Circulus Education held a Flipped Learning launch for schools on September 11, 2014 at RMIT University. Annie Agnew, leading Education Expert and Consultant at Circulus Education, led the keynote speech.
The event was aimed to launch Flipped Learning within Australia and also discuss the many solutions it can present for schools and educational providers. The concept of Flipped Learning is a blended approach, whereby the learner takes the responsibility to do some activity at home, such as reading text online or watching video. This means the learner has done preparation prior to coming in to a face-to-face lesson with the teacher. When the face-to-face time occurs, this time can be spent more constructively in the classroom, in activities allowing for more one-on-one time and mentoring. Annie embarked on an insightful journey into Flipped learning and asked the group some key questions:
- What does social learning mean to you?
- How are the changing trends in technology impacting education?
- How do we use the technologies available to us?
- What is the key learning point that you want the learners to have?
Annie explained that as an educator you want to draw the learner into the different learning styles that are available. This is usually much harder to do with traditional learning as it uses a ‘tell’ approach.
Annie Agnew presenting at the Flipped learning program launch event.
The research and case studies around the success of Flipped Learning are plentiful. One of the biggest success stories is that of Clintondale High School in Detroit, USA. Greg Green, Principal of Clintondale was faced with the situation of almost having to shut the doors of his school, due to high failure rates and poor outcomes. By reversing the instructional procedures and incorporating a Flipped Learning model, Greg was able to completely turn the performance of his school around. Here the Greg Green talks about some of the results from incorporating Flipped Learning at his school:
“At Clintondale High School, we have been using this education model for the past 18 months. During this time, our attendance rate has increased, our discipline rate decreased, and, most importantly, our failure rate – the number of students failing each class – has gone down significantly. When we first implemented this model in the ninth grade, our student failure rate dropped by 33% in one year.
In English, the failure rate went from 52% to 19%; in math, 44% to 13%; in science, 41% to 19%; and in social studies, 28% to 9%. In September of 2011, the entire school began using the flipped instruction model, and already the impact is significant. During the first semester of the year, the overall failure rate at the school dropped to 10%. We’ve also seen notable improvement on statewide test scores, proving that students’ understanding of the material is better under this model”. Some other examples where Flipped Learning has worked really well are:
- Gungahlin College in the ACT has a focus on self-directed, collaborative and social learning and in the creation of a ‘community of learners’. Peter Smythe, year 11 maths teacher at the college, runner up at the Microsoft Asia Pacific Partners ‘Learning Awards’ category of ‘knowledge building and critical thinking’ in 2012, uses the flipped classroom approach. Peter sends his students YouTube video clips and video lectures for them to watch and listen to on their iPods, smart-phones or laptops in between classes or at home. Their time in class is then spent with him devoting his attention to their problem areas, by doing activities and helping students with the concepts they are struggling with.
- Harvard University’s Professor of Applied Physics, Eric Mazur, is a major advocate of the Flipped Learning interactive style of learning. He asserts that he is “far more interested in learning than teaching”, and envisions a shift from “teaching” to “helping students learn”. The focus moves away from the lectern and toward the physical and imaginative activity of each student in class. The reason why the flipped model works, says Mazur, is because of two main reasons: the ability for learners to practice and the lack of lectures. The old ‘transfer of information’ style of learning Mazur says has existed for over 600 years, since medieval times. Today that transfer is done via lectures. “Sitting passively and taking notes is just not a way of learning. Yet lectures are 99 percent of how we teach!” says Mazur. The solution to this passive learning may be summed up best by what Eric Mazur calls ‘teaching by questioning rather than teaching by telling’.So at Harvard Mazur has dropped the ‘information transfer’ and developed a highly engaging style of learning. Mazur focuses on providing learners with the information prior to class and preparing some questions. In class he then asks learners to come up with responses to these questions and work together to find the right answers. Mazur’s role is to support learners to think and solve ‘real world problems’. There are some learners who don’t like the fact they have to read books before class, but attending a lecture just means the lecturer is reading it to them instead. One of the main reasons behind Harvard’s success is not because of the building or their professors, but because the students are interacting with each other, says Mazur.
- University of Queensland changes the role and expectations of the teachers and learners by encouraging learners to familiarise with the learning before class and use ‘higher order thinking’. More one-on-one time is given to learners and the emphasis is on facilitation, not lecturing. The greater focus by the University is on concept exploration, meaning making, demonstration of knowledge, and the use of technologies to assist the learning process. Several of the University’s case studies can be viewed on their website.
Understanding Flipped Learning
So prior to establishing what Flipped Learning really is, let’s address what it is not. Flipped Learning is definitely not:
- online learning
- students watching videos on their own, unsupported
- a strategy only for failing schools or students.
What Flipped Learning is really about is leadership, adaptive teaching (or agile teaching), student-learning, and focusing on maximising time with students. Flipped Learning is all about classroom practices and asking questions about how to make the learning a better experience. With the help of Flipped, learners can now prepare, collaborate, implement, evaluate and reflect on the learning. Learning also becomes a personal experience and allows for sustainable practices within learning.
As educators today we should ask ourselves some of these questions:
- Why might flipped learning work for our organisation?
- How can Flipped Learning impact on class activities?
- What are the personal connections and reasons for implementing change?
- What are some of the pedagogical practice considerations?
- What are some of the classroom practices we can use to enhance the learning?
Technologies for Flipped Learning
So if you are considering implementing Flipped Learning for your educational institution, then you need to consider what technologies are also available for the flipping process. Using technologies within learning should be encouraged. Learners have access to amazing tools, and if as educators we are not advocating the use of resources and information via multiple sources, we can hardly expect anything to sink in with learners. In fact quite often we are cutting our learners off the learning process by not acknowledging their interests.
A review of existing technologies is also important as the current offering may or may not be aligned to obtaining the best outcomes. However Annie Agnew said it is important to note that ultimately “technology should always value add to the teaching experience, not drive it”. Some considerations for technology are access and availability issues, professional learning and pedagogical implications, such as:
- Methodologies that can be used
- Lesson design
- Homework design
- Class room activities
- Physical spaces
- Virtual spaces
- Reflective practices
- The SAMR Model
- Task differentiation
- Sustainable practices.
Benjamin Franklin best summed it up when he said “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn”.
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