Is music the original flipped classroom?
Or is it impossible to flip the music classroom?
This takes us to the very heart of the study of music. In music, you are either performing, creating (composing), or listening. And these three are completely interwoven - one leads to another. Your brain and your body are totally engaged whenever you are working on music. Consider this scenario:
A 3rd grade recorder student must look at 5 lines and 4 spaces, decipher the letters of the treble clef, figure out the rhythmic values, turn the letters into numbers of fingers on their usually non-dominant left hand, tell the diaphragm and lungs to breathe in rhythm, listen to the resulting sound, adjust accordingly, hear what others are doing to play simultaneously, look at the next note while still playing the current note, and repeat the entire process over and over. All of this must happen multiple times every second for the 3rd grade student.
It doesn't matter if the music student is in elementary music or high school orchestra. The expectation is the same - performance - "doing" music. Music teachers and students live under the deadline that a concert is looming. The audience is waiting, and every moment is precious. So students need to be engaged as much as possible - and that means in both the classroom and at home.
But what of the flipped classroom concept? If the purpose to make best use of face-to-face time with students, how does that connect to music? If one of the tenets of the flipped model is to have students "doing" or "performing" while in the presence of the teacher, we can say that has always been the goal of the music classroom. Throughout history, music has meant working in the presence of an expert who can guide you to better performance. And the expert convinces you that if you want to be truly great, you must go home and practice on your own. Remember that recorder student? We send that recorder home to the (ahem!) delight of parents all over. In tech lingo, we could say music is "platform agnostic" since it doesn't matter where you are when you practice. This might make music the original flipped classroom.
That means that musicians (and athletes, and so many other areas) are performing - are doing - both in school AND at home. That's the best outcome of all. In this scenario, flipping is not the question or the answer. Engagement is. And whatever you do to get kids engaged in your field of study - to get kids performing and achieving at a higher level - is the goal.
But I am not a fool - I know there are students who do not practice enough at home. Just as I know there are students who can participate much more fully in the classroom. The same happens in sports, math, music, and every other curricular area. What I do know is that student engagement is the key to student achievement, and if the engagement is happening at both school and home, then achievement will (hopefully) increase.
Charlotte Danielson's framework says that "student engagement in learning is the centerpiece of the framework for teaching; all other components contribute to it." (domain 3c of the Framework for Teaching Evaluation Instrument)
Grant Wiggins recent article, entitled "Everything You Know About Curriculum May Be Wrong. Really." enshrines engagement and action as well:
"Suppose knowledge is not the goal of education. Rather, suppose today's content knowledge is an offshoot of of successful ongoing learning in a changing world - in which 'learning' means 'learning to perform in the world." We learn to perform, and we perform to learn.
It comes back to the basics of good teaching and learning - relationships, enthusiasm, and engagement. There is no single recipe for the best way to accomplish them, and so the pendulum continues to swing.