Whole Education have organised a year-long action research project focussing on Flipped Learning. The launch event was kindly hosted at Shireland, a school in the suburbs of Birmingham with 30% live safeguarding issues and 64% EAL.
As defined at the conference, flipped learning is the following process:
- Students learn knowledge, before lesson (through videos or other means)
- Teacher, also before lesson, assesses their understanding (this could be through apps that check which students have watched videos, through multiple choice questions…)
- Teacher plans lesson based on a secure awareness of each child’s understanding
- Finally, the lesson happens. Teacher liberated from explaining from the front, students able to leap straight to evaluating, analysing, creating.
How is this different to…
- … traditional homework? Traditional homework involves students applying knowledge they learnt in class, after the lesson. This higher-order thinking surely requires teacher support and so should happen in lessons.
- … pre-learning? Pre-learning is where students do a bit of learning before the lesson, but the teacher walks into the lesson blind – no assessment of understanding has taken place.
- Technology should be mundanely clever. Every teacher, not just the geek in the corner, should be able to use it and see immediate benefits in their classroom. Technology works for us, we are not dictated to by technology. Fix existing issues to ensure all teachers are motivated.
- Flipped learning is not about the videos, but about the pre-assessment. Spend your time designing excellent assessment, not whizzy videos.
- Replace 15 learning assistants with 10 people on an E-learning team, who will build an incredible online learning environment. Be bold if you think you are right. This ensures teachers have all the admin done for them, and can focus on other things.
- Before flipped learning, there was an unspoken agreement between teachers and students – homework was actually a bit pointless, bolted on as an afterthought. No longer!
- Model the model. CPD is now… Flipped CPD!
Questions and Answers
I am part of a wider team at School 21 thinking about Flipped Learning. Here are some questions the team wanted some answers to.
Q: What about those who don’t do the homework?
A: Shireland have developed a whole arsenal of techniques
- Students are motivated by a feeling of security – they can now come in to a lesson confident with the material. They understand, finally, the point of homework. In other words, if you design the flip correctly, everyone will do their homework anyway.
- Clever deadlines for homework. Ensure a day in advance of the lesson, so you can chase stragglers and analyse results.
- Parental engagement is key. Once parents understand the advantages, they will support you
- Be completely relentless at the start of the flipped learning programme
- If students have still not done the homework, put them in a corner to complete it while the rest of the class do the most exciting and amazing task ever. Sneaky.
Q: What do you do with all the extra time freed up in lessons?
A: The fact that you have more time is a positive, not a negative. More time for deep thinking, peer support, student-led learning, any of the good, deep, stuff. You would teach this higher-order thinking as before, but now with more time and more knowledge of the students’ needs. Your lesson becomes a clinic for fixing issues, rather than a lecture.
Q: How do you ensure this is time-efficient for teachers, daunted by the huge task of curating an entire library of videos?
A: Again, a whole range of answers:
- Before you make a video yourself, think really hard about whether it is absolutely necessary. Is there already one out there that will do?
- Do not flip every lesson. Students would have too much homework, and you would not sleep
- Start small: pilot, evaluate, repeat.
Q: Surely by placing an emphasis on work at home, you are widening the achievement gap between rich and poor?
A: In comparison to traditional homework, students now get more support for higher-level thinking. What was once only available to students with present and supportive parents, is now available to all. Homework clubs and subsidised devices help too.
How to conduct excellent action research?
Shireland is a Research School, and referenced EEF’s research framework. Before gleefully diving in, answer these questions:
- What is the question? (Keep it narrow)
- What are you going to measure? (Qualitative and quantitative)
- Who are you comparing to?
- Where are you starting from?
- What are you actually going to do?
- What were the outcomes?
- How will you share the outcomes?
Two things that made me sad
- “I like being made to think again” a fellow teacher ruefully observed. It is a shame that teaching does not intellectually challenge all teachers in all schools.
- We were given a task to do, having been warned beforehand that this task was designed to make us feel uncomfortable. It was a worded maths question, and the facilitator was a maths teacher. She was comparing giving students a surprise question on a new topic, to giving students questions after they have had a chance to watch preparatory videos before the lesson. This made me sad because:
- The comparison is a false one. A good non-flipped lesson would consider prerequisites and not throw students in at the deep end.
- A maths teacher should not encourage maths anxiety (sore spot for me).
Thank you to Shireland and Whole Education for a thoughtful conference. I can’t wait to revolutionise home-learning and spend more time forensically supporting students to think deeper.