Heather Murtagh/Daily Journal
World history teacher Karl Lindgren-Streicher works with 14-year-olds Mariko Moore, left, and Natalie Lewis in the Hillsdale High School library Thursday morning.
"I’m so confused,” 14-year-old Mariko Moore said while working on a computer in the library.
She isn’t alone.
The Hillsdale High School freshman was working on a democracy and revolution project for world history. Students previously learned about revolutions from centuries ago. Now, teens were being asked to look at recent history to find a country also seeing change. Students need to consider if there are similarities. This assignment raised lots of questions Thursday morning.
Shortly after Moore declared her confusion, world history teacher Karl Lindgren-Streicher was there to answer questions. That might not seem like a different setup for a classroom, but Lindgren-Streicher is running things differently this year. He’s flipping his classroom — allowing students to learn at their own pace, develop more critical thinking skills and better utilize face-to-face time. The trend of flip teaching comes in a variety of forms. Most commonly, people associate the trend with students watching video lectures at home then doing work in the classroom. Lindgren-Streicher approaches things a little differently.
Lindgren-Streicher, for example, avoids homework. He wants students to do as much work as possible in the classroom so he’s there to help. Lindgren-Streicher subscribes to a mastery-based approach. Students have access to lessons in a variety of ways — videos, textbooks, online. Lindgren-Streicher doesn’t have a set of computers in his class. Students share what Lindgren-Streicher has or bring in their own. They can take notes in a fashion that works best for them. There are deadlines for projects and tests like any other class. However, students don’t move on until they have mastered a section.
While it’s a learning process even for Lindgren-Streicher, he’s noticed differences. Increasing his chances to work individually with students has helped him notice a student’s challenges — like reading, spelling, comprehension — earlier in the year. Basically, he gets to work with students more.
"I do want to talk with kids every day. And, not just, ‘What’s up?’ But, ‘What are you working on?’” he said.
Students seem to be responding well to the change. Many were unaware the trend had any name.
Freshman Natalie Lewis said the class is completely different from previous history courses she’s taken.
"It’s good because we can take notes at our own speed and hear lectures again if we need,” she said, although hasn’t actually re-watched a lecture.
Moore also liked the ability to work on her own. She previously attended a Montessori school which was more project-based, which is a bit closer to the model Lindgren-Streicher is using.
Not all students work on their own. Students can work together, and Lindgren-Streicher encourages it. He’s found a positive peer pressure effect from students who do work together. If one student is absent, for example, the other will text to say what was missed and what needs to be worked on.
Thursday was unique as it was an open house day. People could sign up to observe and ask questions about the flipped classroom. Gunn High School French teacher Anne Dumontier was there to note differences. She’s also flipping her class for the first year. Unlike Lindgren-Streicher, Dumontier’s students access lectures at home then spend more time in class practicing language.
Both teachers noted the changes allow them to have more time with students. Both agree things will be tweaked as they learn and start to implement these changes. Both have also noted wonderful outcomes.
Lindgren-Streicher, for example, knows his students a bit more. Dumontier’s class has worked together more. As such, the atmosphere is more collaborative. And, she has the opportunity to introduce cultural activities to students.
Not all teachers are making such changes. In fact, both Lindgren-Streicher and Dumontier noted not having a ton of teachers on the campus with whom to discuss ideas. Those interested, however, can find a vibrant community online. Lindgren-Streicher turns to Twitter for ideas, to share challenges and, often, support.
Heather Murtagh can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 105.