Flipped classes have been in the air for me this week. I enjoyed another Olin College Innovation Lab, where business leaders argued that in-class lecturing was doomed. Then I helped with an NSF/ACS workshop for biologists and chemists (mostly) interested in teaching innovation. The majority – really – described already flipping their classes.
This pair of experiences tied into conversations I’ve been having all year, where blended learning kept growing in popularity. This is partly a recognition of the undeniable presence of learning via technology, and partly a reaction against MOOCs (combining face-to-face and distance teaching vs massive distance learning). Flipped classes are a subset of blended learning.
Flipping is on the rise for various reasons, but in this post I’m less interested in why flipped classes are growing in popularity than in who does the flipping.
First, who is more likely to flip their classes, tenure-track or adjunct faculty?
This is an important question, given the current divide of the professoriate into these two sectors, and also the general resource stresses afflicting campuses.
We can imagine either population taking the flipping lead. Tenure track faculty have enormous resource advantages, including better access to campus support, a greater likelihood of not suffering economic stress, and the ability to innovate iteratively within a single curriculum over a guaranteed span of time.
Adjuncts, on the other hand, have the ferocious incentive to develop better teaching in order to win continued employment. Moreover, if adjuncts tend to be younger than their tenure-track fellows, that generally predisposes them to be more comfortable with flipping-enabling technologies.
The answer to this question matters enormously. It impacts where campus leaders direct resources. It has implications for professional development and career strategies.
Second question: which disciplines are most likely to embrace flipping?
Many humanists tell me they have been using flipped pedagogy for decades. Historians, philosophers, literature profs assign readings for out of class time, then devote class time to discussion. Composition instructors use class time for writing and workshops. For them, the flipping trick isn’t a major break with their established practice.
Scientists already have labs, of course, and many experiment with in-class discussion.
Social scientists, as usual, straddle these two cultures.
As with my first question, there are strong implications for campus and personal strategies.
So who among academics will lead the way in flipping their classrooms?