Turning teaching on its head

Keri Beckingham discovers the impact that flipped learning is having in classrooms across the country

Traditional teaching methods typically focus on teachers and academics sharing knowledge during classroom lessons or lectures, and students using their homework to build on what they have learned. However, with the concept of flipped learning, a completely different teaching approach is followed – but what benefit does this offer learners and how is it being put into practice across secondary and tertiary education?

What is flipped learning?

Flipped learning is helping to transform the classroom experience for students across the country as teachers are able to use teaching time more effectively. However, according to the 2017 Bett Innovation Index, a survey that explores the global approaches to innovation in education, 30% of respondents within education are still not aware of the benefits that a flipped classroom can have. 

Discussing the potential impact of flipped learning further, Jayne Cook, Head of Marketing for GCSEPod, creators of on-demand educational videos explains: “Rather than spending the lesson learning about a topic, students do the preparation beforehand and then the lesson is spent dealing with the questions that arise – enhancing the learning for each individual.”

Rose Luckin, Professor of Learner Centered Design at UCL believes that technology is key to the value of flipped learning in terms of allowing students to cover topics at their own pace. She said: “Flipped learning technology offers teachers and lecturers the chance to do more than just simply record their lessons and lectures.

“It’s most effective when they move away from just focusing on a knowledge exchange, to having more of a mentor role and offering students real-time interactions instead.”

Current trends

Within secondary education, flipped learning is being used by teachers to make content delivery more engaging, encouraging students to take greater control of their learning experience, as well as helping them to build new skills. As Toby Baker, Assistant Programme Manager for education foundation Nesta, explained: “The onus is more on students to explore and learn, dig deeper into their subject without being spoon-fed all the answers and theories.

“Rather than focus on learning new knowledge, classroom time can then be used to develop skills such as collaboration, communication and problem-solving.”

Debra Garretson is a Director of Customer Accounts for Panopto EMEA, providers of education software. In her experience, 77% of universities they work with use video to flip the classroom, and there are several things that institutions need to keep in mind to make a flipped project a success, such as how the content is recorded and how it is accessed by students. Discussing this further, she said: “Think about how you’re going to capture the content, from the view down a microscope, to maths equations being worked out and captured using a visualiser.”

“Lastly, consider where students might be viewing the flipped content, so that it can be viewed back on any device to ensure maximum flexibility for your learners.”

Looking ahead 

So what does the future hold for flipped learning? Damien Doyle, ICT Consultant at turn IT on doesn’t see it becoming a replacement for the traditional teaching and learning system in schools, as he believes that the teacher/human aspect is still vital. He added: “It could be very useful to push high achieving students using individually tailored programmes of learning and lower achieving students in the same way.

“However, if flipped learning is to be successful in a school, it needs the staff, parents and pupils to be fully onboard with it to unlock its potential.”

Across the university environment, Debra Garretson is starting to see academics experiment with different types of flipped content and formats. In particular, Dr Martin Khechara from the University of Wolverhampton has been using something called the ‘augmented flip’ in order to maximise the learning experience for students. Explaining this concept further, she said: “He creates flipped classroom sessions to show processes and procedures in the lab for his students to watch in advance.

“If a student forgets any part of the process and needs a reminder in the live laboratory session, they can access the flipped recording in Panopto by scanning a QR code with their phone and review what they need to recap.”

Flipped learning in practice

Salesian College is an independent Catholic grammar school in Hampshire for boys aged 11–16 with a co-educational sixth form. Despite having a no mobile policy, they were keen to utilise mobile technology to enhance pupils’ learning experiences, and introduced GCSEPod as a key revision tool for Year 11 students in particular. Commenting further, Paul Garner, Head of ICT, said: “Whilst we strongly believe that technology will never replace quality teaching, we looked at GCSEPod as it allows us to harness mobile technology but retain quality control.

“Surprisingly, we have had some really high usage from students who have used it to help with internal examinations and simply as part of their independent learning.”

At UCL, the Institute of Education runs a training programme for start-ups called EDUCATE, which is designed to bring together entrepreneurs, academics, researchers and educators to deliver world-class edtech products and services. As part of this, they have worked with Smart Spin, a company that has developed a self-discovery educational platform based on a flipped learning approach. 

Discussing Smart Spin’s work further, Rose Luckin said: “The Smart Spin images are an ordered sequence of screenshots which relate to a typical user experience starting with the landing page through to scrolling through the various topics available to be ‘discovered’.  With the topic of dinosaurs for example, the user is provided with a ‘showreel’ of various dinosaur-related video and text learning materials designed to inspire further leaning and discovery.

“The options on the left-hand side of the screen enable users to select to ‘know more’, ‘explore more’, ‘watch and learn’ or ‘spin again’ to get more dinosaur-related information.” 

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