Facing the Sky

Here’s a good little discussion on “flipping” classrooms. “Flipping” refers to the idea that faculty lectures waste class time that should be spent on “student collaborative work” and “mastery exercises” instead. (Instructors should put their lectures on videotape, according to this idea, so students can watch them at their leisure before or after in-class time.)

When I teach, I tell stories that students find memorable (that’s what they tell me), and I ask questions. I’ve tried reproducing the former on videotape; it doesn’t work. (I follow my students’ eyes and the way they are moving at their desks and adapt my lecture to these responses.) And of course the back and forth of Q/A also doesn’t work via video.

A number of my colleagues, who I know are superb teachers, mock the lecture model. They call this model “sage on the stage” (which is nowhere near as good as “guide on the side”). But this model is a straw man. My own models are Johnny Carson and Professor Kingsfield.

It is very common for people to talk about teaching technique the way people talk about religion: with unwarranted conviction and righteousness. My view: There are as many ways to face class as there are to face the sky.

(h/t Jonathan Mayhew)


  Z wrote @

I actually do not have a problem with lectures at all. I had classes from brilliant people and would have really felt cheated if they had just put us in groups to talk among ourselves and do exercises. And, a university education isn’t about mastery of basic skills.

  Bob Basil wrote @

I’m grateful for your comment. Your last point can’t be made enough: Mastery comes much later, if at all.

By the way, more discussion on this topic can be found on my No Contest Communications Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/NoContestCommunications

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