Flipped Classroom

Image shared by ransomtech under a creative commons license

Image shared by ransomtech under a creative commons license

This week we received another BSF ICT School Innovation Project project update from Mark, faculty leader for humanities at St. Paul’s Catholic School. Mark’s project is an individual award and is trialling a flipped classroom approach. Videos and resources are shared with students as homework for them to review prior to lessons, with class time then used for discussion and enquiry based tasks. Below is a summary of his progress so far:

Introduction

Here at St. Paul’s we’ve had great success over the last few years in the development of independent learning and personalised learning with our post-16 students, leading to some fantastic results. I have been interested in trying a similar approach in other key stages, and have decided to trial a flipped classroom environment with my year 9 students.

Traditionally we might teach students new content and skills in the classroom, and set homework that tests how well they can apply what has been covered in the lesson. In a flipped classroom these two elements are reversed.  Students learn new material at home, and lesson time is then used to challenge, apply and develop their new knowledge.  This is where the tech comes in.  I’m using a Surface Pro to record and post videos that cover the content which might ordinarily form the first 20 minutes of a lesson.

The initial student response was positive.  For them, the idea that homework would no longer involve any writing, no more questions to answer or worksheets to complete, was very appealing.  In their minds, all they had to do was watch a few videos I had put together.  Enthusiastic suggestions followed.  I should star in the videos.  I should dress up.  Despite being a geography teacher, I should cast aside the brown jacket and the elbow patches and put on a wig and a “scientist” outfit (I assume they mean a lab coat).  At this stage although encouraged by their excitement, I was a little concerned that they had missed the point.  I stressed the key principles again.  Rather than introducing, explaining and discussing something new at the start of each lesson, they might be watching a video online at home, and then using what they had learnt straight away in the following lesson.  They considered this, and told me again, “you should definitely dress up sir.”

The First Session

The unit this term is on globalisation, so their initial task was to watch a video introducing the topic, and complete a survey at home to identify the origins of a variety of clothing, food and electronic items.  I used power point to create a presentation, recorded audio to go with the slides, and saved this as a video.  Although some students were disappointed that I wasn’t “in” the video, it worked well, and we were able to start the first lesson with virtually everyone knowing something about the topic.  There was a lot more time in the first lesson for students to develop and apply their knowledge, as they had already covered what would normally take half an hour of whole class teaching at the start of new topic.  I felt that I had more time to spend with groups and individuals during the lesson when extra help was needed or more stretch and challenge was required.  Subjectively, it does seem that the students have completed more independent learning and that learning was more personalised during the lesson because the homework task replaced a significant proportion of the lesson time.  In many ways there is nothing new in the “flipped classroom” approach, but it has encouraged me to try something different, and so far has given me much more time to work with students in the lesson rather that falling into the comfort zone of standing at the front of the classroom imparting my “wisdom.”

Lessons Learnt so far

The obvious downside here is the student that hasn’t done their “homework.”  They are starting the lesson some way behind the rest of the group.  First time around the answer has been simple.  Here’s the text book, read this, answer these questions.  However, it creates an uncomfortable element of the “naughty” child sitting alone in the corner while everyone else does a “fun” lesson.  I hope to find a more inclusive answer to this problem, but perhaps I won’t need to.  One lesson of “answer these questions” when the rest of the group are engaged in collaborative work and discussion may be enough to make sure everyone does their homework.

In some cases, internet access could also be a problem.  I have been careful to select a class to trial this with where nobody reported internet access at home as a problem before we started.  This may not be the case with all groups, but if I used the approach more widely I’m sure I would have a few students who would still need to do their homework in school on a library or learning centre computer.  There is also the issue of last minute homework, and I’m sure it will only be a matter of time before someone is skipping through a video they should have watched fully at home, on their phone on the bus on the way in to school.  Or that someone tells me they couldn’t do their homework because Mr. X confiscated their device as they were trying to do their geography homework during a maths lesson.  At least the family pet cannot be blamed for eating an online video.

The approach also takes a lot of time out of the classroom.  Experienced teachers rely sometimes on being able to walk into a lesson with relatively little formal planning, still able to deliver a pretty good lesson.  This is not the case when trying something different, and here I am having to think about, plan, and create new content for a video for each lesson.  Actually, finding a quiet place away from kids in school or at home to record audio is the biggest challenge.  It’s probably only a matter of time before one of my videos goes live to the class with one of my own children shouting, “what are you doing, can I be in it?” in the background, and I leave it in as I’m already on take 17.

Next Steps

Over the next few weeks there will be some developments.  So far the initial content has just been available on our school VLE, but I plan to put everything together on a YouTube channel for wider access.  I will also be generating some data to measure the success of the approach, by looking at progress and attainment using more traditional teaching compared with a flipped classroom environment.  Finally, I will be gathering some student and parent opinion on this way of working.  Oh, and at some point I will also need to create quite a lot more new video content!  5 o’clock next Sunday morning is looking good for that.

You can read Mark’s subsequent posts on project progress and findings here:

Flipped Classroom: a flipping update

Flipped Classroom: final reflections

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