Tudor Sigmund

Podcast Lead

After having finished a whole year of online learning, it seems to me that the one buzzword that professors cannot stop talking about is the “Inverted Classroom”.

Well what is the Inverted Classroom? It is an idea where instead of learning course content in a physical lecture hall then going home to solve problems on your own related to the content, you instead learn the content on your own at home and come to the scheduled lectures where you solve problems with the help of the professor and your classmates.

The inverted classroom to me personally is super beneficial (when done properly of course). When learning a concept for the first time in lecture, it can be quite difficult to grasp what exactly the professor is explaining with the concept, and the information may go in one ear and out the other. With the inverted classroom model, you can spend as much time as you need watching lecture videos, or reading through the assigned readings until you sort of get an idea of what is really happening. Then once you get to the scheduled lectures, you can use that knowledge and expand upon it by going over harder examples with your professor that allows you to fail and learn from your mistakes in a way that the traditional classroom model does not allow.

Gone are the days of going over homework problems with no guidance of where you made a mistake and what you can do differently the next time you approach a similar problem. That is of course, when the inverted classroom model is done correctly. More often than not, it is not.

Professors in many courses seem to believe that the inverted classroom model refers to you watching videos on your own before lecture, then, during lecture, the professor goes over the same material with you, again, and then you go home and struggle with your homework on your own. Fantastic, right? Absolutely not. This method of applying the inverted classroom model adds all the negatives of the inverted classroom model (forcing students to watch lecture videos before their lectures), without any of the positives (working through questions with the professor).

It infuriates me that professors think that just presenting the information twice is how the inverted classroom model should be applied. I personally get nothing from seeing material thrown into my face over and over again. But what do I learn from? Going over practice problems. Making mistakes, figuring out where I went wrong and what I can do differently next time I do said problem. Maybe it’s how my brain has adapted after the countless years I’ve spent playing video games where I’ve had to adapt my strategy every time I die in a game or fail to beat a level, or maybe it’s how our brains are actually meant to learn. I really wish professors would correctly implement the inverted classroom as it would allow students more time to learn from actually solving problems and going through the material practically, not just theoretically.

The worst part about the poor implementation of the inverted classroom model is that professors always seem to have the same excuse for why they implement it this way “Oh, well I don’t know if students are watching the videos before class so it’s unfair to them if I don’t cover the material”. No. It’s unfair to me, the student who takes the time before lecture to sit down and watch the videos, at a painful 1x speed (because Lord knows my brain does not function at a faster speed) and who actually does what you tell the students to do. It’s unfair to the group of us who learn by doing, by making mistakes and by being shown the process of getting to the correct solution after making mistakes.

If professors are going to cater their lectures to students who don’t follow their instructions, what’s the point of me even following the instructions anymore? The inverted classroom model works if professors say “You didn’t watch the videos? Well that’s too bad.” in lecture instead of spending the majority of the lecture reviewing content again. Why? Because it forces students to actually watch the videos before attending lecture and that way students follow instructions. When all students watch the pre lecture videos or read the pre lecture notes, discussion blossoms and actual learning can take place. But if professors don’t make it appear to students that it’s mandatory to watch the videos before coming to lecture, then why would anyone waste their time on the content anyways? We’re all busy with other courses. And life.

In the end, I think the most important thing to say is that the inverted classroom model works. Allowing the students the opportunity to solve questions and learn in a group encourages making mistakes and learning how to solve problems correctly. While I do believe that the model works, implementation needs a new remapping by many different courses and course coordinators. If you want to say your course uses an inverted classroom model, don’t come to lecture and teach me the same things you taught me in the videos. Show me something new, show me a trick that I may not have picked up on if I wasn’t paying attention, or give me some impossible problem that has the most elegant solution but I wouldn’t think of it without a hint from the professor.

If you’re going to repeat video material in lecture, don’t call it an inverted classroom, just call it a double classroom.

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