Flipped Learning Sure Sounds a Lot Like Special Education

I’m here at the Flipped Class Conference in Chicago learning more about what Flipped Learning is all about. There are some great ideas and tools being shared and some intriguing questions being asked.

This may sound odd but listening to various speakers, watching videos and reading more about the concept of Flipped Learning, I’m beginning to draw major parallels between Flipped Learning and special education. Many of the ideas being put forth mimic the daily life of a special education teacher.

The Hechinger Report recently put out this article on Flipped Learning. Check out these snippets:

“She uses class time to tailor instruction to students who started the school year behind their classmates in reading and math, and she has seen rapid improvement.” -Sarah Butrymowicz, Promise of the ‘flipped classroom’ eludes poorer school districts, Hechinger Report

“Praised by advocates for letting students work at their own pace, flipped classrooms also allow teachers to tailor their instruction to individual students.” -Sarah Butrymowicz, Promise of the ‘flipped classroom’ eludes poorer school districts, Hechinger Report

Doesn’t this sound an awful lot like differentiated instruction? Yesterday, I attended a session called Alternative Assessments during which Dalia Zygas shared multiple styles of assessment including. Judging from facial expressions, many teachers in the room seemed to think these ideas were innovative, but almost all of them were taught in courses during my Master’s Degree in Learning Disabilities. (I want to be clear that the point I’m illustrating bears no reflection on Dalia as a speaker. In fact I thought she did a great job of sharing helpful information and I am impressed with her for pioneering new ideas in her classroom. Her school is lucky to have her.) 

During the Flipped Class Conference I heard a lot of people talking about:

  • Reaching all learners (AKA Differentiation)
  • Individualized feedback
  • High engagement
  • Inclusive settings that foster acceptance of all learning styles
  • Rethinking the physical space of a classroom to maximize student independence
  • Teaching using multiple modalities
  • Offering choice
  • Using multiple (and non-traditional) forms of assessment
I am not saying that Flipped Learning is synonymous with special education by any means but I do see clear parallels. A great special education teacher is already thinking of all the bullet points mentioned above on a daily basis. Let’s be honest, if differentiation was quick and simple, everyone would do it! Differentiating instruction is a a true art. The best lessons I learned here at the conference were the ones that would support general education teachers in thinking more like special education teachers, allowing them to reach a broader spectrum of learners.
I still have some questions about Flipped Learning and I’m looking forward to continuing the conversation with the wonderful people I met at the conference. I am definitely sold on the idea that using video and other technologies can maximize student independence and make differentiation more efficient. I guess what I’m wondering is, why don’t we just move past the idea of  “special education” and require all teachers to know how to teach all students?

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