Schools Flip Out: Should Lecture and Homework Trade Places?

September 30, 2011

Is it time to flip homework on its head? That’s just what a handful of teachers and schools around the country are doing. Here’s how it works: Get your students to view lectures that cover the content when they’re at home, and then use all that valuable face time in class to work with a gifted teacher on experiments, demonstrations, and assignments tied to the material. (Two teachers describe the idea in some detail here.)

Take, for example, the new Khan Academy pilot school in Los Altos, California. When they’re at home, students at that school watch instructional videos from Khan’s now famous website, which contains thousands of such videos. Students do some brief exercises at home to test their grasp of the material and then presumably spend valuable class time delving much more deeply into the material. This could be one of the more promising models of “blended learning,” which mixes on-line and face to face learning.

If the flipped school experience really works, students who usually tune out during school lectures might be getting a wake-up call. They’d also be doing more work overall. Student surveys show that many don’t spend a lot of time on school when they’re at home. The flipped model might require them to spend a good deal of time at night watching lectures.

So is this a good idea? Should schools flip out?