This graphic from Knewton, which writer David Neilsen links to, explains the rationale behind ‘flipping’ the classroom. The goal isn’t to “engage” students (Powerpoint movies are boring) or to increase achievement (achievement won’t be measured), but to eliminate the teacher as “sage on the stage.” Or, because the teacher-sage can’t be eliminated altogether–not if you want students to pass Regents examinations–to banish the act of explicit instruction out of sight, in the student’s home. Explicit instruction is rejected by education schools. In their ed-school classes, aspiring teachers and administrators are told that students must teach themselves via “inquiry,” “discovery,” “problem-solving,” “collaboration,” and the occasional “struggle.” The correct role for the teacher, they learn, is as “guide on the side,” not “sage on the stage.” Guide-on-the-sidery is the core belief, the core message, and the core teaching of the education programs all public-school teachers and administrators are required to attend. It is also the core teaching of  the “professional development” provided by education schools and their graduates. In all likelihood this group of teachers singing about becoming guides on the side thanks to Common Core wrote their song at a professional development workshop. The dream of the flipped classroom is the dream of finally removing the teacher from the front of the classroom forever.

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Flipped classroom - complete - Knewton

Source: Knewton Infographics

UPDATE: Mathematics teacher Vern Williams responds: One of our local high schools started the flipped classroom strategy and both students and parents pretty much rebelled. I was asked to tutor former students taking Algebra 2 who had been outstanding “real” Algebra 1 students. I actually encourage my students to hang out on Khan’s site but only because many of his lessons are interesting and can serve as an excellent supplement. An important part of teaching and learning math is the interaction among students with their peers and teacher WHILE learning is occurring, not a day after the fact. And that even assumes that quality learning occurred while watching videos with no opportunity for questions. The guide on the side folks have been trying to separate me from my students for the past forty years. They accuse you of being the sage on the stage because you dare attempt to teach. If flipped classrooms are being pushed by educrats and colleges of education, beware.


Vern Williams is something of a legend in ‘instructivist’ circles. He teaches algebra to gifted 8th grade students, served on President Bush’s National Mathematics Advisory Board, and was I believe the sole classroom teacher involved in writing the Common Core math standards. Two of his articles in the Times: