Rethinking a day's work

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A recent 60 Minutes piece on Khan Academy and its founder, Sal Khan, put the spotlight on "flipping" the classroom.  This flipping does not involve students (or teachers) making obscene gestures in classrooms, but turning the school day and the role of the teacher on their heads.

While many teachers establish class schedules and routines that incorporate time for focused, small group work, the vast majority of classroom time is generally dedicated to the direct instruction portion of a lesson.  In a flipped classroom, work time is not incorporated; it's the main focus.  In these classes, students' homework is to watch a lesson so that they are prepared to work through practice sets in class the next day.

Some teachers worry that they are being made expendable, particularly given Khan's emphasis on instructional videos.  While flipping a classroom does completely revolutionize the role of the teacher, it does not diminish the teacher's role.  Quite the opposite:  in a flipped classroom, teachers are just as, if not more, important than ever.  It structures the day such that teachers can be working with individual students or small groups on targeted needs all day long.  While little data are available yet showing how flipped instruction impacts student achievement, the potential of this innovative approach seems huge. As one sixth grade student said on 60 Minutes it "helped me open doors that I couldn't open." 

Katie Moyer