Much has been written about the "upside down classroom", where students access online lectures at night and work on problems in class with the teacher. Yesterday I tried something new and had the students do the lecture and I just made comments--the reversed classroom.
I have been wanting to try this technique ever since I discovered that children learn to teach before they learn to read. The brain develops the ability to teach before it develops the ability to read. So naturally we are all teachers. However, this natural ability is not used frequently in classrooms, except hopefully by the teacher or the professor.
Yesterday two students independently presented Michael Porter's Competitive Strategy, probably the best book ever written on business strategy. The first student elected to focus on the concepts in the book, and except for one small omission did a good job. The second student presented on the details of using the "5 Forces" and extracting value and probably did a better lecture than I do. My role in both presentations was as the play-by-play commentator in football broadcasts, interjecting comments to more fully develop an idea or to make a related point outside the scope of Porter.
The class was one of the best classes in eight years of teaching. The students were more involved than usual, asking more questions and offering more of their own ideas. Not having the burden to follow a lecture plan, I was able to expand the discussion into a wider range of related topics which made the class more interesting to the students.
At the risk of drawing more conclusions than one event warrants, my observations on why the class worked so well are as follows:
- New presenters were a change of pace that prompted the students to pay more attention
- Students were less intimidated to ask questions of fellow student presenters, which lead to a larger number of participants in class discussion
- The presenters did additional research beyond reading the book, which lead then to find some excellent new presentation materials
- The students had just returned from spring break, so they were more rested and engaged in class than normal (maybe we need more breaks during the semester)
Next week one of the students is going to present an HBS case. That will be more challenging than a book lecture. If that goes well I will keep going with this experiment of the reversed classroom.
Much has been written about how schooling diminishes the natural talents of children to be curious, passionate explorers of all things new. The natural ability of children to teach as a learning method has been almost totally overlooked. This is despite the fact that every good teacher comments on how much they themselves learn by teaching.