Another dot in the blogosphere?

Flipping homework

Posted on: July 29, 2016

I listened to a podcast on “flipped homework” yesterday. What my ears heard almost made my eyes roll. Almost, because I tried to take the perspectives of those trying to promote that idea.

The podcaster and his interviewee did not go beyond a general definition of flipped homework: Tasks that are meaningful to the student. So I tried to fill in the blanks. Flipped homework could involve its design and implementation.

The design of flipped homework could first start with research on homework [examples] and what makes it effective and meaningful. The redesign of homework could include on-going professional development for teachers on better homework models and practices. This should include the discarding of old, unproven, and frustrating practices like hand-me-downs, always-done-this-way, and homework for homework’s sake. Teachers could also share their practices for flipped homework models to emerge or be refined in context.

The implementation of “flipped homework” in a flipped classroom is more straightforward. What used to be homework (e.g., practice done outside the classroom) is done in class in the presence of peers, coaches, tutors, or teachers. In the conventionally defined flipped classroom, the “new” homework might be the consumption of materials (e.g., YouTube videos, web quests) before entering the classroom.

However, I remain critical of homework, flipped or not. If it is not critically examined and designed, it is busy work that takes away personal, social, and family time. Flipping homework in terms of where content is initially consumed or where practice is conducted merely changes the nature of homework.

Flipped homework is a misnomer because it is not necessarily work done at home. This might seem like a trivial argument, but it is not. If you are trying to address the mindsets of teachers and change their behaviours, they need to learn and use other terms that are not homework. Using that term again allows old practice to creep and infect new ones.

Practice without theory is blind. Theory without practice is sterile.

I am in favour of “doing what works”, but perhaps we should be more critical and humble and say “doing what seems to work”. We cannot be sure unless we have data and one or more theoretical foundations that altogether stand up to scrutiny. If we do not have that evidence, we delude ourselves into believing “what works”.

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