Rethinking the school experience

I thought I would put down my thoughts on how I think school should be organized. They are a version of the “flip classroom” model which has been much talked about recently. I am thinking mainly of high-school though I think the model could be adapted for middle school or college.

The basic idea is to do away with large,fixed classes altogether. Academic work would be carried out through self-study combined with personalized faculty interaction.

The entire syllabus is available on-line for self-study in various formats: text, videos, interactive simulations. Students can study this on computers in school or at home on their PC’s, tablets, smartphones. If necessary schools could print out important portions of this for self-study too.

Computer testing: Testing is frequent and in a variety of formats: multiple choice, short machine-graded essays, interactive simulations. Testing is done on school premises but is largely carried out without faculty involvement.
Faculty interaction: In addition to self-study students will interact with faculty in the following three ways:

Counseling: Every student meets a counselor every week to assess their progress and work out their future path of action. Based on their test results, personal goals etc. counselors will guide students on what to study and what tests to attempt. There will be minimum requirements for graduation but also some room for the students to focus on what interests them the most.

Prep work: Intensive one on one tutoring with class sizes of around 10-12 where students are grouped according to subject-specific ability. For example students who are struggling to learn specific material will enroll on the advice of their counselors. Prep work will be organized in fairly small modules built around specific topics.

Project work: High level projects under faculty supervision which will last for 1-2 months with students groups of around 8-10. There would be a wide range of projects; for example perhaps the best math students work together on proving new theorems. They could be interdisciplinary: perhaps a bunch of programming and literature students work on doing a computer analysis on the works of a famous novelist. Some projects could also involve working with local businesses.
Advantages of this system:

  1. A fair amount of the routine teaching and testing work is done through technology and self-study so faculty resources can be targeted to the one-on-one interaction where they add the most value.

  2. Students will focus their energy and time according to their ability and interest. If you are really good at something you can quickly learn the material on your own and move ahead. If you are struggling you can take your time and get help.

  3. Academic work will involve a mix of the objective and subjective: students will be tested thoroughly on the basics but will also be evaluated on softer skills like creativity and team-work in their projects.

Any thoughts?

The success of this proposal hinges on how much students are self-directed. Some kids are born self-directed. Others will never be self-directed, no matter how much supervision they have. But the vast middle have to learn this skill. And they typically learn it gradually in high school.

And some kids, many would maintain most, need the structure of the traditional school to develop a framework for success in academia.

I would posit that this is doubly important in times when home structure is rapidly disappearing.

Not saying it would have been best - for you. But probably most.

I don’t think the flip classroom model lacks structure; it’s a different type of structure. I think the counselors would play an important role. The students would be forced to meet them every week. If they blow off their work it would show in their test scores very quickly and they would be called up on it, their parents informed etc. They could keep ignoring this but they can that do that today in traditional classrooms also.

I also think frequent, systematic testing provides a structure of its own. Students would constantly learn how they are doing, how they compare with others, where they can improve. The prep work and project also provides some structure.