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Running

head: THE FLIPPED CLASSROOM VS ALFIE KOHNS HOMEWORK MYTH





















The Flipped Classroom Versus

Alfie Kohns Homework Myth

Heather Woodland

University of British Columbia
















Author Note


This paper was prepared for ETEC 511, Section 64 B, taught by Professor Stephen

Petrina and Professor Franc Feng.

Running head: THE FLIPPED CLASSROOM VS ALFIE KOHNS HOMEWORK MYTH

The Flipped Classroom Versus



Alfie Kohns Homework Myth

Horn (2013) observes the flipped classroom was the innovation of the year [in

2012] for K12 schools. (p.78) In online educator communities and professional
development conferences, the flipped classroom model is described and heralded as a
new shift in classroom instruction. But is this pedagogical model all buzz? Is it simply a
fad in education? Proponents, such as Bergman and Sams (2012), who encourage
teachers to adopt this model state that this classroom changing technique is more than
just a trend in education, flipped learning is a practice that is gaining momentum and is
already making a difference for countless students. (p. 25) Likewise, Salman Khan
(2011) of Khan Academy touts the benefits of flipped classroom learning when he states
So when you talk about self-paced learning, it makes sense for everyone -- in
education-speak, differentiated learning. (video transcript, paragraph 15) Some early
findings show that the flipped classroom does lead to increased success for students.
(Meyer, 2013)
As an educator, I was equally drawn to this model for my own classroom.
However, I recently read The Homework Myth, a book authored by Alfie Kohn that
strongly urges the extinction of homework. I questioned how I could implement a
flipped classroom model when I also subscribed to the no homework concept put forth
by Kohn. How could I deliberately shift part of my classroom lesson outside of class time
and still stay true to Kohns concept? This essay attempts to synthesize the pedagogical
model of flipping a classroom with the constructivist-rooted ideals of Alfie Kohns
Homework Myth. Although, on first appearance these two educational components
seem to contrast, I will attempt to show the areas where the progressive natures

Running head: THE FLIPPED CLASSROOM VS ALFIE KOHNS HOMEWORK MYTH

complement each other. This synthesis will be addressed by answering the following
questions:
1. What is a flipped classroom?
2. What is the Homework Myth authored by Alfie Kohn?
3. What are constructivist-learning theories?
4. Does a Flipped Classroom use these theories?
5. What groups (socio-economic or age) are left out using flipped classrooms?
6. In what areas do these two pedagogical methods overlap or agree with each
other?
Considering that both the flipped classroom model and Alfie Kohns Homework
Myth subscribe to constructivist learning ideals, they both consider that on-task-time
must be valued and they both seem to humanize education, there is leeway for an
educator to support and use both of these pedagogical models in their classroom.
I will consider two case studies in establishing this synthesis: Flumerfelt and
Greens Using Lean in the Flipped Classroom for at risk students (though they explicitly
call it a discussion example) and the work of Jonathan Bergman and Aaron Sams who
are classroom Science teachers and pioneers of the flipped classroom model.
What is a flipped classroom?

Aaron Sams (2012) describes a flipped classroom as a place where content is no

longer given in a teacher centered classroom, rather the content is flipped outside of the
classroom and educators deliver that direct instruction asynchronously at home
through videos. Although Sams is a pioneer in the current usage of the flipped
classroom model, many educators worldwide have taken the pedagogical ideas behind
moving content outside of the classroom to develop what works for their students.
Tucker (2012) stated that there is no single definition of how the flipped classroom

Running head: THE FLIPPED CLASSROOM VS ALFIE KOHNS HOMEWORK MYTH

looks; he further states while there is no one model, the core idea is to flip the common
instructional approach: With teacher-created videos and interactive lessons, instruction
that used to occur in class is now accessed at home, in advance of class(p.82).
In the current climate of school reform and networked educators using various
electronic means of sharing best classroom practice, it is not surprising that many
educators take an interest in the pedagogical ideas behind the flipped classroom model.
Overall the model of flipping of a classroom is immediately attractive to most educators
especially in contrast to what Brophy (2006) describes as the potential to its polar
opposite the stereotyped image of a teacher scaffolding active discussions and co-
construction of understandings within a collaborative learning community is more
attractive than the stereotyped image of a teacher lecturing to mostly passive listeners
(p.530). Furthermore, Khan (2011) summarizes the benefits of shifting content to
outside the classroom:
By removing the one-size-fits-all lecture from the classroom and letting students
have a self-paced lecture at home, and then when you go to the classroom, letting
them do work, having the teacher walk around, having the peers actually be able
to interact with each other, these teachers have used technology to humanize the
classroom. (video transcript, paragraph 8)
What is the Homework Myth authored by Alfie Kohn?
Homework is a contentious issue. In 2006, Alfie Kohn, an author and lecturer on
education and parenting, published his book The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too
Much of A Bad Thing. Kohns book describes, in detail, that homework is more damaging
than helpful to students. He also discusses how there is little quantifiable improvement
of students, who do homework, shown in educational research.

Running head: THE FLIPPED CLASSROOM VS ALFIE KOHNS HOMEWORK MYTH

Educators assigning homework can create tension from many stakeholders in


the education system. This is particularly true when the assigned homework is not seen
as valuable to the student. Teachers, students, parents and administrators all have an
opinion of the value of homework and according to Kohn, many feel the value is
negative yet homework continues to be assigned. Many stakeholders seemed to have
resigned themselves to this fact. Kohn laments this resigned nature of various
stakeholders is mind-boggling considering the facts and information that he presents.
He states in The Homework Myth that:
This posture of basic acceptance would be understandable if most teachers
decided from time to time that a certain lesson ought to continue after school was
over, and therefore assigned students to read, write, figure out, or do something at
home on those afternoons. (p.4)
The issue for Kohn is that homework is continually assigned for the sake of
assigning homework. Some teachers/ schools/ districts create elaborate homework
calendars or an average set amount of homework to be given to each grade level before
the first day of school before, the new school year has even begun. Educators are then to
fill this calendar or time limit with appropriate assignments regardless of whether
lessons that are being taught necessitate such assignments. Kohn states that the
homework myth is a general buy-in or commitment to the idea of homework in the
abstract by schools universally whether public or private and at all levels (p.5)
Homework is a second shift of education which is assigned to students and which
must be completed. Yet Kohn goes on to reason, that no research studies have validated
better education through completing this second shift. Furthermore, Kohn insists that
rather than see improvement in overall quality of education, homework causes damage

Running head: THE FLIPPED CLASSROOM VS ALFIE KOHNS HOMEWORK MYTH

and impacts in 5 ways: as a burden on parents, as stress for children, through family
conflict, by having less time for other activities and creating less interest in learning. (pp.
9-18) Kohn sees the state of homework in the education system as an expression of
behaviorist theory where the main effect of such carrots and sticks [the need to create
extrinsic rewards for completion of the tasks and assignments] is to reduce peoples
interest in whatever they were rewarded for doing [learning and discovering during in
class lessons]. (p.19)
Of course, there are educators who do not and wish to not assign homework but
pressure is exerted from elsewhere to have homework given. Kohn quotes a teacher
who comments on pressure from having other teachers assign homework (sometimes
only seen as busywork) they state, Other teachers assign homework because parents
and administrators expect it. (p. 20).
What are constructivist-learning theories?
Constructivist learning theories emphasize that a student learns best through a
hands on approach to the content of the subject that they are studying. Since the ideas
of John Dewey in 1929, many others such as David Kolb or Jerome Bruner (as cited in
Scott-Webber, 2012, p. 268) continue to promote the experiential nature of education
based on constructing knowledge after learning in real life situations. Kohn (2011)
emphasized the need for experiential constructivist theory within the classroom when
he stated, what matters is how people experience what they do, what meaning they
ascribe to it, what their attitudes and goals are. (p.12)
As we continue to establish 21st century learning, educators face the challenge of
updating pedagogical methods to deliver learning environments that match the world of
technology that exists in real life situations. These challenges were highlighted by
Daggett and McNulty (2005) who stated, More extensive scientific and technological

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advances will occur in the next few years than have happened in the last two centuries.
Dealing with these advances requires a different education system from the one in
which we were educated (as cited in Flumerfelt and Green, 2013, p. 358) and these
challenges are made more difficult as technology improves and updates at break neck
speeds around us. Darling and Hammond (2012) establish what needs to be taken into
account as we shape and reform education, they state that as educators, we will enable
students to learn how to learn, create, and invent the new world they are entering (as
cited in Flumerfelt and Green, 2013, p. 356).
There is hope that new technology advancement can be harnessed and used in the
classroom rather than being seen as in opposition to and complicating other reasons for
reform. Hillberg, Flumerfelt, VanTil & Tierney (2011) confirmed that harnessing new
technology has already begun:
The ability of schools to empower students to navigate learning pathways, make
instructional choices, and receive assessment feedback; to enable teachers to
facilitate that process of learning with student data management systems and
differentiated instruction; and to provide schools with collaboration networks
under enterprise architecture is currently under development. (as cited in
Flumerfelt and Green, 2013, p.359)
Does a Flipped Classroom use these theories?
If instruction is done out of the in-class lessons and flipped to be completed
during non-school hours, what is happening during lesson time? Is the pedagogy and
planned activities theoretically constructivist? Scott-Webber, (2012) drawing on
Bruners theoretical framework, stated that in order to have a constructivist approach
the learning environment should provide the learner selects and transforms
information, constructs hypotheses, and makes decisions, relying on a cognitive

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structure to do so (p. 268). Khan (2011) confirms that the flipped classroom model
follow this constructivist approach. As a student works through assigned content at
their own pace, Khan mentions the least appreciated aspect of this [reliance on
building cognitive structure] through the anecdote the very first time that you're
trying to get your brain around a new concept, the very last thing you need is another
human being saying, "Do you understand this?" It seems that Khan does not want
students to feel under pressure as they work through mastery of particular content. His
sentiment echoes the type of learning that would happen in more traditional settings
unlike the flipped classroom.
What groups (socio-economic or age) are left out using flipped classrooms?
The quote by Horn at the beginning of this essay was that a flipped classroom
model was an innovation in classrooms from kindergarten to Grade 12 level.
Realistically, the learning environment between the 12 years of schooling is much
different. High school level classes have, in the past, seen lecture style teacher
instruction occur. This type of teacher instruction is seen with age groups as young as
late elementary school. But in the first five or so years of schooling (the primary or
elementary years) we do not see teacher lectures happen. Although I have seen
educator blogs, which discuss what the flipped classroom looks like in a Kindergarten
classroom, those ideas will not be discussed in this essay.
The first obvious shortcoming of the Flipped classroom model is whether, in a
given classroom, all students have access to the content video through a reliable
internet connection and a form of the hardware and software required to watch the
content. Statistics on worldwide Internet access estimate in 2013 that 39% of the world
has access to the Internet. (International Telecommunication Union [ITU], 2012, p.6)
Quite a dismal thought for the potential of the flipped classroom model when 61% of

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classrooms would not have the most vital component of the model. Internet users in the
developed world are estimated to be 71% of the population of those countries while the
developing world lags with only 31% of the people in those countries with access. (ITU,
2012) It seems that the flipped classroom is only feasible, at present time, in the
developing world.
A case study in the work of Flumerfelt and Green examines the implementation of
flipping a classroom in an at-risk high school. In order to measure the effectiveness of
the implementation they employ lean. Lean is an organizational philosophy and
operating system heavily embedded in the total quality work. (2013, p. 359)
Furthermore, particularly before lean was used within education, Womack, Jones and
Roos stated the definition of lean as an approach that requires the commitment of the
technical, social and human capital of an organization to continuous improvement for
the purpose of identifying distinct ways to create value as determined by the customer
and to eliminate waste based on thoughtful examination of its root causes. (as cited in
Flumerfelt and Green, p.359)
Flumerfelt and Green introduce their case study by stating The school example
will focus on how continuous improvement has changed the traditional use of time on
task for instruction and created new opportunities for focusing on the process of
learning . (Flumerfelt and Green 2013 p.358) Their use of the terminology
continuous improvement is given in their abstract, by stating, [a] continuous
improvement system called lean as a toolkit for these improvement efforts as
definition for the term lean. In the body of their work they further explain the necessity
for using lean to implement change/reform:
Continuous improvement requires a shared commitment to change. This dynamic
is not difficult for schools to establish per se. But, [sic] where schools encounter

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difficulty is with the actual process of continuous improvement and how to do it.
The use of continuous improvement is not easy and the issues of achieving school
reform through continuous improvement are complicated with many variables
and factors as Fullan (2001) described, The big problems of the day are complex,
rife with paradoxes and dilemmas (p. 2). In an effort to better understand what
educational theorists are recommending regarding continuous improvement, two
specific factors of interest, instructional practice and instructional technology
improvement. (p.357)
The results of tracking implementation of a flipped classroom in an at risk high school
were seen as encouraging. (Flumerfelt and Green, p. 364) As has been stated
previously in this essay, advantages that were gained through the flipped classroom
model were the ability to individualize and differentiate instruction for the student as
an instructional practice improvement was evident. (p. 363)
In what areas do these two pedagogical methods overlap
or agree with each other?
The areas that a flipped classroom and The Homework Myth overlap or agree
with each other are they both draw from constructivist ideas, they consider that on task
time must be valued and they seem to humanize education.
The whole reason behind a flipped classroom is to provide more interaction in
the classroom. Interaction between student and teacher or between students would
implicitly allow for experiential learning. While Kohn's Homework Myth is also deeply
rooted in constructivist ideas, his book is written with the intention of reforming an
education system that is littered with non-experiential lessons and accompanying
homework assignments.

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Time is a valuable commodity in education. Tucker (2012) confirmed that time is


scarce when he stated all aspects of instruction can be rethought to best maximize the
scarcest learning resourcetime(p.82).
A flipped classroom has considered that time in lessons should be interactive
not passive. Likewise when a new concept is introduced, students can work through the
concept at their own speed and repeat if necessary. The on-task-time of interactive
lessons and self-paced concepts is a much better use of time than a one size fits all
lesson of the past. As for the Homework Myth, time spent engaged in lesson concepts
will be tailored to each student. No unnecessary repetition or practice, which some
students will deem too easy or difficult.
Lastly both the flipped classroom and the Homework Myth are making
adjustments in the classroom that consider each student and their individual needs as
opposed to the one size fits all approach of the past.
Conclusion
As stated in the previous section, the Flipped Classroom model and Kohns
Homework Myth are created within a similar constructivist theoretical framework.
Either of these concepts alone is comprised of the foundational change that will forge
the development of 21st century learning environments and the pedagogical instruction
used. Likewise the focus of either the model or the myth is to assess the value of
specific tasks being given. What students are doing whether during school hours or
outside of school hours should be a beneficial task that will build on their previous
understanding and continue to improve their cognitive development through the
concepts of different subject areas. Gone are the days of traditional rote learning,
passive lecturing or any task that could be described as busywork. By recalibrating
what is done during class time and actively having an educator available to assist

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students individually we will establish a more humanized form of learning.


Furthermore by eliminating all homework that is not purposefully set, educators and
students can use this time for content videos or asynchronous content delivery where
each student can set their own pace.




















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References
Bergmann, J., & Sams, A. (2012). Before you flip, consider this: Leaders of the flipped
classroom movement say each teacher will have a different experience, but
securing school leadership support, time, and IT resources will be important to
every effort. Phi Delta Kappan, 94(2), 25.
Brophy, J. (2006). Graham Nuthall and Social Constructivist Teaching: Research-based
cautions and qualifications. Teaching and Teacher Education, 22(5), 529-537
Flumerfelt, S., & Green, G. (2013). Using Lean in the Flipped Classroom for At Risk
Students. Journal Of Educational Technology & Society, 16(1), 356-366.
Horn, M. (2013). The transformational potential of flipped classrooms. Education
Next, 13(3),.
Kohn, A. (2006). The homework myth: Why our kids get too much of a bad thing. Da capo
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Scott-Webber, L. (2012). Institutions, educators, and designers: Wake up! Current


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learning. Education Next, 12(1), 82.