Flippin’ marvellous!

Preparing students ahead of teaching brings many benefits, so, unsurprisingly, many institutions are turning to flipped learning, writes Simon Fry

Flipped learning reverses the traditional method of teaching, wherein pupils are set homework after studying a subject in class, by requiring them to research a topic in advance to prepare for classroom engagement. While this should make for lively learning when teacher and pupils are brought together, enabling factors have been identified, as well as one potential drawback.

Watching brief

Panopto’s director of accounts, Debra Garretson, outlined the flipped learning model, saying: “The flipped classroom enables students to watch short videos before the scheduled lecture, which briefs them on a particular topic or subject area. Students then use classroom time more effectively by being more engaged and focused on the specific topic. It also enables teachers to direct any background reading ahead of the class.”

The educational technology required to facilitate the flipped classroom must be easy to use for the teacher to record, simple to share with the correct students and viewable by students on any device. As content builds up, a secure, searchable library is essential to help teachers and students locate videos on demand.

“Flipping the classroom entails behavioural change for academics,” said Dr Jeremy Pritchard, senior lecturer and head of education at the School of Biosciences, University of Birmingham. “When the lecturer realises their lecture slot has turned into an interactive discussion or workshop opportunity because the lecture has already been watched online, they need to be geared-up to facilitate that kind of learning.”

Continuity during COVID-19

Neelam Parmar, director of educational technology, digital learning and innovation, Ashford School, noted a recent development: “Educational technology has supported flipped learning, particularly during lockdown, where a majority of teachers have produced video-based instruction – including explanations and modelling of new material for continuity of learning.”

This development has further encouraged new practices, offering students the autonomy to self-pace and reflect upon their learning through instructional video and assessment. Some of the more popular technologies, services and solutions offering flipped learning have the capability to pre-record instruction material within school workflow systems. Tools such as PowerPoint within Teams or Showbie Live can enable a teacher to record oneself and distribute content seamlessly within the virtual classroom. New adaptive learning systems such as HegartyMaths and Century are among sequenced and personalised solutions offering a form of individualised flipped learning.

The flipped learning model can, potentially, be applicable and effective at every education level, “Provided the tone, length of delivery and individual personalisation is adjusted to meet the attention span and engagement for younger children in key stages 1 and 2,” said Neelam.

Absolutely – from beginners onwards

The model’s suitability for all ages is endorsed by Lady Kirsty Grundy, principal of Shireland Technology Primary School and primary director Shireland Collegiate Academy Trust. “We have pupils as young as four and five in reception engaged in flipped phonics activities and activating prior learning on a new topic at home with families before a teacher introduces it in class.”

Flipped learning continues to post-16, where students are preparing for life at university and most content is delivered before teaching, so teachers can then be there to support understanding and facilitate deeper thinking in class.

Flipped learning has been a way of working for teachers and students at Shireland for almost 10 years. “It’s part of how we teach and they learn.

Staff have honed and developed their flipped learning toolkit so it’s just part of their everyday way of engaging with learners; it is expected,” said Lady Kirsty.

Students can use Microsoft Delve to search across the platform for specific learning materials or resources, but teachers also organise resources and materials around the classroom curriculum.

flipped learning

NFER finds enabling factors

Research undertaken by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) produced some fascinating findings.

While the model is theoretically effective at every education level, research with secondary-aged pupils suggests that several enabling factors maximise the effectiveness of the flipped learning approach, according to NFER research manager Matt Walker. “These include the need for pupils to be comfortable with learning independently, which some schools we worked with observed more frequently in their more able pupils. Schools already setting high expectations for homework completion also found flipped learning easier to implement.”

However, the NFER research discovered a drawback. “When pupils fail to complete the flipped learning activity at home, the teacher must undertake instruction at the beginning of the lesson, meaning time is not saved to focus on other beneficial learning activities,” said Matt.

Games pupils play

To encourage engagement, teachers in NFER’s study selected resources aligning with the curriculum, their own teaching approach and appropriate to their pupils’ age range and abilities. Some teachers welcomed online resources significantly stretching and challenging their pupils, while others preferred resources more heavily scaffolding and guiding student learning.

In both cases, many of the study’s pupils said they enjoyed being able to work at their own speed and revisit the learning material where necessary. “Some of the flipped learning platforms included gaming features such as working towards milestones or collecting rewards, to which some pupils responded positively,” said Matt.

Safety first

Educational establishments looking to implement flipped learning should consider sharing logistics, safety and security, according to Rachel Ashmore, head of Promethean Academy.

“Most schools will have access to a preferred educational platform, such as Google Classroom, allowing for the sharing of files between teachers and students.

IT managers and school policy will dictate the use of services and applications to enhance flipped learning opportunities, ensuring users have access to systems keeping data safe and secure at all times.”

Teachers using Promethean’s ActivInspire resources can share these via PDF to their students to reflect on and revise at a time that suits.

Touch-free – crucial in COVID age

Traditional edtech platforms such as interactive flat panels or projection-integrated displays remain crucial in the classroom for compiling group learnings and for students presenting back their findings. “In today’s age of COVID-19, being able to do this touch-free from students’ own devices, wherever they are sat, is a huge priority,” says Royce Lye, MD UK & Ireland at BenQ.

As pupils become more independent in flipped learning, the teacher can focus on deeper understanding, making school time more invigorating for the pupils and speeding up the learning process.

London’s Woodmansterne Secondary School recently installed 44 75” interactive flat panels from the BenQ Premium RP Series. Using the integrated BenQ InstaShare software, teachers can encourage pupils to participate in group discussions by mirror casting their workings from their laptops directly onto the digital display.

In doing this, both teacher and student are able to annotate the work on the screen at the same time from different devices.

Providing students do the advance research required of them, there is extensive scope for the flipped learning concept to thrive. Students already conversant with the lesson’s subject matter are ready to contribute and engage – a change from the passive recipients of knowledge in traditional teaching.

The COVID-19 lockdown has seen teachers produce video content for pupils who have become accustomed to studying at home. Now education is back in the classroom and lecture hall, students and educators can look forward to learning in greater depth at a faster pace.

You might also like: Flipped learning vs. project-based: which works best?


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