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.
- 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.
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?
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.
- Use PowerPoint itself: Under ‘Slide Show’ – record slide show – save in Google Docs OR Moodle OR email it
- Free resource you can use to create online presentations
- MyMaths type product
- Create your own podcast: Audacity – free and easy edit features (audio only)
- Screencasting: Screencast-o-matic (visual and audio)
- Use school video camera (headcam) and find yourself an empty classroom … Next YouTube star?!?!
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.