Homework & the Flipped Class

This is a post a long time in coming.  I started it in early December of 2012 and now it is late January of 2013.  During the holiday time my family moved into a new home and we have been inundated with new projects.  On top of that, throw in a number of flipped class projects, and my “real” job…..

There has been quite a bit of chatter on social media “lately” (In November of 2012) about homework and the flipped classroom model.  At least two bloggers (Josh Stumperhost and Lisa Nielson) have taken issue with the flipped classroom because they feel it supports what they believe is a broken system where homework is assigned to students.  These bloggers of are anti-homework. They surmise that since the flipped classroom relies on homework, it is therefore a broken model. Their thoughts have caused me to think more deeply about my view of homework, and how homework fits (or doesn’t) fit into the flipped learning model.

So lets dive into this contentious topic:  

One thing that Aaron Sams and I often say is that flipped learning does not rely on homework.   We cite a few cases of teachers who used the flipped method but do not assign homework. However, these teachers are the exception and not the rule which Josh aptly pointed out in his post when he made the observation that all of the teachers at a Flipped Learning Network event used the homework time for their direct instructional videos.  

So, what is my “position” on homework?  I believe in homework….. to a point.   However, I acknowledge a dark side to homework.  I have recently seen this with my two high school aged daughters who have been up until past midnight doing homework.  Some of this has been accompanied by tears.  I don’t think all of their homework has been meaningful or of educational benefit.  Much of it has been busy work which accomplishes little for my girls.  I get it…homework can often stifle learning and smother passion. But I also don’t want to say that because some teachers abuse homework, we shouldnt think all homework is bad.  

I also am realistic.  I don’t see the “culture” of homework going away anytime soon in education.  The community I live in expects their students to have homework.  Thus I think flipped learning can maximize the homework time and make it much more efficient and dare I say, meaningful.  During my teaching career, I assigned homework.  Early on I probably was one of those teachers who assigned too much busy work.  When I flipped my class, students began to do less homework,  learn more, and report decreased anxiety about school.  This is one of the best kept secrets to flipped learning.  This is best exemplified in a short video featuring flipped educator Stacey Roshan from the Bullis School near Washington DC.

What about educators who don’t assign homework?  Can, and should, they still flip their classroom?  Of course!  Many teachers are creating instructional videos (or using other videos) and having students watch them during class time.  Instead of the whole class watching the videos together, students are watching them when they need the content.  The videos multiply the teacher in that she can be in many places at the same time.  This frees her up to go around and help individual kids in areas of need.

In summary, I believe flipped learning is homework agnostic.  Flipped learning doesn’t take a position on whether or not homework is good or bad.  So if an educator believes there is value in assigning homework, then they can used flipped learning.  Conversely, if they believe that homework should never be assigned to students, they can used flipped learning as well.

I would love to hear your feedback on this post.  Do you believe in homework?  Is homework essential for those of you using flipped learning methods?  

19 Responses

  1. When I transitioned to a flipped class model, my main goal was to become more available to students during class time. I teach in a rural school district where 85% of students are bused. This means no time before or after school for help. Thus, my flipped classroom time is used strategically to maximize my interaction time. I do have students watch a video lesson as “homework” but about 75% of my students use their flex time to watch a video. In math, homework is called practice, students must master a skill before moving on. I agree, homework must be meaningful, not busy work. I give my students options on practice problems, with the main goal being able to show mastery of a certain skill set. They collaborate, share ideas, and help each other…isn’t that what we want learning to be all about?

  2. When my fifth grade team started flipping our classes we discussed homework. We did have busy work that we thought was helpful to the students, but we soon changed our minds. We still assign home learning in our classes. We have math videos students watch a couple times a week and some language videos to get students ready for work we do in class. It is not busy work. What they learn at home the night before is what we work on in class the following day. We explain to the parents and students that we do not want more than a certain time spent each night on homework. Students are still not happy they have homework, but they enjoy what they are doing instead of busy work and fighting with parents at home. Showing students that they will learn more if they take the initiative in their own learning, that is what we are trying to teach. Take a little extra time if we need to get better at something. It sure makes our discussions and class work more productive.

  3. Pingback : Flipping my classroom | Pearltrees

  4. When I make videos for my physics classes I introduce concepts by asking the student to hit that pause button and fill in the blanks to questions that I pose. It is a very interactive process. In addition, I incorporate problems that students work on after they hit the pause button. I then go over the solutions in the video, I want my students to be interacting with the video and testing their understanding of the concepts presented. At the end of the video ! will provide additional homework/quiz problems (answers provided) to again allow students to “practice” and test their understanding. When the students come into the classroom, they can ask questions about these problems or work in groups to get the solutions. I have seen a lot of good videos on physics but found them lacking if they do not ask the students to “interact” by pushing that pause button. A good video should incorporate homework/quiz questions that are meaningful and that allow the student to interact with the material.

    1. Yes! Thank you for reminding me about that strategy. I’m in the first year of flipping, so a lot of time/energy/anxiety goes in to laying the tracks a few days ahead. Not much chance for innovation. But I love and support your interactive method, because that was one of my original ideas going in to this process. I wish I hadn’t abandoned it!

  5. Thanks for taking the time to share this. The “flipped” classroom is a relatively new idea for me. I like the concept of using class time to help students do work in class because it allows each learner to work at his/her own pace. More importantly, I can facilitate the learning they do much better when make myself available for questions/feedback. Giving the learners white-board type videos of a concept for them to think about for the next class is new kind of “homework” where they don’t necessarily have to stay up late to “do” rather they can watch it any number of times to let things “sink in”. I like the iPad “Educreations” for that. And like Cliff says above, using class for “homework” is especially great for students to share their ideas in a collaborative environment. Like I always tell my students, I learned as much if not more from my classmates as I did from the professor’s lecture.

  6. Kelly Moore

    As I have flipped our mathematics classroom and also had the luxury of adding 1:1 tablets daily, most of my students end up with ‘no homework.’ Those that do have homework are those that fall behind due to lack of work ethic during the school day. Our math classroom is now a work intensive learning environment with each student learning at their own pace. What the students don’t know is that they do the exact same amount or or more work as other classrooms, including the homework problems. Yet, they manage to demonstrate competitive (and often higher) proficiencies on common exams. The statistics gathered from our classroom this year suggest that homework outside of the classroom is not critical to the amount of learning actually taking place. I believe that the increase in student responbility for the learning process and the daily facilitator-style interaction counteract the homework policies and procedures from my past.

  7. Dena K. Leggett

    There is no way my students could pass the AP chemistry without doing homework. There is simply not enough time to model and explain abstract and/or mathematical concepts AND have enough time to practice. It is much like sending a child to music lessons and expecting the child to learn the instrument without practice. The beauty of the flipped classroom (all of my lessons are flipped) is that I am present to mentor and guide students through the difficult practice. As one parent said “you mean my clueless son will not have to hunt down equally clueless friends at 11 at night to get help on homework?” – Lisa Nielson does not seem to speak to advanced academics.

  8. In Korea, an emergence of online English learning games is beginning. One such game, Spy Adventure (http://www.supersalad.co.kr), centers around an alien spying on Earth culture and using it to rebuild the home planet. There are missions that the player must complete such as ordering food at a restaurant, shopping at a shoe store, etc. The content from these games can be used for a flipped curriculum. Some students will certainly enjoy this type of ‘homework’ more so than just memorizing dialogs or writing drills.

    And I agree there needs to be more talk about the actual lessons and material for flipped classrooms now. I plan to dedicate some time to it in my TESOL YL Methodologies class this upcoming semester.


  9. Brandon

    I love the idea of flipped lessons and a flipped classroom for high school English classes. I echo a previous commenter who said the main advantage he sees of the flipped classroom is having more time to instruct and provide feedback one-on-one with students. Providing flipped lessons to the rest of the class while the teacher engages with an individual student is a nice model for a student-centered classroom. One aspect I didn’t see mentioned – what happens when students are not motivated and will not engage with the flipped content on their own? What types of motivational devices do you build into your flipped pedagogy?

  10. Maybe it is just semantics for me, but I have tried to eliminate the word “homework” and replace it with “task” or “practice” ~ as in Tonight’s Task = Notes on Section 3.3. Or today we are going to practice the concepts covered in Section 8.1, etc. Or you can get extra practice on this website….

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