This post was written by Jon Tait, you can follow Jon on Twitter @TeamTait.
For hundreds of years we have taught in a relatively similar way. If you close your eyes and picture a typical classroom you will probably see the teacher at the front of the classroom talking to a room full of students. Although the world has changed in so many different ways, our classroom practice still resembles a time that should have long been forgotten. Yet in many classrooms around the country, this approach to teaching still dominates the learning experiences of our children.
As we look to find different ways to move away from these traditional and outdated methods, one strategy that is gaining significant momentum in classrooms across the world is Flipped Learning. Flipping our classrooms has the potential to take us as far away from our traditional classroom methods as we’ve ever dared to go before!
So, what is Flipped Learning?
In a nutshell, flipped learning is re-ordering how we teach. The subject content is learned by the student for homework enabling students to spend more time in class with the extended writing tasks that would have traditionally been done at home without support.
In a traditional classroom, a teacher will introduce a new topic, deliver the essential content and try to ensure that all of the class have understood it. The teacher will try to achieve this in the little time they have by short tasks or activities related to the learning. These tasks will hopefully enable the students to demonstrate their understanding of the content they have just learned.
In a flipped classroom, no longer does the teacher stand and deliver the content of the topic to his or her students. Instead, the students are given the content via a video presentation, directed independent research or further reading as a homework task, so that when they enter the classroom, they already have the knowledge required for the lesson. The teacher can then set more challenging tasks for the students to do as they have spent their own time acquiring the knowledge. More importantly, the teacher can now spend his or her time working with the students, addressing misconceptions and providing support, motivation and intervention.
What is the benefit?
Many educational experts have reported that individual feedback is the number one strategy to raise student performance. Therefore, speaking to individual students in class is vitally important. This is where the real skilled teacher comes into his or her own. Once we come to understand this, basic content delivery becomes something that gets in the way of our precious face to face time with students. No longer are we the only medium that students can learn from. Content delivery is the easy part, getting students to have deep understanding of the content is the hard part. However, in a traditional classroom environment, we leave the difficult part to the students at home after they leave our class.
How can we deliver our content?
With the emergence of digital technology, this can now be achieved away from the classroom in the students’ own time and in the comfort of their own home.
YouTube video clips – We don’t need to reinvent the wheel here. You can probably find the perfect video on YouTube that explains your topic brilliantly. This may also be from an expert in that field who can engage your students extremely well.
Create your own digital content – If you can’t find what you are looking for, or you want to create your own bespoke video, there are many tools that you can use to do this from desktop software to online resources, through to mobile apps.
Wider reading – Remember that flipped learning does not have to be digital. Getting students to read about the new topic can be just as important. This is great as an addition to the video content especially if it is an article from a magazine or newspaper that puts their new learning into context.
Independent research – For some students you may want to challenge them to research the topic themselves, adding even more challenge to the task. This promotes independent learning, gives them more ownership of their learning and starts to prepare them for life after secondary school.
What are the benefits for the students in learning at home?
Own pace – Not everyone in our classroom learns at the same pace, however, in a traditional method, we seem to want this to happen, even though we know this isn’t realistic. By students learning this content in their own time and at their own pace, this is a far more enjoyable experience for them.
Stop, pause, rewind – In a traditional class, students don’t get the chance to pause or rewind us. Maybe they didn’t quite catch what we said, or they need to hear it again for them to process what it really means? In a flipped environment this is easy. Simply pause, rewind or stop the video as many times as you want.
Time to think – When somebody is talking to you and giving you new information, it is very hard for your brain to stop and think about it. If you stop to think and drift away from what the teacher is saying, you’ll probably miss the next piece of information. Being able to pause the content and think about it is really important. This enables us to process the learning, make connections with our previous learning and then move on more confidently.
No peer pressure to pretend to understand – At home there is no pressure to pretend to understand something. In a flipped environment it does not matter how long it takes someone to understand something. They can revisit the video or article as many times as they want. They can refer to a textbook, ask a friend or family member, or even do some further independent research until they finally get it.
What happens in class?
Typically a flipped class will start with a plenary type activity which aims to assess the understanding that the students have gained from the homework task. The teacher can then assess if the class are ready to move forward. During this activity, the teacher, or other students, can address any misconceptions that students may have of the topic. Once the teacher is happy to proceed, the class will move on to a more challenging task that asks the students to use their new learning and apply it to a deeper learning task. This may be an extended writing task, project, presentation or anything where the students have to assimilate their learning and put it into context. Throughout this task the teacher will go from student to student speaking to them about their work and providing individual support and progress checks. At the end of the lesson the teacher can then wrap up with a traditional plenary type activity whilst also addressing any common areas of weakness that the group have found more challenging.
Since flipping my classroom I have been amazed at its success. With my students already having the knowledge when they enter my room, I am now able to take my lessons so much further, setting my students far more challenging tasks that I can oversee in class. Their performance has reflected this and their feedback has been extremely positive. Comments such as ‘I love it because it helps me learn so much more’ and ‘it allows you to come into the lesson prepared, giving you more time for work’ have shown me that this could be the future of learning.
With the help of modern technology and a completely new approach to how our students’ learn best, maybe, just maybe, we can start to build the foundations for how people will learn over the next few hundred years.