To Flip or Not to Flip?
Updated: Jun 24, 2020
Welcome to my first blog post! I am new to blogging and so this will be an adventure for me, but, hopefully I will be able to offer some insight or useful ideas and resources that will help you in your teaching as an educator or in your journey as a learner. Today's blog is about the recent trend that has become known as 'Flipped Learning' and I hope as I share my experiences with you that it will help those of you who are teachers, in your delivery of A-level, AS level and maybe GCSE level materials for the new specifications.
The buzzwords 'Flipped Learning' essentially mean that what used to happen in the classroom now happens at home. Conversely, the kind of learning we used to expect of our students at home, now moves into the classroom. The intended benefit of this methodology is simply that the easy material - the reading, the watching of videos and the basic knowledge acquisition that needs to happen - doesn't really require our presence in the room. However, writing essay's, analysing and evaluating, those kinds of skills are more difficult and often need our input. If we view Blooms Taxonomy, we can see that the higher order skills are the ones that we often get our students to work on alone and yet these are the ones where they most need our help.
As teachers who may be rather overwhelmed with the large amount of content that we need to cover with our students we can turn to this model for help. Setting different homework, need not be painful, if all that is required of our learners is that they watch a film or read a chapter of text before a lesson. A short quiz at the start of the lesson can help to check key facts or vocabulary that has been acquired, before going on to the in-depth analysis that is required of AO2 answers. Lessons also have the potential for differentiation being built in, as we can set group or individual work that enables the strong students to be pushed on with their evaluation, whilst we spend time with those who haven't quite understood. There is less emphasis on didactic learning with the whole class doing the same thing, whilst we drone on at the front and more emphasis on the students taking responsibility for their own learning. What could be better?
My experience of running a flipped classroom has been mixed. The reality of it is that you have to be fully committed to the idea of flipping. If you try and do it by half measures, or only sometimes, it is likely to fail. The reason for this seems to be partly with student expectations. They like routine. Whilst they don't want things to be mundane, they feel safe if they know what is expected of them, and the chances of getting them into the habit of preparing before a lesson, if they only do it sometimes, is slim. In addition, it is difficult for them to plan their homework effectively across all their subjects if we are dipping in and out of homework that comes before a lesson. I found it very effective to give my class a check-list of the reading and film watching that they would need to do for the term, up front. Then if they had free time, some of them would go ahead and get lots done if they knew that they had a big deadline later in the term for another subject.
Another thorny issue is the non-completion of homework. If learners come to the lesson having not done their work, they are not prepared to evaluate. Dealing with this requires strong classroom management skills. I did have one occasion when I had to send over half the class away to complete the pre-reading that they had not done and as a result they missed the fun evaluative stuff. To be honest, this is a difficult situation. On the one hand it doesn't take many times before the majority, just do the reading as it is easier and more fun to be in the lesson than sitting in a library or corridor reading alone. However, getting that culture set up is hard work and I did have to accept that sometimes some would miss important analysis in the lesson that I would not have time to catch up. The only solution for these students was extra reading. Less fun, a deterrent, but also could lead to a slippery slope of more and more work piling on that they cannot catch up with.
Ultimately, the new specifications are very content heavy. We have no more time than before to deliver this material and so something has to change if we are to meet the standards that our students need us to. Flipping is a great tool to achieve this. If you don't have any experience of flipping a classroom, I would recommend this book. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Flip-Your-Classroom-Reach-Student/dp/1564843157
It is a great starting point before you decide if this is the way you want to go. In future blog posts, I intend to look at some good teaching aids and strategies for setting work, and for great classroom activities you can use.