“Reverse class”: why leave class keys to students


Let’s be honest, in 2019, the biggest reason for teachers to be satisfied is to meet students as they look up from their computers. Indeed, how to compete with social networks that unveil scoops by the minute, educate while entertaining, offer mini conferences of experts to the topics touting? As a teacher, you can do well, give yourself to be funny – but not too, captivating – without making tons, expert – without being boring, the challenge is difficult to meet.

To do this, we have a powerful tool: the reversed class – not to be confused with the inverted class . The latter is presented as an alternative to lectures: the acquisition of concepts is done on homework time, in order to devote the course to application and consolidation activities. The overthrown classroom breaks with this distribution of time in and out of class: it is in the classroom that together students acquire knowledge, assimilate and prioritize it.

While in reverse pedagogy, the teacher defines the knowledge to be acquired by the texts and exercises chosen for them, in reverse pedagogy, it is the students who define and seek the knowledge they need to co-build the course.

Set the course framework

After having tested the reversed class for two years, I switched to reverse pedagogy for intercultural management education at EM Lyon Business School. The goal went further than releasing professors and students of the lecture: I wanted to leave the keys of the class to the students. “My” course became “their” course. But for true knowledge acquisition and reflection to take place, the framework must be well established in advance.

The introductory session is essential to delimit the theoretical references that the professor claims. In intercultural management, for example, this session allowed to pose and justify the approach of the culture that would prevail in this course and in which the students are invited to register. As students have grasped this approach, they have cited for themselves the main themes on which we can expect cultural differences (such as the relationship to authority or risk, for example).

The teacher does not impose the research topics but offers the students to work on the topics on which they began to question themselves. This requires a lot of work upstream of the course for the teacher since it was necessary to provide theoretical support documents on a range of topics that may or may not be chosen by the students. It also implies for the teacher to know how to renounce to see to treat his subjects of predilection.

Then the teacher clearly states:

  • the purpose of the course: here, become aware of the different cultural referents at work in the professional context by studying the gaps of representations that exist on a particular theme
  • its modalities: each group works on a theme and teaches it to the class. The group is noted on the quality of the transmission, then on an individual work in which they are asked to take stock, both in terms of knowledge acquired and the lived learning experience.
  • the physical setting of the course
  • the temporal framework: an intermediary meeting is planned for sharing experiences, which nourishes and guides the acquisition of knowledge by the “researcher” group. Then final collective meetings are organized, during which students are evaluated by both their peers and the teacher.

Students who commit

I did not add any other constraints than the ones they will discover and solve by themselves during the process of acquisition / assimilation / formatting of the transmission of knowledge – I just banned to unroll documents “PowerPoint” for more than 10 consecutive minutes and forced them to offer at least one interactive activity to their classmates.

Each group must realize that they are responsible for the value of the transmission. Quality control by the teacher takes place upstream: through his accompaniment and his advice during the work of groups, he reorients the students who misunderstand. The teacher reserves the right to limit the transmission time of a group that has not provided extensive work. But, whatever happens, each group has the opportunity to transmit the acquired knowledge.

Students’ returns show that they were initially destabilized when they understood that they would have to build the entire course by themselves, and that they were very motivated as soon as they started working on their own. subject, as this student explains:

“My state of mind was rather negative and pessimistic in 1 st  class. I was wrong. I realized that I myself based my apprehensions on cultural prejudices […] and was very pleasantly surprised to witness the evolution of the richness of the comments and the critical thinking of the participants in the meeting. as I went along with my own questioning about the increased arrogance and confidence I showed in my cross-cultural skills. “

The round tables were an important moment as they gave them the opportunity to test their acquired knowledge and to consider new angles of view.

Redefining the teacher’s place

With various methods such as mini classes responsible for the transmission of certain knowledge, round tables with experienced smugglers and receivers, the teacher redraws the spaces dedicated to pedagogy. By giving students the opportunity to find for themselves what needs to be deepened and how to effectively convey it to the class, it models the place and role of each, creating new relationships to knowledge and reshuffling the cards. social bonds that unite students and teachers.

The latter must accept a certain loss of control and this is important because the first condition of success is the excellent mastery of the subject by the professor: he has only very short moments of lecture, and the rest of the time, intervenes with agility to rectify, to add an example, to prolong the reflection.

The overthrown class is therefore both much more demanding for students and teachers and more enriching for all, a source of active learning for the first source of learning and a learning experience each time renewed for others.

Author Bio: Catou Faust is an Associate Professor in Intercultural Management at EM Lyon