Flipping? My sweet, smart neice says Yes!

July 28, 2012 at 2:45 PM 1 comment

I admit to being a bit of a flipping curmudgeon – surely, I’m the best person to scaffold, inspire and disseminate Nolege, with a capital N. Better that the questionable stuff a 13 year old would look up in one minute on Wikipedia, right?

Well, not according to Olivia. She’s 17 and just finished her first year of ‘college’ in the UK, where 16-18 year olds do their AS levels after 1 year of specialist study, and A2 levels in 3-4 subjects after 2 years of study. Unlike the states, this college for juniors and seniors is voluntary and free. So if they don’t do their stuff, they can leave. Plus they also have choice for what courses they take.

The other big change for Olivia has been the flipping of who’s responsible for the content – the locus of control moves strongly toward students. More work for them, but more discussion and use of the teacher as a coach instead of lecturer.

The day before class, she is assigned to find out about say, the agricultural policies of Mao Tse Dung and the effects on people. (SHOCKING, by the way. Millions starved and I feel profoundly ignorant that I was unaware of this.) She’s responsible for writing a page of information.

In class, she and her small group share their information. A spokesperson from each table shares what they found and the teacher may chime in with additional information or clarifications. Then before the end of class, they all write an answer to the question ‘What were three agricultural policies of Mao Tse Dung? What were the effects on people?’ They do it pretty much every day for history A level classes. She says she ‘Loves, loves, loves it so much more than before because the teachers treat us with respect.’

So could this translate to 8th grade science where kids have to be there and there is a wide range of abilities? Plus the inquiry nature of science and woven into the labs means that I wouldn’t always want kids to know all about a concept before they have some experience of it.

But I’ll bet I can find some great ways to weave it in. With younger students, I think I’ll first do an in class day with computers where they get to try out what to do and what I’ll expect. Then try it with some scaffolding the first time, maybe set some norms for the group work.

So yes, I’m going to try it and will frame it as ‘This is what juniors and seniors do – they love it. Want to try it too?’ Maybe for research into helmet construction to start with.

It is the flavor of the week in ed circles and like with anything, moderation is good, so is variety and so is flexible and thoughtful implementation where you are not slavishly following what worked for someone else. But the idea of trusting kids more, learning from how it goes and tweaking it to get to the real objective – self-starting, empowered and educated people who love to learn.


Entry filed under: Class Management, Critical Thinking, Inquiry and critical thinking, Research Skills, Starting the School Year. Tags: , .

How to do better with teenagers… Get set, Go!

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