- Discuss something that works in my class – something that you like.
- Discuss something that’s broken – what is it that you do not like.
- Discuss any problems they perceive in the high school.
- (Optional) Make any comment they want to make about teen life in our community.
I’ll be honest, I was a little nervous about opening myself up to anonymous criticism. I am happy to report I got good reviews. I think most of the successes are directly related to my flipped model of instruction.
Almost unanimously, the students like the asynchronous aspect and the way I allow time for assignments. I generally make a post on Edmodo on Sunday laying out the expectations for the entire week. I place all assignments and resources on my website at the very beginning so students can work at their own pace. They work at their own pace and simply have to meet the deadline for when things are due. There have been some growing pains for the procrastinators, but even they see the value of having some freedom.
It’s interesting that I got VERY few complaints about homework. It’s interesting because my students have a lot of work to do. There are online modules, literacy reflections, problems to solve, etc. I am almost beginning to think they don’t see my assignments as homework per se; it’s just the work that needs to be accomplished that week. They are starting to see physics as a class without walls. The point of a class period is it’s a time when we are all together in one place to meet and discuss the material. They see other classes as the only time they work on the material. I seem to have “flipped” their perception of when we have physics class – it’s almost as if we have removed any time restrictions. I’m proud of that.
Students all appreciate the opportunities we have created for hands –on learning. The majority of the students remarked that they appreciate the labs and the attempts to demonstrate physics in real world applications. These comments make me want to continue moving toward a modeling approach to teaching the concepts. I’m surprised that the students don’t object to messy, rigorous applications of physics if they perceive them to be “real.” I totally attribute the opportunities to engage in these activities to the flipped model. Students acquire basic knowledge on their own time and apply it in class. I’m happy about the way this is going.
The last thing that most students agreed upon is that I am there for them when they need help. I’m not saying this as a form of self flattery. One of the benefits of the flipped model is that we have more opportunities for face to face interaction. Their comments make me believe that is happening and that I am building relationships that the students respect. I’m very happy about that.
What Needs Fixing
I am extremely pleased to report that most of my students are happy – wow! There are a couple of things about class that they report need tweaking. First, I have the students complete online modules through The Physics Classroom. The students fairly uniformly have a love/hate relationship with the modules. The majority agree that they really help them develop their understanding of the concepts. They all like the fact that they can work until they achieve mastery. The majority also express frustration while they work on the modules. I really believe it is mostly cognitive dissonance that they are expressing. There is always frustration when learning new concepts, so I’m not planning any major changes at this time. I think the scales balance in the positive more than the negative. I will just look for ways to offer a little more support.
The only real complaint the students had was about testing. I still give traditional tests, for two reasons:
- There are specific unit tests I am required to give by the district
- I thought flipping my class was enough of a change to begin with – I didn’t want to change my testing also. This may seem like a cop-out, but at least I’m honest.
I think one of the students had a really nice comment, so I quote:
“Physics is a different class. Different from any class I have ever had. It is not a math class, but does not feel like a science class either. Physics is not my favorite subject, but it is not a subject that I dislike. The instruction is thorough and the system seems to be working, however if I were going to critique one thing, it is the length of the unit tests. We work hard the entire unit and even though we may know the material like the back of our hand, we still end up with lower grades than preferred on occasion due to the short tests.”
I really don’t disagree with the student. The good news is these comments are perhaps the push I need to implement standards based grading. It seems like the logical thing to do. If my students really know the material “like the back of their hand” why not allow them alternative ways to demonstrate it? They will still have to take the district tests, but I can defer them a bit and make them weigh less in the grade book.
I’m really excited that the one complaint is something I have an idea for how to address.
Overall I’m really pleased with the student’s critique of my flipped class. I don’t mind at all that my class is “different from any class I have ever had.” I’m absolutely certain I am never returning to the traditional model of teaching. Oh, and as an aside – the students only had to watch one video in the last seventeen days, so flipping isn’t about video.
General High School Issues
I’m really glad I asked students to comment about high school in general. A couple of observations were made repeatedly that speak about some general issues in education. Generally, students still get too many worksheets. They can smell busy work from a mile away. They made a clear distinction in my mind; they don’t mind rigor – they are not afraid to work. They just despise work that feels meaningless. The teacher may not believe the work to be meaningless, but isn’t perception reality?
I also sense that many students don’t find their classes to be meaningful. They recognize the need for education, but don’t see the relevance in their course work. Many indicated to me that they want to graduate early. They are not running away from high school – they are just running toward something they hope has more substance.
I don’t advocate flipping as the salvation of education. I do however think it is a step in the right direction. Khan Academy, MOOCs, and other ideas are also attempts to move in the right direction. Maybe all we need to do is simply keep talking to our students and listening to what they have to say. If we do that we may eventually create an environment that they value and perceive as having substance.
I intend to keep talking and listening and growing as best as I can.