Thursday, March 19, 2015

4 pillars of the flip

Over the past few months I've co-led a face to face IB Continuum on Flipping Classrooms, and have recently facilitated an online version of the same workshop.  Interest in the flip is growing, and I was really pleased to see how enthusiastic the workshop participants were in making changes in their own practice, so that direct instruction could be shifted outside of the classroom, and teachers could reconsider how to best use their time in class with students.

Yesterday one of my online workshop participants posted a link to a Review of Flipped Learning.  I found this a great resource as it outlines the things that students can do with this "extra" class time, once they have watched the videos at home and prepared themselves with the content, such as collaborating on projects and other forms of active learning.  It also mentions things that teachers can do, such as coaching students to give them more control over their own learning.

Here are the 4 pillars of flipped learning:
  • F is for Flexible Environments - as there is no/less lecture style lessons, many flipped classrooms use their learning space differently.  Students may be involved in group work, while others are studying individually.  There is flexibility over when and how students learn, how long it takes to learn something and how students are assessed.
  • L is for Learning Culture - the teacher is no longer the "sage on the stage", as there is a shift to a more student-centred approach.  
  • I is for Intentional Content - as teachers evaluate the content that needs to be taught directly and what students can explore on their own.
  • P is for Professional Educators - teachers need to make choices about when and how to shift direct instruction from the group to the individual learning space.
While flipped learning is relatively new, the pedagogies that underpin it have been studied extensively.  For example shifting to active learning is known to improve student performance, higher level thinking, engagement and a more positive attitude towards learning.   Studies also show that flipped learning can have a positive effect in English language learners.  In traditional classrooms, many of these students focus solely on the lower levels of Bloom's Taxonomy - remembering and understanding the teacher.  Once this instruction is moved outside the classroom, these students can focus on understanding the content at home and use class time for engaging in the upper levels of the taxonomy, such as applying and creating, where they are using their emerging English skills with native speakers.

Teachers who have flipped their instruction have reported that as well as students being more engaged, standardized test scores improved and they themselves experienced more job satisfaction. Students feel they have more positive interactions with teachers and more choice about following their interests in their learning.  Generally learning becomes more differentiated and personalized.

Is there a down side to flipped learning?  Gary Stager believes there may be.  Flipping the classroom does nothing to address the issue of too much content, and he has also expressed concern that making the videos may be farmed out to others, thus leading to a more standardized experience (similar, I guess, to everyone using the same textbook).  In my workshops I have seen teachers using content that was already created, but I have also seen them personalize this content for their own students.  In fact one thing that Bergmann and Sams discuss is that watching videos made by different teachers may tap into different students' learning styles, and that some teachers may well be more knowledgeable in some areas than others.

Overall the review of flipped learning is a positive one.  It is early days, but I hope to work with many more educators who want to give flipped learning a try.

Photo Credit: ~Jetta Girl~ via Compfight cc

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