‘From HIP to FLIP’
Alex More – Nov 17
Read Time: 11 mins approx.
Word up Hipsters and welcome to our blog. I hope you enjoy reading this first entry about Flipped Learning.
I began my foray into Flipped Learning about two years ago. Initially, I was searching for a way to make my students work a little harder in lessons. They would sit there, little knowledge sponges soaking up new information whilst I worked tirelessly to balance fun, and innovative lessons which would help embed content. It didn’t feel like a fair venture. When the new 9-1 specifications arrived, bringing with them a 30% increase in subject content when compared to the legacy specifications something had to give. I now had to deliver 108 topics rather than 78 but within the same allotted timetable hours. It was sink or swim time and flipping my classroom seemed like a great way to stay afloat.
So what is Flipped Learning?
Flipped Learning or FL, as it’s become universally known, is kind of a movement. In simple terms, FL occurs when the teacher flips some of the content outside of traditional classroom time so learners engage with podcasts, journals, and videos at home.
Farther complex definitions exist. For example, the FLN have attempted to define FL on their useful webpage.
As with many trends in education there appeared to be a plethora of views about how great FL actually was from teachers who had made the ‘flip’ but upon further investigation a real paucity of empirical data or academic research to back this up. I was intrigued, could this new trend of ‘flipping’ really save me time, make my students work harder and learner better? So, I took the plunge …
FL made sense, every switched off device is a switched off child so why not embrace technology during the flip and appeal to our digital natives. I needed to embrace technology and the 24/7 access that exists out there through platforms like You tube, GCSE Pod, The Kahn Academy, Crash Course and TED-ED.
Before changing my whole pedagogical approach and flipping everything, I wanted to read a little more, so read I did. One book after another, a breadcrumb trail if the evolution of the flip revealed this was in fact not a new concept at all.
Many ‘flipsters’ attribute the birth of FL to Messrs Aron Sams and Jonathon Bergman, early pioneers of the movement. But, there were others before them.
I managed to trace the origins of the flipped movement to 1910 when a chap called John Dewey started inquiry learning. This guy was a maverick and had grown tired of the ‘chalk and talk’ rote learning method of the day. He started setting problems (inquiries) that the students had to solve ahead of time. He would then use their findings to inform learning in the lesson. He might also have been one of the first to dabble in lesson objectives.
It seems them the FL kind of went quiet until in 1993 Alison King wrote an engaging journal piece entitled From Sage on the Stage to Guide on the https://faculty.washington.edu/kate1/ewExternalFiles/SageOnTheStage.pdf
This great little read asked some questions of educators worldwide. Were we creating a generation of passive learners? Could more be done to help motivate our students to seek more information for themselves?
Cue then Mr Eric Mazur (1997), a Harvard lecturer who challenged the notion of a traditional lecture. Mazur began experimenting with an inverted learning approach to teaching his students. All students attending lectures had to read ahead, often journals, abstracts and academic literature. The lecture would then be on that content. Legend has it that Mazur used to stand at the door of the lecture hall and ask random questions about the research before students were allowed into the lecture. This guy was surely a trendsetter, working ahead of his time.
Something I found useful when considering the FLIP was the FLN notion of the Four Pillars. It seemed logical and gave it a pictorial representation which I liked.
Each pillar represents the blueprint I suppose for how to scaffold or structure the FLIPPED experience. More info on the FLN pillars can be found here: 4 Pillars
So, why FLIP?
Does the reality of Flipping live up to the hype?
In a word, YES!
Early experiences of flipping convinced me that this was not ‘binge learning’, not a fad but the real deal. A game changer. FL from the outset made sense to me and seemed like it had longevity, it was here to stay. It had potential to change the way I would teach forever. But, I wanted to see it in action. This was the first problem I encountered; no one at the time was flipping their classroom! I could not find anyone to observe, chat to, Skype and this worried me a little.
I went 100% flipped, using the ‘Flipped 101’ model initially with my GCSE and A Level classes. Our school had bought into an online platform called mypeexam which meant I could assign podcasts, track which students had viewed those podcasts and even see how many times they had viewed them. This ‘Big Brother’ overview was useful initially but over time I felt just trusting my students to engage with the Flip replaced the need to log in and see stats for viewings etc.
Almost as soon as I made the FLIP students were more engaged in lessons. My role was slowly changing, I was transitioning to Guide on the Side a little which was a weird feeling at first. I noticed the depth of discussion during the starters was spot on, pacey, and relevant as well as academically challenging. Students challenged each other and the content and I spent time facilitating. As my belief and confidence in FL grew I started ditching lesson objectives. Of course, I had a plan of what content needed covering in that 60-minute lesson but there was no need for an objective at the start as the kids already knew what we were going to be doing. This allows more autonomy and freedom to just teach and take the learning where it wants to go.
A side effect of FL was, in fact, some students over-thinking, or should I say over-researching. They would routinely challenge me on content way beyond their specification, sometimes to degree level. This was not a bad thing. As a result, I was being asked questions that I did not know the answer to. I realised my students were learning, this was a healthy thing and I was learning with them. When this happened I made sure to say ‘I am not sure but I’ll find out about it for next lesson’. It worked and students were cool with that.
Here are some other discoveries which I feel are worthy of sharing early experiences of FL
- The majority of students (approx. 75%) engaged in the FL tasks I set for the outset.
- The 25% of reluctant flippers soon got on board (most were boys)
- Students interacted with the content mostly between 6 pm and 9 pm in the evenings.
- Out of the 92 students involved in FL, only two did not have access at the time. They were given library access at lunchtime/breaks and after school, if they needed it
- Most students engaged with FL via their phones or tablets
- It is worth spending a little time sharing with your class what FL actually is and why we are doing it. Here’s a copy of the slides I used with my classes https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1kUj3W_blQTvwhmEJyq08w7AbKVvrGKSJIauuo8Jl7Qg/edit?usp=sharing
- I exposed the students who did not engage with the FL through simple questioning at the start. They then had to take notes whilst the others discussed. I asked things like How long was the video? What happened at 1.15 mins? What famous celebrity was mentioned? Etc This solved the problem without punishing them, they didn’t like not being involved
Upping my Elvis!
After a year of flipping my GCSE results were the best ever, students were motivated and loving lessons but I was getting a little bored. FL was working but I needed to ramp it up a little and make it exciting again. At the time I was mid-way through my MA Ed and had to do a hands-on action research project, FL was the perfect vehicle to try something fresh.
I decided to measure the impact FL has by running action research in school. So, Illuminating GCSE PE. An experimental flipped learning project was born.
My aim was to take an FL group (the intervention group) and compare it to a traditional (the control group) using progress as a measure over a six week testing period. My hypothesis was that the traditional group would probably outperform the FL group. This proved to be wrong, the FL group made more progress over time. The paper attracted some attention as it was real teacher-led research. The FLN published the paper in June 2017, a link to the paper is here: Alex More Research Paper
Where am I now with FL?
Two years in I have now flipped 50% of my classes. I feel this is a happy amount and things seem to be going well.
I have evolved a few things and found the following quite useful in maximising FL to its full potential
- I have transitioned to the Flipped-Mastery Model from the Flipped 101.
- Students follow the 27 mins on, 5 mins rest, 27 mins mastery lesson based on some research on ALT (Actual Learning Time)
- I refer to students as Flippers, their idea not mine and they love it.
- I have started using TED-ED which is an easy platform to use as it allows you to create a lesson plan structure by sampling videos. You can then send the URL link to students. Thanks to Joe Burkmar who gave me the insight on this one, it’s great and free to use. Shadow Puppet is also pretty cool if you want to do feedback or design your own video.
- Students have a loyalty card. At the end of every FL task, they get a code which acts as a loyalty stamp (like the coffee shops). Once they collect 10 (which represents 5 hrs of home study time) they get a prize (chocolate, bath bomb etc). They really like this!
- I also use Google Scholar to encourage them to view and interact with academic literature. They have to compare abstracts, discuss validity and reliability and be able to detect fallacy in content. This I feel is teaching them higher education skills they will need in the world beyond school.
I have just started a 15,000-word thesis on FL as I transition from MA ED to PhD. I plan to expand on the action research idea and compare Flipped 101 groups to Flipped Mastery models with the aim of shedding more insight into the wonderful world of FL. I’ll share these findings as they evolve in this blog so we can keep the conversation going. It would be great to hear from others who have flipped their classrooms …