Experimenting with The Flipped Classroom


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I’ve been reading a lot about the flipped classroom method lately; I’m guessing that it’s been around for quite a bit, but has resurfaced and greatly sensationalized thanks to the power of technology and by word of “PLN” s mouth. There are lots of online resources providing information about the flipped classroom that it’s impossible for me to list all.  But some that I’ve read include the ones below:

http://www.knewton.com/flipped-classroom/
http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/eli7081.pdf
http://www.edudemic.com/2013/07/flipping-education-freeing-up-class-time-for-interactive-learning/

Generally, the outcomes of the flipped classroom model appears to be of great benefit to learners, so I decided to experiment with it during the last month of the term. I F.L.I.P.P.E.D my Business English classroom.

So, what is the Flipped Classroom Model? 
Very simple concept, it is. Learners read lecture notes at home (prior to attending class) and the subsequent day’s classroom time is used for working on assignments, homework, or tasks with the teacher as a guide.

How did I go about it?
It was the best time of the term for me to experiment with this method. I was teaching ‘Writing Research Reports’, where learners were required to conduct a mini research and present their findings in the form of an academic report. Teaching research report writing can be a bit tricky; it’s not so much about raising their awareness on the kind of lexical conventions involved in writing research; the challenge was more in helping them hone their research skills as well – framing the research problem, objectives, deriving the hypothesis, designing questionnaires and so on. I realized that as important as classroom lecture notes were in providing the theoretical know-hows of conducting the research, the most learning would only take place when learners get themselves immersed in the actual research itself.

To start off, I prepared and posted a series of PowerPoint lecture notes on the class’s Facebook group. Each part of the series was posted about 3 days in advance of class. At the end of the PowerPoint presentation was the task we’d be working on in class the next day. The reason I mentioned the task was to ensure that learners could source for the necessary materials that would help them complete the task in the class.

What did my students feel about the flipped classroom?
They were very happy to have more teacher-learner time for discussions about the assignment / research. Of course, I had some irresponsible and uncommitted learners who did not do their “homework” – reading up the slides at home. I’m guessing that they were bent for time, or plainly thought that reading up was irrelevant and unimportant, taking for granted that I’d explain it in class the very next day. However, after the second class, they started feeling the pressure of being left behind when their classmates were moving forward with their research (of having studied the lecture notes at home and spending quality time in discussing the tasks with me in the class). Without having much of a choice but to get a grip of themselves and catch up (fortunately for me), all flipped classroom sessions seemed to turn out to be dynamic and well-spent indeed.

What did I think about the flipped classroom?
I loved it. Classroom time was used in a very productive manner and I sensed a great amount of learning taking place. I’ve become quite an advocate of the flipped classroom. However, there are several areas that I think teachers need to be aware of prior to implementing this method in the class:

SIMPLICITY OF LECTURE NOTES
We need to remember that learners are reading the notes at home, and they’re new to the idea of having to read it by themselves and not have the teacher explain it to them. I made my notes as simple as possible, avoiding complicated jargon and unfamiliar research terminologies. Even if I had to, I defined these terms in simplistic, easily understandable ways. Also, rather than writing long sentences, I drew up charts and diagrams using PowerPoint tools, with sufficient examples for each new concept that was introduced. I could’ve designed videos to make my lecture notes more interactive, but that would take time and I need to get more familiarized with this area of technology.

CONCEPT CHECKING
I totally forgot about this part :(. Ideally, at the end of your lecture notes, it would be good to write up some questions that help learners to gauge their understanding of what’s been read. Nikolaos Chatzopoulos has also suggested some very effective ideas that can help engage and captivate learners’ attention on the lecture materials. He suggested that in key parts of the lecture notes, learners pause the presentation / video, and answer a question, take notes, make a prediction or work on a short problem that helps to apply the newly acquired knowledge.  This can be read in detail in his article here.

APPLICABILITY
Although the flipped method has, on most parts, been discussed in positive lights, I still question its’ applicability across the board.

TIME FACTOR
It is more time consuming for teachers, as more attention needs to be given in preparing the lecture materials for self-study purposes. Teachers need to be a couple of steps ahead of class, sourcing a wide variety of materials that can span into a couple of days. I felt burned out at times, because this wasn’t the only class that I was teaching. A lot of attention and focus were given on creating simple and comprehensible lecture materials.

Would I flip my classroom again, then?
For sure I would. I don’t think I’d have had enough “working time” with my learners with the traditional method. It was fulfilling to watch them grow to be the little researchers they were. Of course, I’d not be able to do it in every class; it would then become boring, both for me and my learners.

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