“We want lecture!”
Faculty who try out flipped classroom techniques will undoubtably face this response from students. In February 2012, conversation on education list-serves about student resistance was stimulated in response to a Chronicle article titled, “How ‘Flipping’ the Classroom Can Improve the Traditional Lecture”.
One reason students resist flipped class methods, including those which use Peer Instruction (PI), is that by the time they arrive in our classrooms, most of them have spent nearly 15 years in a schooling system that trains students in and rewards them for performance on simplistic, mostly low-level learning activities that bulk their procedural muscles through memorization and plug and chug. Students are not used to more difficult, relevant activities that require them to take responsibility for their own learning. Such activities include those that bulk their more heuristic muscles through practice with knowledge transfer, experimentation/creative problem solving and autonomy and persistence.
When I disrupt the expectation of an Easy A among my students (i.e. that they will be able excel without deep conceptual understanding or by making any authentic meaning), it always creates some dissonance for them, and they resist, often vocally, demanding more lecture or rote problem solving at the board. Many want to be told the answer or more accurately, only the answers that are going to be tested. This is not simply a bad student attitude–but a result of an educational system that has not evolved quickly enough to match the needs of a knowledge-based generation.
Students don’t always recognize the value of interactive teaching until they have left the university. Alumni often write to us commenting that they didn’t appreciate PI or realize how much they were learning with PI when they were actually enrolled in the course, but having moved into the real world, eventually they see how key PI was to their development of subject matter understanding.
How do we help our students see the importance of developing the conceptual understanding that PI or other flipped methods promote?
Two common recommendations for stemming off student resistance before it starts include 1) explaining new techniques on your syllabus, including a rationale for why you are using them in your class and 2) having conversations with students at the start and throughout the semester about how they are learning.
In our classes, we also often show aggregated data that helps students see the kinds of behaviors that correlate with better performance on their exams.
Another tip is to develop your own understanding of why students resist innovative pedagogies. Check out Brookfield’s sources of student resistance and Felder’s publications on addressing student resistance to interactive teaching.
The truth, however, is that there will always be students who resist. In one of our recent PI courses, students complained loudly about not having the opportunity to watch Eric work out problems on the board. Because we care about our students’ needs, we purchased some screencasting software and made videos available online of Eric working out homework problems. Take a guess of how many students actually viewed these problems in the poll below.
In the comments section, let us know what kinds of student resistance you observe when using flipped class techniques. And more importantly, tell us how you try to address it.
This post was originally published 3/2/2012, edited and added to on 10/16/2012.