If You Build It, Will They Come? Flipping the Classroom — John Thornburg, St. John's Northwestern Miliary Academy, United States

  • Pedagogical Approaches (2011-12)

Online learning is on the move in education. From podcasts, vodcasts, blogs and wikis, to game-based platforms and second life environments, instructional design models are changing the face of teaching from a sage on the stage to meddler in the middle style (McWilliams 2009). McWilliams (2007) contends that teachers will need to spend “less time explaining through instruction and more time in experimental and error-welcoming modes of engagement” (p. 1). With an array of potential teaching approaches and strategies available, especially as Web 2.0 continues to offer seemingly limitless opportunities to engage boys in learning, the author wanted to test his idea that spending more time in his Biology class on practical collaborative activities, and less time on teaching content, would benefit his students and build stronger teacher-student relationships.

The researcher took a giant step in deciding to flip his classroom. Having little exposure himself to online learning and teaching, he wanted to test whether, for his lower level Biology students, placing course content online and leaving classtime for interpersonal practical activities would develop strong learning relationships between him and the boys. He introduced an online learning component where students were required to read and familiarize themselves with course content through guided worksheets supported by customized video casts. Surprisingly, and against the rich evidence that boys are more 79 engaged in delivery of lessons that are activity-based and grounded in what they know (Reichert & Hawley 2010), the researcher found that the online learning component did not seem to promote effective learning, nor did it enhance the teacher-student relationships in his classroom.