Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Vision of the Common Core ELA is Fundamentally Opposed to Innovation in Post-Secondary Education

Ian Bogost:

A traditional classroom has readings before class, lectures during class, and assignments after class. A flipped classroom has lectures before class, assignments during class, and assessments after class. Flipped classroom supporters like to argue that traditional classrooms only provide first exposure to materials via lecture, but that claim assumes that nothing whatsoever happens before such classes, that students enter class blind. In reality, digging deeper than hearsay is a hallmark of university education. Classes in all disciplines ask students to engage with primary and secondary materials beforehand.

The flipped classroom abstracts these materials, overloading them into the lecture, which itself is usually shortened and condensed into modules less than 20 minutes in length. This condensed primary material then becomes fodder not for discourse or practice, but for evaluation.

A cynic might say that the flipped classroom ushers in the CliffsNotesfication of university courses. Slate's Will Oremus has offered a more moderate take: the MOOC-style flipped classroom lecture might be best understood as a replacement for textbooks and other reading materials students traditionally encounter in university.

But "replacement" is an imprecise characterization, particularly for courses in which a singular, canonical textbook doesn't (or shouldn't) exist (hint: most of them). More specifically, video lectures compress both primary materials (readings) and their clarification (lectures) into a single format, one shorter and necessarily less detailed than would be possible with a combination of pre-class readings and in-class lectures or discussions.

In essence, the flipped classroom is really a condensed or an abstracted classroom, one in which primary and secondary materials are refactored into pre-built lectures for the sake of value propositions other than the student's direct encounter with the currency of ideas. A condensed classroom is a compromise.

The argument of the Common Core standards is that independent reading of long, difficult texts within the disciplines is the most important thing for college readiness. This makes sense, given the narrow goal of "college readiness" and the "traditional classroom" model Bogost describes above. But let's be clear -- the flipped model and to a lesser extent the other "innovations" in post-secondary education being promoted today all seek to de-emphasize the importance of the kind of reading and analysis the Common Core situates as decisive.

No comments: