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Flipping is not about extending curriculum time

Posted on: April 8, 2015

This is the fourth part of my week-long focused reflection on flipping.

In 2009, I tried to balance the components of an overloaded curriculum for a compulsory course for preservice teachers, ICT for Meaningful Learning. The core topics were self-directed learning and collaborative learning. There was also a minor cyberwellness component.

I opted to introduce the cyberwellness topic by asking my student teachers if they would friend their own students in Facebook. I did so outside of class time and used VoiceThread to collect their responses. My student teachers responded enthusiastically and creatively with text, voice, and video. A few even took to performing skits.

One thing I did wrong was not follow up with this activity in class. Assuming that the topic was covered and that teacher intent somehow translates to learner understanding is something some teachers who experiment with flipping might be tempted to do.

The bigger sin was trying to extend curriculum time. There was no time in the planned curriculum for cyberwellness even though the student teachers had to incorporate it into a graded assignment. I relegated that topic to non-class time while telling myself I had partly covered the topic. But I had done this at the expense of my learners’ personal time and I did not facilitate a rise above so that there were clear take home messages.

Imagine if more teachers or instructors gave in to the pressure to complete curricula instead of focusing on actual learning by our students. Collectively we would get our extended curriculum time, but only at the expense of, and not to the benefit of, our learners. As I explained yesterday, we would burden them with a different kind of homework.

How might teachers right this wrong of flipping?

One way is to play the zero sum game. If a class session or workshop is allocated three hours, then keep to a total of three hours instead of trying to create an extra hour from students’ personal time. When I conduct a three-hour workshop, for example, only two hours may be face-to-face time. The other hour is dedicated to online or out-of-workshop time that my participants invest in.

Teachers might argue that they are limited by their timetables. If they gave their students a 15-minute online task before class, how might they return it to their students? If they have a 60-minute class session, they might return that 15 minutes by allowing their students to rest, relax, or do something else.

Another way is to focus on learning instead of teaching. Teachers with curricular concerns worry about width and how much they can cover. Teachers who focus on their learners and learning realize that it is about depth and what their students can uncover.

One of the worst reasons teachers might adopt flipped classrooms is to create more curricular time at the expense of learners’ time. Increasing curriculum time might appeal to an administrator and even to some teachers, but it does not put students at the centre of learning. If a worker would not accept doing overtime work without overtime pay, then we should not expect students to give up their time for your curriculum.

Teachers and school leaders who buy in to the flipped classroom approach might view it as an administrative or curricular solution to create more timetable slots for more teaching time. Focus on what is important: Flipped learning is about the learner and learning; it is not about the teacher, school principal, or the curriculum.

3 Responses to "Flipping is not about extending curriculum time"

Enoch: RT @ashley: Flipping is not an administrative excuse to extend curriculum time… #edsg via


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