Symptoms, Not Solutions: A Case for Inspecting the Flipped Classroom and OERs
Patrick, posted August 14, 2017 —
I’ll begin with a reminder to the
reader: My goal is to maintain a state
of doubt (check) and to carry
on systematic and protracted inquiry (forthcoming). As educators, we
must inspect the basis that has led to these interventions, investigate the
consequences, and envision new solutions.
believe flipped classrooms and open education resources (OERs) have become
popular in the last few years thanks to a gap between our vision for robust
teaching and our instructional practices and resources. The flipped model
promises more time for our students to engage in the mathematical practices.
OERs promise us a more engaging instructional resource when the textbook
under-delivers. With funding for textbooks increasingly on the chopping block,
this is good news. I believe it is worth our time to be skeptical of both
interventions and wonder if they are solving their intended problem or simply
glossing over it.
More Time. In the argument for the flipped classroom, I hear something
promising: Students should have more time to do mathematics in the classroom.
In regard to intent, I’m way on board. In regard to underlying beliefs about
teaching and learning, I’m less enthusiastic.
Creating more class time for sense making
is a noble pursuit. First things first, though; the idea that the flipped
classroom is creating more time by shifting instructional time outside the
classroom is just plain incomplete if not wrong. We cannot expect students to
attend a virtual school day, where lectures happen to have a pause button, with
any anticipation that they will show up to the analog school day any more ready
to learn. I assure you, for students who have any responsibilities outside of
the school day and those who do not have access to needed technology, the
flipped model fails if even one other subject area takes it on. The honeymoon
period will end for students quickly, and we’ll find ourselves wondering again:
How do we make more time to do mathematics in the classroom?
We need to be honest about our reasons
for engaging in the flipped model. I believe that there would be no need for
the flipped model if we positioned students as authors of their own mathematics
learning and if schools created time for teachers to dive deeply into rich
tasks with their students, rather than expecting teachers to cram an hour of
learning into a 45-minute period.
a teacher has (creates) time for doing powerful mathematics in the classroom,
too often we are disappointed with current textbooks. Certainly, there are rich
resources in the mathematics community that are just waiting to be found
(thanks, #MTBoS!), but a searchable database
of great resources isn’t the same as a thoughtfully
designed, coherent, strategic curriculum.
The current free-then-quality model relies on a
vetting and adapting process to make available the very best resources. My thought
is that schools, districts, states, and other organizations could work together
to fund the development of great resources and then make them entirely free and
editable to the public. I believe the latter model, quality-then-free, provides a vehicle
for more productive lesson study efforts, aligned professional learning
experiences, and an opportunity for increased collaboration within and across
schools. We don't have time to reinvent excellent curriculum in every classroom
across every district.
Frankly, even if we did, the risk of
increasing disparity of instructional resources is too great. Students deserve
a systemic solution to ensure they have an excellent curriculum from which to
learn; it cannot be built on the backs of hard-working teachers on nights and
Symptoms? My intent is to raise this question: Are
these solutions really solutions at all? I believe they are well-intended but
are indicative of a greater issue we need to face: There must be an investment
in the time and resources needed to engage students in the robust learning
experiences that we hope for. Leaving that to chance will leave us wondering
why our school system has yet to create real progress in bringing meaningful mathematics
to all students.
Do you see something promising in
either the flipped classroom or OERs? Can you improve my critique? Do you have
a perspective that might change my opinion? Can you envision a better solution?
I hope you'll join me in disagreeing.
Levi Patrick serves
Oklahoma as the director of computer science and secondary mathematics
education. He is the vice president of program for the Association of State
Supervisors of Mathematics and serves NCTM as chair of the Professional
Development Services Committee. Patrick taught eighth grade, algebra 1, and
geometry in Oklahoma City and in the Putnam City Public Schools, developed
curriculum and mentoring programs as a mathematics specialist at the K20 Center
for Education and Community Renewal at the University of Oklahoma, and has been
involved in the development of the #OKMath community
(http://OKMathTeachers.com) and the Oklahoma Mathematics Alliance for the past
few years. He and his wife, Roslyn, also an educator, live in Oklahoma City
with their Jack Russell “Terror,” Piper.
Levi, I appreciate your thougthful comments. I am an engineer turned middle school math teacher after a lucrative and successful 20+ career. I can't tell you how shocked I have been at the sad state of public education. I currently teach in a charter middle school where I teach 7, 8, Algebra 1 and engineering design and modeling (PLTW). In my "spare" time, I am constantly researching all the amazing resources available online. I stronlgy agree with your comments about flipped classrooms. Many of my students do not have access to electronic devices or internet at home. I teach in a Title 1 school. Also, a large majority are ELL students and they lack the language skills to fully comprehend what they are doing online at any given time.
I wish PD dollars could be set aside for exactly what you are proposing. If you hear of such a committee, Please inform us and add my name to the list. I have CMP3 currently but it is lacking in so many ways. I agument with these "quality and free" materials you mention. I find myself using these more and more frequently.