Flipped learning has become one of those pedagogy buzzwords over the past few years. I think it’s worth the hype and use it a lot with my students, but wish I’d had some advice on getting started before I began the process!
For those that haven’t really delved into this flipped classroom idea, here is the summary: teaching using a flipped classroom approach involves students learning content at home in advance of the lesson, and then they spend the lesson doing activities that allow them to engage with the topic in more depth.
For any teacher who’s willing to try it, it’s really easy to get started with flipped learning, and it doesn’t need to take any more time than planning a regular non-flipped lesson.
You’ve quite possibly seen a few similar posts to this one, other articles or podcasts along the lines of, “X number of steps for a great flipped classroom”. It seems to me that most of these focus on making a presentation to share with your students. There are lots of resources you can use as the pre-class task for flipped learning, and presentations made into videos are one of the most common ways, but for the purpose of introducing flipped learning (and keeping it fast and simple), I’m assuming you’re NOT making your own video content (yet). My focus here is on the lesson as a whole.
So here are five easy steps to creating a flipped learning lesson:
1. Find your input task
The input task is the part where the students get the facts. Examples include online videos, listening activities, research, or sometimes just reading a page from their textbook. The main aim is to make sure all of the knowledge objectives of your lesson are covered. You’ll rarely struggle to find the content you need on Youtube, so have a browse and see what you can find. If you do choose to use videos, my advice is to choose ones that are five minutes in length or shorter. Try to consider your students’ attention spans.
Recent news articles or educational podcasts can make for interesting tasks if having something current is important in your learning objectives. In my lessons I cover a lot of contemporary environmental issues with high school students and so news articles on things like the effects of climate change provide quite a wealth of material. The content you choose will depend on the subject you teach and the age group you work with, but I don’t think you’ll find it difficult to get good educational content online in this day and age.
Remember that the idea is to give students all of the facts they need via this input method. Sure, facts and rote learning are not something you’re focusing on in the grand scheme of things, but view this in the context of Bloom’s Taxonomy; “remember” is right there at the base level, and the students aren’t able to access higher order thinking, like applying knowledge, unless they have those facts as a foundation. Make sure your input task contains good solid facts – the things you want to focus on for that lesson.
2. Create the engagement task
Once you’ve got the input task chosen, create some engagement work. The purpose of this is to give the students a focus while watching the video (or following whatever input task you set). I don’t expect my students to gain the knowledge from a video without having some sort of focus while doing it. Usually I think a question sheet is the best choice for an engagement task. As they watch the video or do the reading, they answer 5 to 10 questions based on it, which directs their attention to the main points, the points you hope to cover in the lesson. Question sheets also provide a good opportunity for you to give feedback at the very beginning of the lesson.
When you’re setting flipped learning homework, your instructions for students will probably be, “Watch the video and use it to answer this question sheet before next lesson.”
Remember that you would probably create a homework tasks for a non-flipped lesson anyway, so this doesn’t take any more time than making resources for a “normal” lesson.
3. Get a blog for sharing content with the class.
Flipped learning opens up a lot of doorways to the way you share information with students. You will probably end up using online videos, (online) newspaper articles, podcast episodes… all sorts of digital media. It’s great to reach the students in a range of ways, but it does get difficult to share this kind of content easily. It’s often impossible to share the web addresses for a specific video/article in class because web addresses can be lonnnnnnng.
A class blog is great because you can tell the students, “Watch the video and use it to answer the questions. You’ll find the link to today’s video on our class blog”. It saves a lot of time and effort in the long run.
4. Plan your class activities carefully for higher order thinking.
Think about Bloom’s Taxonomy here. Your students hopefully have reached the “remember” and “understand” levels of the ladder before they start the lesson. So what activities can you plan that help them reach higher order thinking? Here are some ideas I like to work with:
“Write a [pamphlet] about…”
Replace pamphlet with whatever is appropriate for the topic. As a Biology teacher, I could ask students to create a pamphlet warning about ways to reduce the transmission of disease (as part of a chapter on disease and transmission).
“Create a presentation to [a company/the local council] convincing them to [do something].”
This is very adaptable to many topics. The loose premise is to have students create a presentation proving that they understand the topic they did for homework, while reformulating their knowledge. Examples include presenting to the local council to convince them to use more energy efficient technology (for a lesson on renewable energy), or to a historical figure encouraging them to take a different course of action (for a history lesson).
“Teach the teacher.”
Tell the students that they are the teacher for the lesson and they have to teach you (role-playing the student for the lesson) about the topic. This is inherently differentiated because some students will only be able to re-iterate the main points of the lesson, while others will be able to reformulate and create new ideas based on the content, which is very high order thinking. The lesson is accessible and beneficial to all levels. To make that is true, I would recommend setting your expectations very clearly on this before the students begin; make sure they know that reformulating the ideas they’ve learnt is a target for the task, possibly by giving a rubric or possibly by setting a new context. For example, if my lesson focused on conservation strategies for endangered species, some thing I do teach often, the “teach the teacher” task might be, “Teach me how to create a nature reserve here in this town to protect species X, Y, and Z”. From this, reformulating ideas and applying knowledge is more of a requirement.
Whatever your chosen activity is, make sure it involves some creative thinking on the part of the students, as well as analysis and application of the concepts they covered for homework. As I mentioned, it’s also really helpful to give students an assessment rubric for any work you set. Which leads us to point five.
5. Think about feedback and assessment
All types of assessment will change a little with a flipped lesson. The activities don’t lend themselves to traditional marking so assigning a grade or score can be tricky, and as there is often less writing, you have to think more carefully about what you will base your feedback on.
In my flipped lessons I minimize student writing time and solo work. This presents the problem: how do I assess the students, both formatively and summatively? First of all, the activities usually lend themselves to effective informal assessment (via teacher monitoring), but second of all, they are great opportunities for rubric-based assessment, and therefore feedback. Giving out the criteria to students before they start the activity gives the students a focus for completing their task, and the criteria can be used by their peers (and you, the teacher) to assess students (and assign a summative assessment score if that’s one of your goals for the lesson).
It may sound complicated at first but once you do one lesson you’ll realize two things. Firstly, it takes about the same amount of planning and effort to create a flipped learning lesson as it does to make a “normal” lesson, and secondly, it’s a lot more fun (for students AND their teacher) to have a flipped classroom. Good luck!