In a time when some staff are questioning the value of homework and Hattie (1) suggest that it has limited learning gains, how do we ensure productive independent learning for our pupils?
I have recently observed teachers utilising ideas from ‘Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day’ by Jonathan Bergmann & Aaron Sams (2012).
Traditional homework activities have involved pupils consolidating work done in the classroom (which they may not find appealing) or some practical activity which parents have tended to do for the child. The prudent use of technology can allow teachers to set meaningful work without causing themselves lots of marking the following day and make better use of their time in class. Rather than setting consolidation work for home, some colleagues are setting the learning as homework then using the following day’s lessons to help the children use and apply their new knowledge and skills. This is known as ‘flipping’ your class.
Research (2) shows that many pupils really engage with this method of learning and on reflection I realised that it was how I now learn: I surf and view sources, I ask knowledgeable peers and then I discuss with friends or family.
So what are the advantages?
- The evidence shows that Flipping can help struggling pupils as they can revisit the learning materials as often as they need and at the pace that suits them.
- Flipping increases pupil-teacher interaction.
- Flipping facilitates better differentiation.
- Flipping encourages the development of independent study skills.
What exactly is flipped learning?
Flipped learning is:
- The interaction and meaningful learning activities that occur during the face-to-face time.
- A means to increase interaction between pupils and teachers.
- An environment where pupils take responsibility for their own learning.
- A classroom where the teacher is not the ‘sage on the stage’ but the ‘guide at the side.’
- A classroom where pupils who are absent due to illness or extra-curricular activities don’t get left behind.
- A class where content is later available for review.
- A class where all pupils are engaged in their learning and can get personalised tuition.
“The ‘flipped classroom’ starts with one question: what is the best use of my face-to-face class time?” – Jonathan Bergmann
Flipped learning is not:
- About replacing teachers with videos.
- An online course.
- Pupils working without structure.
- Pupils working in isolation.
There are four parts to this process:
- The notion of the flipped classroom and the learning objective need to be explicitly shared with pupils so that there is a shared understanding of the activity.
- The teacher needs to effectively share the learning resources and explain to the pupils how to access or use them. This takes some preparation by the teacher.
- When the class reconvenes, they engage in activities / projects / group work to develop and utilise their new knowledge and skills.
- Evaluation of the process by teachers and pupils.
There are various tools to help you do this including many you will already have in school such as:
- Powerpoint Video / YouTube tutorial (on school system rather than open internet!)
- Explain everything.
- Ready made platforms such as Khan Academy, Mathletics and Atom Learning.
You need to think about how to distribute the materials to children. Many schools now engage with purchased systems including:
- Sharepoint or school learning platforms
- Google Classroom, Microsoft Class Onenote or Teams
- Edmodo or Nearpod
The secret is to keep the core homework limited to 10 minutes.
How do you know whether the pupils have done the work?
Either offer an old fashioned spot-quiz, an online quiz via MS-forms or use features in apps like Nearpod which ask them to complete questions as they go, which you can look at next lesson.
Next time the class is together you can use your class time for creating a better understanding of the subject matter (more time to answer specific questions). You could work on speaking, listening and writing skills, work on projects or really focus in on those tricky concepts where everyone struggled.
There are particular benefits for some pupils with learning difficulties as they can take as many opportunities to view the learning materials as is needed and can refer back to them whenever required. Judicious use of film and oral material can also help relieve them of hours of reading.
In summary, the Flipped Classroom offers an interesting and interactive opportunity for a different style of learning and of teaching. It does take some preparation by the teacher but it does offer time savings when compared to traditional marking. It is something to use now and then rather than every day.