Innovations in K-12 Schooling: Appearance and Disappearance

In 2006, hardly anyone had ever heard the phrase “flipped classrooms.” By 2019, the phrase was frequently used by policymakers, administrators, and teachers (see Ngram viewer).

Of course, thoughtful teachers past and present have done versions of “flipped classrooms” before it became the reform du jour. Many teachers have regularly assigned work for students to do at home thus allowing extended and in-depth discussions during precious classtime. Nothing new here. Rediscovering what was once an innovation occurs again and again.

Where “flipped classrooms” become more difficult to implement are in those schools where many teachers see this innovation as piling on more work for them in reading and grading student homework and preparing for deeper class discussions of a topic. Moreover, there are schools with large numbers of students who have never experienced “flipped classrooms,” come from homes where doing homework is a hill to climb, care little for academic subjects, and simply want school to go away. Teachers in such urban, suburban, and rural schools will have a harder time putting the technique into practice.

So for those experienced and newbie teachers, unfamiliar with the history of instructional innovations, “flipped classrooms” may be an idea that they applaud. But it still is a fad. Faddish innovations soar in rhetoric but like a shooting star disappear. Yes, it is accurate that some fads get quickly converted into policy recommendations (e.g., “whole language,” “time on task,” “sustained silent reading,””writing across the curriculum’) that most superintendents, some principals, and a scattering of teachers put into practice as pilot projects and then spread to the rest of the district (as long as funding is provided).

Of course, not only schools but other institutions such as corporations, hospitals, police and fire departments are vulnerable to fads that pop up for a few years and then quietly fade away. Americans prize change. Innovation after innovation feeds the hungers Americans have for the new, the different. New car models entice buyers every year. Women’s dresses get longer and then shorter. Atkins low-carb to paleo diets promise to keep Americans slim. In short, change is in the DNA of Americans. And schools mirror this appetite for faddish innovations that get adopted repeatedly and then, poof, disappear.

Time will tell whether “flipped classrooms” in individual schools or a district becomes another “sustained silent reading” shooting star that lights up the sky for a few seconds and fades away.


1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

One response to “Innovations in K-12 Schooling: Appearance and Disappearance

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s