Defining flipped learning
Lockdown has taught us a number of powerful lessons. One of the biggest lessons I believe we can take away from all of this is the need to embrace a more blended learning environment, providing our students access to more of our lesson content digitally so it is accessible from anywhere.
This allows us to really drill down on a blended approach, considering how we can repurpose our classroom space and provide much more authentic and meaningful learning experiences for our students.
1. Teaching your students and their parents about flipped learning
Our students and their whanau have expectations of what learning should look like. These expectations are generally based on the way they were taught when they were at school. For most parents, this is going to look like a very traditional approach where the teacher stands up at the front of the class and “teaches” content. Hopefully your current students have experienced more modern approaches to learning, but nevertheless you still have to take the time to inform your students and parents about the new approach you’re taking with them. This could be a simple letter home describing the new processes, or you could create a flipped video for your parents! As long as you are outlining what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and how it’s going to improve student outcomes then the approach you take doesn’t really matter. But, be prepared for pushback from parents that are used to doing things a certain way.
I have also found that you need to teach your students how to watch the videos you provide. Our kids operate in high distraction environments. They like to “multitask” and think they can do this successfully. By having them minimise these distractions, and show them why they should be pausing the video and replaying where necessary, and providing them with a good note taking process (such as a WSQ sheet), you’re setting them up for success in a flipped learning environment.
2. Repurpose your classroom time
The power of the flipped classroom doesn’t come from having lots of cool videos to show your students at home. It comes from being able to repurpose your classroom time. Because students have digested key content outside your lessons, you’re now free to focus on much more authentic and meaningful learning experiences that leverage higher order thinking tasks.
Before flipping I spent far too much time chalking and talking with my classes. We would focus on the remembering and understanding of key content, and never really arrive at a point where we could create, evaluate and analyse (where the magic happens). Creating these magic moments and learning experiences is not easy, and too many educators simply leave this component to chance. If you really want to serve your students and have them benefit from a flipped learning environment, your priority needs to be on explicitly planning out repurposed lessons that are authentic, meaningful, leverage higher order thinking skills, and elicit high levels of engagement from your students. This is by no means an easy task and requires a heavy time investment from you, confidence in your curriculum knowledge, and awareness of the students you teach.
3. An understanding that the teacher is no longer the holder of all knowledge.
Flipped content is not limited to your own videos. While there is a lot to be said about student engagement from your own videos, it’s not always necessary or possible to create your own. The sooner you’re able to embrace an attitude that you are not the holder of all knowledge in the classroom, the sooner you can focus on the things that matter – like developing high quality connections and relationships with your students. A quick YouTube search will open up a wide variety of video content by experts on almost any topic you need.
4. The ability to check student understanding and progress
Simply put, if your students aren’t digesting the content you’re providing them, what is the point of all this? You need to know whether your students are engaging with the content, that they understand what they are watching, and that they are making progress in the classroom. I encourage teachers to incorporate this critical success factor into your repurposed classroom time. I like to check student understanding through three different methods.
1) Small group discussions. As soon as students enter into a repurposed classroom lesson, they begin discussing the latest video with their group. They will highlight anything they didn’t understand and generate some key questions.
2) Each group then presents a key question to the remainder of the class. As a teacher I sit back and watch the students collaborate together and discuss answers. This is some of the richest student lead work I have seen in my classes.
3) Finally, I put together some teacher lead focus questions. This ensures that I am comfortable students are progressing at the pace I need them to be. The responses and engagement from each of these three steps will generally determine the next steps in the learning journey.
5. Have high expectations of your students
If you’ve managed to implement a number of these critical success factors, you’re likely seeing positive results already. However, I can guarantee you it’s not all smooth sailing. You will encounter push back, you will have students who struggle with access to devices and the internet, and you will have students who simply don’t get the required work done. My advice here is to reaffirm your student expectations and make sure you keep them high.
Put consequences in place for students who don’t do their part. Ensure your expectations are always clear and visible. Maintain constant communication with whanau. Praise students who are performing well.
One of the best outcomes of a flipped learning environment are the stronger student-teacher relationships. You spend more time working alongside them and helping them find their path on the learning journey. Having high expectations of your students will ensure these relationships continue to develop and blossom, with student confidence growing at the same time.