Fulbright Forum – December 19, 2014

Quan Quan Nguyen

Flipped Learning in the 21st Century Korean Classroom
Quan Quan Nguyen, Fulbright Junior Researcher

Quan Quan Nguyen, Fulbright Junior Researcher KBS and Daegu University
The scene is all too familiar. Row of desks, students asleep, half attuned or completely oblivious to the day’s lesson, and the teacher at the front giving the dry, monotonous lecture. While we may live in the Digital age, many classrooms in Korea and elsewhere around the globe are reminiscent of those in the 19th century. Fast forward to now and ask yourself this: Have classrooms changed much? For the new generations of students born into an ever digitally sophisticated world, how can we design a curriculum that fits their learning needs and behaviors—in short, what will the “21st Century education” look like?

Pioneered by two American high school chemistry teachers in 2007, the flipped classroom model offers a potential solution. The premise is simple: NO Lectures during class. Instead, teachers create lessons on videos for students to watch at home and students come ready the next day to engage in activities testing their knowledge based on what they’ve learned.

In a traditional Korean educational setting, this concept is completely antithetical. It fosters creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking—pursuits that arguably waste valuable time for memorizing and ingesting content for high-stakes exams like the suneung. This, along with Korea’s obsession with academic excellence and private education, put flipped classrooms in a precarious yet exciting position.
How will “flipping” redefine learning and the roles of teachers and students alike? What are the setbacks and benefits? Can this idea work in the Korean cultural context?

Currently in its initial phase, my project consists of preliminary qualitative fieldwork at a middle school in Ansan over the past three months. I am working in tandem with KBS and the Future Class Network (미래교실 네트워크), a coalition of Korean teachers that wants to spread the flipped learning model across the peninsula. As I progress with my research, I hope to create key focus groups and conduct semi-structured interviews with selected students at the middle school in order to track their academic performance and change in studying habits and motivation.

Quan Quan Nguyen graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science (International Relations). After spending the summer of 2013 teaching at a hagwon in Apgujeong, he was inspired to learn more about the Korean educational system and ways to improve inequity in private education. His curiosity led him to MOOCs, blended learning, and eventually flipped classrooms. He is interested in exploring the convergence of innovative learning technology and pedagogy and how to best implement online education platforms in various settings. In his free time, Quan enjoys photography and video production.