Flipped classroom and intrinsic learner motivation

Flipped classroom is a term that has recently been associated with the use of digital technologies for education. Its meaning originated more than a decade ago, in a paper titled Inverting the Classroom: A gateway to Creating an Inclusive Learning Environment. [1]

Industrious classrooms or flipped classrooms?

In his TED talk on Changing Education Paradigms, Sir Ken Robinson had this to say about the nature of the current design of education systems:

“I believe we have a system of education that is modelled on the interests of industrialism and in the image of it. […] Schools are still pretty much organised on factory lines; ringing bells, separate facilities, specialised into separate subjects. We still educate children by batches; we put them through the system by age group—why do we do that?”

In all forms of communication since the Gutenberg press, traditional methods have been broadcast and unidirectional. It is not surprising that most traditional education methods employed similar processes in delivery. Looking at my experience with western education, there doesn’t seem to be any difference in methodology with my daughter’s education, although the standardised testing—like NAPLAN—begins a lot earlier these days.

I remember when…

A memorable teacher makes a classroom lesson an engaging experience, interacting with the class, encouraging and answering questions in a provocative way. Followed by this is an assignment that often takes longer than class time allows, and becomes homework. At this point, the students have a grasp of concepts and have had a discussion. If they are lucky and time allows, they may start the assignment in class, and may even get some individual attention from the teacher to help get them started. They then take this project home. If they are luckier still, they find a parent there that has the knowledge and skills to help them continue their assignment, helping when they get stuck.

Flipped classroom is not a technological trick, more a change of workflow. In a nutshell, the flipped model attempts to move the lecture to afterhours so students complete assignments at school with the aid of the teacher and classmates.

Why not flip classroom?

So why aren’t all teachers already using this model where the student studies the theory at home in order to spend the class time working? There will always be a large number of reasons, but as with many issues relating to education the root cause is likely learner motivation.

The ideas behind flipped classroom are more easily enabled and implemented with good use of technology, i.e. YouTube providing lectures, Hangouts providing group discussions and so on. But what if the learner is not motivated to do the required work outside of class? The advantage is not just lost: the learner is left behind, further impacting their motivation to learn. This underlying issue is broader and more ingrained into our society than a simple change to teaching methodology or better use of ICT. If you are interested in what it might take to change learners’ extrinsic motivations to become intrinsic, have a look at Finland’s education system and read this thought-provoking article that highlights some key aspects.

What are your thoughts on the flipped classroom methodology? Join the conversation on Twitter: @eWorksTweets – #flipclass.

[1] Maureen Lage, Glenn Platt, Michael Treglia (2000), Inverting the Classroom: A gateway to Creating an Inclusive Learning Environment [PDF, 878 KB], Journal of Economic Education.