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RandD Community: Flipping for Success @EnglishSMCC

Last year we established Research & Development Communities at St. Mary’s Catholic College.  The members of the communities were self-selecting and the aim was to develop and embed best or emerging good practice within the College.  Each R&D Community was set up to take forward an idea, innovation or approach by a group of staff that would lead to improved standards of attainment, levels of achievement, student well-being or student personal development. 

Photo Credit: dkuropatwa via Compfight

Photo Credit: dkuropatwa via Compfight

  • A R&D Community could be set up by any member of staff.
  • Each R&D Community had a named leader who would be responsible for the community, its outcomes and for leading a group of staff of between 3-8 people. 
  • Funding of £100 per person in the R&D Community was made available to fund the community’s work.
  • The leader of the R&D Community must commit to knowledge capture and transfer at the college, local and regional level as required.  The leader has a small reduction in teaching commitment to give her/him additional time

This first mid-year report is from Helen Stuart who is one of our Innovation Fellows and is leading a R&D Community looking at the Flipped Classroom.

As a teacher I’m constantly asking myself two questions in order that the lessons I plan are centred on students making significant learning gains

What do I want my students to learn today?

What will this look like?

However, even then, I found myself posing one more question, that being: how do I achieve a learning environment that allows for engagement from my students so they take ownership of their learning success?

It’s a controversial thought, and one that I have personally battled with throughout my ten years of teaching, but I have had to admit that often it is my ego centred idea as a teacher that I have something so important to say that this actually gets in the way of my students’ learning.  I continually strived for that pacey start to lessons, the one where students were engaged and actively learning from the get-go, but however hard I tried, I couldn’t escape the ‘teacher talk’ start to lessons, taking centre stage (ever heard the one about all teachers being failed actors?!) and so, my students experienced passive learning as I talked at them and so often bored them into submission, even if they were too polite to say so!  I continually took 20-30 minutes up at the start of a lesson with little/no interactive learning, which inevitably often stopped the students from achieving extended abstract within the lesson.

#5MinResearchPlan for Flipped Learning R&D Community

#5MinResearchPlan for Flipped Learning R&D Community

So, I had unwillingly posed myself a further question ‘How am I going to change this apathetic start to my lesson?’ For a starting point, and to gain some clarity, I completed the #5MinResearchPlan which led me to ‘The Flipped Classroom Approach’. I had found my answer.

But, would it work in reality? The answer, to my surprise, was actually … yes! So, what is The Flipped Classroom?

The Flipped Classroom is a model of teaching in which a student’s home learning prior to the lesson is the instructional learning (lecture). Then more class time is available to be spent on interactive learning where the teacher can be the guide on the side = more collaboration and consolidation for the student.

It made me question:

What was the last piece of Home Learning I had set? Why?

What impact did it have? How did it feed into the student’s learning?

And I had to shamefully admit that my default was to simply set Home Learning which was often just more of what was done in class – let’s bore them some more! Or, even worse, the actual application and consolidation (the most important aspect of the learning) tagged on like an afterthought whilst the students (without the expert) at home muddled through it alone…ludicrous.

So, what have I experienced?  

After introducing the Flipped Classroom Approach:

  • I find that the students are engaged in their learning from the moment they enter the room – interactive learning is in abundance and I also found this inadvertently had a positive impact on behaviour and so fewer sanctions are needed. Students know what to expect on arrival (takes out the guess work for them, helps to settle…excited even?)
  • The students take ownership of their learning whilst the teacher is able to facilitate. 
  • The ‘simple’ element is already covered prior to class time, so the extended abstract level of understanding is much easier to obtain and I found that I could achieve much more coverage (something all teachers seem to want).
  • Home Learning interests the students and they HAVE to do it.
  • Instant differentiation – students work through Home Learning recording at own level: pause, repeat, etc. and within the videos, the thought provoking questions that pop up throughout help to guide and shape the students’ understanding. Also, I can embed a Google form under the video to check the learning, then collate the results of the answers to inform a seating plan within the classroom which is instantly differentiated.
  • The ‘teaching’ is no longer transient: students can re-visit the recordings again and again (absence = no problem)

Putting it into practice

So, it’s not about the teacher becoming obsolete, and no, we won’t be made redundant because yes, we are the experts. In actual fact, it only humanises teaching more as you gain more time to interact in one-to-one transactions with students in the actual lesson which I also find ultimately leads to less frustration from both students and staff as each have more time with one another.  We still teach them the knowledge (just in a different format – a podcast for example which students access prior to the session).Then we guide them in the session as they adopt a more interdependent style of learning – we as the expert support and give instant feedback rather than talk at them. Then ultimately they can participate in their learning.

Sold and Want a Go?

Photo Credit: Mundoo via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Mundoo via Compfight cc

YouTube has LOTS of examples (for all subjects) you can use – direct students to link. AND not just YouTube: Some good alternatives to YouTube http://www.freetech4teachers.com/p/alternatives-to-youtube.html or last Friday (for example) Frank Cotterill Boyce gave a live ‘masterclass’ in creative writing on BBC – record, adapt and share.

Then simply choose how students will gain access: YouTube – can set up a Dept. channel; Google Docs; Moodle; set up a class contact group on Email; Burn DVDs – whole term and instruct which ‘scene’ to watch.

BUT I think it’s important to note that we shouldn’t become too concentrated on the video element, yes we all want to go viral and make it big, and it is essentially the back bone of the Flipped Classroom Approach, but it is more about what happens in the classroom as a consequence of the video…that’s the point!

No, Flipped Classroom is not the silver bullet that will solve all that is wrong with education, but, it might be one tool that you implement for some classes, for some topics to improve some learning activities – you’re the expert, you decide.

Essentially, in my humble opinion, it’s not a revolutionary idea, but it will revolutionise your teaching … and your students’ learning.



7 thoughts on “RandD Community: Flipping for Success @EnglishSMCC

  1. Thanks for this great summary. I am delivering a CPD session later this year on the flipped class model and this will be a very useful resource to direct people to. I have been flipping my GCSE chemistry for two years. I still don’t know if the results will be better, but what I have noticed is a greater level of engagement in lessons, and more independence in learning. Even if there is no real increase in exam grade, that training will be better for their future studies alone. What I would say is that the class activities need to be very organised. And the lessons are exhausting in a good way, as you spend the entire hour interacting with students. I make my own videos, as I feel I want to teach the work in a specific way and I know what I need to emphasise for them. So it is not a low work version of teaching (it’s much easier to stand in front of a class, teach and write notes on the board).
    The other aspect I’m working on is how to assess progress. For instance my mark book has fewer ‘marks’ in it than for a normal class, as many of those ‘marks’ would have come from homework assignments, although how genuine that mark is for an individual is the old ‘who actually did the homework’ problem. At least in a lesson you can see, to a certain degree, who is doing what.
    I would love to set up an R&D community in my school, and with this description I am inspired to go to the DH and ask to do this.

    Posted by Reactionary | February 26, 2014, 9:57 am
  2. An absolutely fantastic blog and it strikes a chord with what I am pondering over the (Welsh) half term. You hit the nail on the head when you said that the key to the flipped learning is what the pupils then do in the class (rather than what they did for homework). I have set one flipped learning task with my year 11s and the response was very favourable. However, I didn’t put enough thought into what they would then did in the following lesson. I did of course plan but I did miss an opportunity to really build on what they had done for homework. Inspired by yourself, Jon Tait, Andy Day and others I am currently looking at setting flipped homeworks and then using SOLO to plan the learning tasks for the following lesson to ensure I’m stretching my students and maximising the time that they have with me in the classroom (there may even be a blog in it). Thanks for sharing your thoughts and ideas Stephen; it is helping many, many people (especially me).

    Posted by mrbenney | February 26, 2014, 10:08 am
  3. I should of course have thanked Helen. Apologies for the oversight.

    Posted by mrbenney | February 26, 2014, 10:13 am
  4. When I initially commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added”
    checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get three
    emails with the same comment. Is there any way you can remove people from that service?

    Posted by Google | September 23, 2014, 1:48 am


  1. Pingback: Living and learning » Flipping for Success - February 26, 2014

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