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Many pupils watch online lecture videos via their smart phones. Photograph by Jonathan Velasquez via Unsplash

Finding value in flipped learning

Last year, I started “flipping” some of my lessons.

I was motivated to try this technique after hearing a talk at UEA’s Teachers and Advisers’ Conference by Prof. Simon Lancaster, who flips his Chemistry lectures.

I thought Flipped Learning could help my A-level students develop their independent study skills and aid them in their transition to university. I also hoped that it would allow me to use more of my contact time with pupils to extend or support them, rather than use lessons to simply get initial ideas across.

Do your students struggle to think independently?

Before flipping, I would often set homework based on what we’d covered in class and one or two pupils would later hand it back with at least one question unanswered, because they “didn’t get it”.

Those pupils clearly needed to pursue more research themselves, but I always felt I’d like to be around to help them apply new concepts – not expect them to do the majority of it alone, at home. What’s more, I wanted to be able to modify tasks and extend other pupils further, especially while I was on hand to assist and encourage them.

Is interactive content the answer?

Flipped Learning takes a number of forms. In its simplest guise, you can get pupils to ‘read ahead’ before their next lesson. But what I have found is that pupils engage with the process most when encouraged to watch a video of someone teaching a specific topic. I have produced some of these videos myself, others I found on Youtube. Pupils can watch these videos at school, (if internet access is a problem) though I found that many confidently watched them on their smart phones.

One key aspect of lessons that I have flipped was a set of diagnostic questions, which pupils answered as part of their preparatory homework. They submitted their responses a few days before the next lesson, which meant that I could plan that lesson based on what they had, or hadn’t, understood. This also gave me an idea of how much extra support, (or stretching) each pupil might require before we met again.

However, you will find that some teachers simply ask these questions at the start of the following lesson and then set tasks accordingly.

What do classrooms think of Flipped Learning?

Students:

Pupil feedback reveals that they liked having the chance to pause videos and research concepts; to move at their own pace through a ‘lesson’. In particular, pupils with English as an additional language (EAL) said that they appreciated the opportunity to watch videos in their own time, looking up keywords and reflecting on ideas, without worrying so much about the teaching language.

Teachers:

When I’ve talked to other teachers, the main worry they have about Flipped Learning is that pupils might not complete the homework before a lesson. In my experience, I’ve found it best to take a pragmatic approach to this. Even in the more ‘traditional’ lessons, there’s a range of starting points for pupils within a class. We have to take into account previously absent pupils, who haven’t yet caught up on the work they’ve missed, plus those present in the last lesson who didn’t fully understand everything covered. We should consider where pupils are before we move on.

Supporting the whole classroom

The lessons I have flipped always required a pragmatic approach: some pupils needed a great deal of support just to grasp the basic concepts, whereas others could be stretched and challenged from the start of the lesson, answering questions on the spot that I might previously have set for homework. by using the Flipped Learning approach, I was available to support them as they tried more complex examples.

The feedback I’ve had from pupils about Flipped Learning has been overwhelmingly positive and, although I’m not ready to use it across the board, I do think it can really benefit pupils, especially when it comes to university study, where independent research and thinking is absolutely invaluable.

Flipped Learning inforgraphic

Flipped Learning Infographic courtesy of the University of East Anglia.

Find out more about this teaching technique via the Flipped Learning Network (FLN).

Posted by Niki Kaiser on Wed, 8 Feb 2017



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Niki is a Teacher and Co-Head of Chemistry at Notre Dame High School in Norwich, keen to show her pupils that Chemistry can be an excellent grounding for a range of careers. Previously she’s worked as a Marine Biogeochemist at Plymouth Marine Laboratory, completing her PhD on the air-sea interaction of alkenes in coastal waters at the University of Leeds.

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