Flipping History

By Stefan

When most people think of the flipped classroom model or reverse instruction, which ever term you like best, they automatically think videos, screencasts, and when you get down to it lecture based instruction.But that doesn’t have to be the case.

In fact every time I have helped a teacher flip their classroom in the high school it has never involved videos. Instead it involves students actively finding information, making sense of it, and then coming to class ready to discuss with the teacher what they have learned, what questions they have and, what it is they still don’t know/understand.

Currently I am working with a history teacher who came to me with some “really dry historical content” that he needed to cover in his 11th grade Thailand and Southeast Asia history class.

We discussed some options and settling on following a similar set-up that I used in a English classroom last year.

First we came up with an essential question to focus the students. That essential question will be the summative assessment in some form or another when we finish this unit.

The essential question: How does the past influence the present?

Next the teacher came up with sub-questions to help the students focus their research and transfer of knowledge.

  • What is the relationship between the ‘modern’ and the ‘traditional’ in this time period?
  • How was the Thai nation conceptualized or interpreted during this time period?
  • That is, how was the notion of ‘Thai-ness’ or what it meant to be ‘Thai’ defined in this time period? Did it change over the course of this time period? If so, how and why?
  • Analyze the evolution of social forces during the time period.
  • For example, what is the relationship between the ‘old’ order and the ‘new’ order during this time period?
  • How did different social forces try to make use of the machinery of the Thai nation-state during this time period in order to control or influence state power?
  • What is the role of Western influence, both direct and indirect, within this time period? What is the Thai response to such influence?
by Sailing “Footprints: Real to Reel” (Ronn ashore)

For this specific unit the students are studying Thailand History (required class for all students in Thailand) from 1932 – Present.Next we listed the skills we wanted students to gain through this unit of study.

  • Become better searchers of primary source documents and quality web sources
  • Be able to post a blog post with media relevant to the content
  • Be able to leave a quality comment on a blog

Then came the knowledge and understandings we wanted students to gain.

  • Understand how the past influences present day politics in Thailand
  • Understand Thailand’s role globally through the years
  • Know the role that Thailand plays in the global economy

Once we had those in place we set out to create the structure over the next two weeks. Both the teacher and I felt we were crunched for time as the student’s Global Citizen Week (all students leave on a week trip to global destinations) made for a natural break in learning. With that in mind, here’s what the class periods looked like:

Thurs – 1/26 1932 – 1948
Group A Blog Post due Saturday 6pm
Group B Prepare for Discussion on Monday 1/30

Monday – 1/30 1948 – 1972
Group B Blog Post due Wednesday 6pm
Group A Prepare for Discussion on Friday 2/3

Friday – 2/3 1972 – 1996
Group A Blog Post due Sunday 2pm
Group B Prepare for Discussion on Tuesday – 2/7

Tuesday – 2/7 1996 – Present
Group B Blog Post due Tuesday 9pm
Group A Prepare for Discussion on Thursday – 2/9

As we start week two of this flipped project the students are getting more comfortable with what is expected of them. It has been amazing the pushback we have received both from students and from parents on this flipped idea.

Students telling us they would rather listen to a lecture and powerpoint from the teacher then have to struggle through the mass of content out there to find the answer themselves.

Parents calling into question the idea that the teacher isn’t “teaching my child” and the frustration their child is having to “find the right answer.”

Both of these comments scare me….a lot!

Students who have come to expect that the answers will just be given to them in a lecture now complain when they are asked to find information on their own rather than having it spoon fed to them in 90 minute chunks.

Parents who still believe that learning in the high school should be teacher directed and test based and call into question any deviation of what they know “school” to be.

As an employee of my school I am very concerned about the notion of what good learning (not teaching) looks like in a world that is filled with information that is chaotic, messy, and ever growing. If I was an administrator at my school I would be concern if I wasn’t receiving more calls from parents telling me “the teacher isn’t teaching”.

Reverse instruction can look different in different classrooms. To often we see one good example and we assume it must be done that way when really it’s the idea that is important. How you decide to “farm out” the content discovery and knowledge accusation is up to you. The main thing to ask yourself is simple:

How do I structure my time so that I get the most out of our face to face interactions?

Complete Lesson Plan Outline Here