Teach Like Batman!

I’ve been seeing a lot of “timehops” in my Facebook and Twitter feeds lately.  I guess folks are interested in seeing what they were doing and posting a few years ago to get a sense of how much change has occurred.  With this spirit in mind, I thought I’d do a “timehop” today and repost a blog post from last year.  This post was originally shared in August 2015 and discussed some of the research on instructors use of flipped classrooms.  Enjoy.

I’m a huge comic book fan.  As a child, I remember distinctly stopping by the comic book store every Wednesday to pick up new releases and anxiously thumbing through the pages to see if my favorite super heroes survived their latest battles with some menacing villain.  As I read the issues, I often thought about the special powers the heroes had and which ones I wished I possessed.  It would be great to fly like Superman or have super speed like the Flash.  Maybe I could be super stretchy like Mr. Fantastic or turn into a muscular monster like the Hulk when I became angry.  With so many super powers available in the comic book universe, it’s hard to settle on a single one.

Growing up, my favorite hero was Batman.  I liked the costume and the Bat Mobile.  Batman was a brooding, complex character who fought in the shadows and used his mind to solve the crimes of Gotham City. I especially liked the fact that Batman didn’t have a super power.  He was just a guy who trained hard to become a crime fighter.  He wasn’t born on some other planet.  He didn’t get his powers by putting on a special ring or by being bombarded by cosmic radiation.  He just worked hard and was committed to his craft.  This mindset really resonates with me.  Looking at the numerous movies, books and television series that have been dedicated to the character, it seems that Batman’s mindset must resonate with others as well.

As the semester starts at my institution, I’m hoping to channel Batman’s mindset and work hard to be the best teacher I can be.  Good teaching is hard work and to be a good teacher requires that we adopt a Batman-like dedication to the craft.  While it would be great to have some teaching super power, the reality is that there are no short cuts to becoming a good instructor.  I’m reminded of this as I read a recent report on Flipped Classrooms that was compiled by Faculty Focus.  While many instructors have tried flipping their classrooms, many instructors report that it’s hard work and requires a lot of time to do it well.  As I’ve written before, I think flipping classrooms is a novel teaching strategy that utilizes classroom time differently.  It helps foster more collaboration in classroom and dedicates more time to group problem solving and authentic application of classroom content.  But it’s not a super power that instructors can develop overnight.  No instructor is going to suddenly become a better teacher by assigning some videos for students to watch outside of class.   Like Batman, instructors are going to need to work hard and dedicate time and energy to becoming better at flipping.  While flipping may be hard work, the Faculty Focus study also shows it’s benefits.  Instructors who utilized the flipped classroom model saw greater student engagement and increased student learning in their classes.  I’m sure even the Caped Crusader would be proud of those outcomes!

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