to assist learners in understanding the concepts being covered via experts in that field. Almost any topic, content area, discussion, process . . . any lecture can be found for free via Internet videos by experts in their fields who can often communicate their messages and ideas better than classroom teachers. The expertise of the educator should be in facilitation, coaching, mentoring, and resource provider. As Chris Anderson, TED curator, stated:
For the first time in human history talented students don’t have to have their potential and their dreams written out of history by lousy teachers. They can sit two feet in front of the world’s finest.
Video “Lectures” to Demonstrate Processes, Experiments or Skills
We are living in the age of instant access to information and how-to tutorials via the Internet. Just today, I wanted to know how to cover the ugly chain link fence in the backyard. Because of an Internet search that led to website and video how-to’s, by the evening I had a fence covered with bamboo fencing. Most any person, especially if under 3o years old, could tell a similar story of learning how to do something from a Youtube video. Video, in this case, is used to demonstrate a process or teach a skill. It affords the learners personalized interactions with the media – where they can review parts of the videos on their own to gain further understanding.
Video Lectures As Inspiration
Jeff Utecht discusses lectures as a source of inspiration in his blog post, Lectures For Content Delivery Are Dead:
Content is free, open, and accessible to all then we need to rethink what lectures should be used for and delivering content or knowledge is not a good use. Let kids go find the content….what we need to use the lecture for is to inspire them to go learn the content, create understanding, and apply that new knowledge to other areas.
We don’t need to deliver content, we need to inspire students to go out and find it for themselves. What inspires you to do a search? Why do you search for this or for that on the web? It’s because you want to know it….you need to know it. It pains you not to know it. That’s what we need to do and that’s the role of the lecture in today’s world. Not to deliver content but to inspire, tell stories, and push ideas to the point we want to go learn the “stuff” on our own.
But given any of the scenarios above, the lecture plays a supporting, sometimes minor, role in the learning process. Isn’t it time for educators to seriously examine why they continue to use lecture as the primary mode of instruction?
A second question that should evolve from this thread of thinking is, Given that videos are easily accessible online by anybody at anyone, why is the lecture still being used in whole group settings at a time when the teacher, not the learner, believes it should be transmitted? This is a in-case-it-might-be-useful model of teaching rather than a just-in-time-when-it-is-needed model of learning, one that is driving informal learning in this information, participatory age of learning.
I have been writing about and presenting on Flipped Classroom Model: The Full Picture for about a year now. The model that I propose is one where video lectures and tutorials fall within a larger framework of learning activities. I am titling it the Flipped Classroom Model to get folks’ attention given the Flipped Classroom popularity right now. It really is a experiential cycle of learning, where the video lectures support not drive the learning process.
A major roadblock or barrier to implementing the flipped classroom is that many educators do not know what to do in the classroom with the time once spent doing lectures. For educators, who are used to and use the didactic model, a framework is needed to assist them with the implementation of the Flipped Classroom.
Along with my series of blog posts on The Flipped Classroom: The Full Picture, where I provide a framework (see http://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/tag/flipped-classroom/), I published artifacts on other online platforms.
The Flipped Classroom: The Full Picture ebook on Amazon for Kindle and iBook
This ebook is an aggregate of all my blog posts available as a download for $1.99 at Amazon. It is an estimated 88 pages and is available at http://www.amazon.com/The-Flipped-Classroom-Picture-ebook/dp/B008ENPEP6/ref=pd_ybh_8. Chapters are:
- What is the Flipped Classroom
- Problems and Issues with the Flipped Classroom
- The Flipped Classroom: The Full Picture
- How The Flipped Classroom: The Full Picture Supports Universal Design for Learning
- The Flipped Classroom in Higher Education
- Mobile Learning and the Flipped Classroom; An Example Lesson
- The Flipped Classroom: The Full Picture for Tinkering and Maker Education
Classroom 2.0 Book Chapter
This is a chapter, my first blog post on The Flipped Classroom: The Full Picture, submitted to the Classroom 2.0 Book project:
The Flipped Classroom: The Full Picture Slide Deck
The following animated 321 Fastdraw is actually a promotion for Montessori schooling but that is not revealed until the last frames. The video is a powerful statement of why educational reform is needed and what the qualities are for good education. It is a must watch:
Suggested changes include:
- Un-standardize education, personalize it, humanize it.
- Group the ages together (not by chronological age).
- Let there be a wide and varying mix of activities going on (in the learning environment).
- Let teaching, learning, leadership, systems thinking, community be part of the fabric of the classroom environment.
- It should feel like a family, your family, not a factory.
- Throw out the tests. Let students do hands-on, meaningful, real world projects where they can figure out what works and what doesn’t, what’s successful and what fails.
- Let students own their learning.
- School should be filled with awe, wonder,and joyful learning.
These qualities or characteristics should be found in any learning environment. I do see Montessori, as Trevor Eissler promotes, as being a viable approach and discuss it further in Montessori Methods – Worth a (Re)Look.
I had the opportunity to do experiential corporate training as part of being a graduate assistant. Learning how to conduct training and development for corporate groups was some of the best training I ever received to hone my skills as an educator. Two of the lessons learned that are pertinent to this post are:
- The Importance of Continuous Quality Improvement
- Implementing a Procedure for Formative Evaluation
Continuous Quality Improvement
Continuous quality improvement is often written into the missions and built into the practices of high performing corporations. Because I became impressed with this practice, I included it in my own mission statement and guiding principles as an educator.
Set standards that encourage continuous improvement and the production of ideas that result in improved solutions.
Some of the tenets of Kaizen [the translation of kai (“change”) zen (“good”) is “improvement”] can help guide the practice of continuous quality improvement within one’s teaching.
- Improvements are based on many small changes rather than the radical changes.
- All educators should continually be seeking ways to improve their own performance
- Ideas for change and improvement come from the educators and students themselves.
- Educators to take ownership for their work and related improvements.
I advocate for the use of reflective practice activities by educators and by students, and discuss this in Where is reflection in the learning process?
Reflective teaching means looking at what you do in the classroom, thinking about why you do it, and thinking about if it works – a process of self-observation and self-evaluation. By collecting information about what goes on in our classroom, and by analyzing and evaluating this information, we identify and explore our own practices and underlying beliefs. This may then lead to changes and improvements in our teaching.
This is directly related to formative evaluation. Formative Evaluation (different than Formative Assessment) is . . .
useful in analyzing learning materials, student learning and achievements, and teacher effectiveness…. Formative evaluation is primarily a building process which accumulates a series of components of new materials, skills, and problems into an ultimate meaningful whole. – Wally Guyot (1978) (http://www.nwlink.com/~donclark/hrd/isd/types_of_evaluations.html)
I am proposing the use of formative evaluations as part of one’s teaching practice in a less formal manner than what might be used in training and development settings. The goal, though, is the same . . . to assess efforts prior to their completion for the purpose of improving the efforts (http://www.beyondintractability.org/bi-essay/formative-evaluation).
How can the educator, given limited time and resources, build continuous quality improvement and formative evaluations into his or her practices? As I previously stated, I advocate for the use of reflective practice into one’s teaching, not only for the teacher, but for the student.
I have been asking students to reflect on their learning since I began teaching. Since I am an experiential educator, our face-to-face time is/was spent doing cooperative learning activities, Socratic seminars, art-based activities, case study analysis, and others. As such, it becomes important for students to extract personal meaning. An ongoing course assignment in my classes is to reflect, through journaling, on significant learning during our class time together.
It began with them just handing in typed out versions of their class reflections. Now I do so using Facebook and Blogging. For an example, see my Facebook Page for my Interpersonal Relations course.
The purpose of this post is to propose a rationale and a means for educators to engage in continuous improvement. What I discovered through student journals and blogging is that not only does it promote reflection, it is an amazing source of feedback for me as an educator. I learn, through the student reflections, what was most significant for them during the class time. This assists me in focusing on their learning needs in future classes as well as in helping me re-design future similar courses.
I also encourage students to back-channel (usually through Twitter). I have discovered that this is a powerful form of note talking and for some students, this active way of learning helps to retain information covered during class time. As is the case for student class reflections, it also provides me with information about the points of my presentation that are most relevant for the participants. This helps me revise and re-focus future, upcoming classes.
These are just a few ways that instructional activities provide me with rich data of what they learn and experience during class time. I, then, take the initiative to use this data as a type of formative assessment to engage in and practice my form of Kaizen, continuous quality improvement.