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Flipped Learning: What, Why, and How?

Flipping the script on traditional learning models.

Many teachers, particularly those in leadership, will have heard about the concept of flipped learning. You may have heard it explained simply as “school-work at home and home-work at school”, which understandably raises more questions than it answers.

When used as intended, flipped learning has significant benefits to learning. It is a new approach that can take some getting used to for students and teachers alike. For flipped learning to be effective, incorporating technology to its full potential, it is crucial for ICT leaders in schools to have a solid understanding of why and how it is done.

What is flipped learning, exactly?

While the underlying concepts have been around for decades, the modern Flipped Learning movement was pioneered by thought leaders including Jon Bergmann, Aaron Sams, April Gudenrath, Kristin Daniels,Troy Cockrum, and Brian Bennett. The Flipped Learning network was established in 2012 as a hub where educators worldwide can share ideas and access resources surrounding the topic.

It is defined on the FLN website like this:

“Flipped Learning is a pedagogical approach in which direct instruction moves from the group learning space to the individual learning space, and the resulting group space is transformed into a dynamic, interactive learning environment where the educator guides students as they apply concepts and engage creatively in the subject matter.”

The approach is based on four pillars, each of which must be incorporated into classroom practice for a true flipped learning approach.

The four pillars of flipped learning are these:

Flexible environment: a variety of learning modes, tools, environments, and activities.

Learning culture: the approach is learner-centred rather than teacher-centred and dedicated to creating richer learning opportunities.

Intentional content: the classroom time is used to establish and nurture conceptual understanding and procedural fluency.

Professional educator: the role of educator is crucial, and they must be reflective, constructive, and tolerant of controlled chaos.

Why would you choose flipped learning?

Flipped learning allows the classroom to put a focus on the enjoyable, interactive, interesting, and engaging learning experiences. Students can learn the theories or concepts at their own pace, and then have the benefit of being in a collaborative learning environment with their teachers and classmates when they put them into practice.

This, essentially, facilitates deeper learning. It provides opportunity to go deeper down into the SOLO taxonomy or levels of learning complexity, and more opportunity to be creative and explorative.

Removing the element of kaiako standing in front of the classroom and lecturing opens up space for other things—and importantly for the digital leaders amongst us, it creates space for designing and developing digital outcomes with intentional challenges and activities.

Here’s an example: the students have learnt independently about what iambic pentameter is. That means that classroom time can be spent on an engaging activity such as creating a comic strip which uses that style of verse to tell a story they would like to be told. There is opportunity to talk about crucial aspects of digital outcomes: the intended audience, the design process, and more.

How would you implement it?

As leaders with the intention of introducing flipped learning effectively, it’s important to keep a few key concepts in mind. Firstly, we believe that mandating flipped learning school-wide is not a good approach. We recommend that it starts with those kaiako who are genuinely interested, and interest will likely spread naturally. Taking such a new and different approach is a big step, and not one that should be forced.

There is also preparation involved in flipped learning, and students must be allowed time to equip themselves for the new style. For example, it would be necessary to spend time teaching the class how to properly watch, comprehend, and take notes on a video. Independent learning is a skill and one that must be nurtured and practiced for flipped learning to work.

A crucial element of successful flipped learning is that teachers must be encouraged and empowered to stick to the format. This means not re-teaching the content if students come in having not learnt it at home—even if it is the majority of the class.

Students who have not learnt the content of the lesson will have to use the classroom time to watch the video or read the chapter. This means that they miss out on the fun, engaging activity intended to cement and practice the new knowledge. Remaining consistent with the format is key.

Leading from the top

Flipped learning can allow deeper learning and understanding, as well as teaching learning independence and making classroom time more enjoyable. There are many benefits to this style, but it is a marked departure from the norm and therefore must be implemented with care.

ICT leaders will see the many possibilities in this approach for integrating digital tools, technologies, and processes into all areas of the curriculum. We hope that this brief overview will provide some insight for such educators into how it can be introduced and practiced in schools and kura across Aotearoa.

For more in-depth information about the concept, take a look at the Flipped Learning Network and join the communities there. For expert guidance in this and other ICT leadership strategies at your school, get in touch with the Think e-Learning team.

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