Student Autonomy: The Missing link – CanFlip14 Presession Materials

Here are a couple things that would be helpful for you to check out prior to attending my upcoming CanFlip14 session:

1. Watch the short clip I created (embedded below or linked here) on the key theory of autonomy that I draw on in my work on student experiences of flipped classrooms. We will use this as a basis for some of our discussions around classroom practice.

If you want more details on the theory, you can see my blog post here.

2. Read Dan Meyer’s blog post on the painted cube problem (found here) and consider how cognitive autonomy is being elicited by his approach.

3. If you still have time, think about what sorts of activities you can think of using in your classroom that give room for cognitive autonomy.

I look forward to seeing you at my session! See you at CanFlip14!

Where to find the activities?

So often I have found myself marvel at how some teachers find the best activities. I always ask them, where did that idea come from!?! Recently, I discovered that there are SO MANY SOURCES OUT THERE! . . . and this is only because teachers take the time to share their ideas with the global mathematics teacher community online. I would like to see more connection between these seemingly single bloggers. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had a cohesive list of all the math bloggers? Well, it looks like someone’s already done that! I was so excited to find this link where there is a comprehensive list of mathematics teacher blogs! This means that at this point, there are 347 blogs chock full of potential teaching ideas. So why is this not visible to the average teacher, and why is it that teachers (like me) don’t have the ‘time’ to go through them? It’s overwhelming for me to think that I may never absorb all of those ideas that are out there.

However . . .

The time is now . . .

It’s time to be inspired.

In addition to the above link to blogs, here are some of my current favorites for teaching ideas:
Peter Liljedahl’s Teacher Resources
Dan Meyer Blog
Andrew Stadel’s Estimation180
Robert Kaplinsky’s Problem-Based Lesson Search Engine

Feel free to post your favorites in the comments bar:

Combating the constraints of time in the implementation of a flipped classroom

I have just embarked on a new term. This term I am teaching a fully online mathematics course for the first time, as well as a new course I haven’t yet taught before. I wanted to flip the new course, but with so much more on my plate this time around, I found myself short for time in making videos (in the same manner I made videos for my first flipped class). I have also received many comments and questions from other instructors about how much time is needed in developing a flipped class. At first, I did not think much of it, but now that I am in the situation myself, I have been forced to come up with a solution:

The solution is simple, I can still teach in the “guide on the side” manner without full blown videos! This is because I can give students the power to ask me to make videos for the things they need help with. The method I have implemented this term looks like this:


Student are given activities to work on in groups as well as assignments they can complete individually or with peers. They are also given opportunities to ask questions during class discussions about topics they have engaged in.


Students have access to content materials out of class time in an online environment. These materials include lesson summaries, photos taken from board work during class, links to recommended videos, and self-test online quizzes.

The videos are now much shorter than my first round. I usually go through one example per video, and I tell students to tell me which questions or concepts they would like to see explained in a video. This focuses my time on specific student needs rather than making everything available all at once. I post my videos on YouTube, so if you like, you can check out my YouTube Channel. I also sometimes link to videos made by others if I agree with their approach. Finally, I have also found it useful to record an example that I explain during class and post it on the course page.

These are just some time-saving measures, and I will post back in to let you know how it goes.

So far so good!

Student Autonomy in Flipped Classrooms

I was cleaning out my car yesterday, and I found a slip of paper from the ETUG presentation that someone had written on in response to my question of what teachers SHOULD be doing with class time.


Yes! Students often come with the expectation that they will be told everything and that they will figure it all out when they leave. I know I used to think this way! However, class time could be used so much more efficiently if students did the figuring out part during class instead of out of class. This is essentially the concept of a flipped classroom.

As I am just wrapping up my masters thesis on experiences of a flipped classroom, I am drawing more and more attention on analyzing the autonomy that students are provided in class and how that either motivates them to learn or motivated them to slack off.

In my research, I have found that autonomy can be classified into procedural, organizational, and cognitive autonomy. This classification is introduced by Stefanou, Perencevich, DiCinto, & Turner (2004) as shown below.


Stefanou et al. (2004) found that cognitive autonomy support was essential in student engagement. Further, Jang, Reeve, & Deci (2010) determined that not only is cognitive autonomy essential, but it should be paired with teacher provided structure. Structure, as defined by Jang et al. (2010), is a way of maintaining control over the procedural and organizational dimensions in an autonomously supportive manner.  This means that teachers should provide guidelines for these dimensions in order to maintain student engagement in course content. This is not to say that these dimensions should be controlled in a controlling manner, but rather in a manner that  leaves room for student input.

My current research has provided further evidence of the importance of cognitive autonomy in student engagement and how it is most effective when organizational and procedural dimensions are structured in a student friendly manner.

The implication here is that flipped classrooms should not be seen as ways to allow students to do anything they like. The role of the teacher as a facilitator rather than a dictator is absolutely crucial in fostering student learning. In essence, fostering student learning should be the number one goal of teachers. However, with a variety of external pressures, it is understandable that it is a difficult goal to pursue.

My research has also provided evidence that not all students desire a deeper understanding of the material. These students may not engage in meaning making activities no matter how interesting they are. However, providing opportunities for developing deeper understanding and eliciting cognitive autonomy in students allows those who strive for understanding to be able to attain it.

So, what will we do next to try to turn our students’ brains ON?

Jang, H., Reeve, J., & Deci, E. L. (2010). Engaging students in learning activities: It is not autonomy support or structure but autonomy support and structure. Journal of Educational Psychology, 102(3), 588–600.

Stefanou, C., Perencevich, K., DiCinto, M., & Turner, J. (2004). Supporting autonomy in the classroom: Ways teachers encourage student decision making and ownership. Educational Psychologist, 39(2), 97–110.