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What is flipped learning?

Many people think flipped learning is simply sending a video home, But they are wrong!

Flipped learning or flipped classroom as it is often called is not just sending a video home for homework and then doing what used to be homework in the classroom! Flipped learning is so much more than that, and flipping your classroom can be the best thing you ever do for your students as it enables you to have class lessons that are full of rich, meaningful, and engaging learning experiences.

Flipped learning is providing lower-level learning activities in the individual space and the higher-level learning activities in the group space

What do I mean by group and individual space?

The group space is generally the classroom space or learning space, but it really is any space where the students are learning together. It doesn’t mean the students have to be in groups, but it does mean that more than one of them is doing a higher-level learning activity at the same time. For example, they could all be doing a practice exam question (boring) or they could all be working on individual projects (much better) or of course, they could be working together on a project (perfect).

The individual space, however, is a space where the student is not interacting with other students, where they are not getting frequent feedback from you or their peers, it is a space where the student is simply doing some basic learning on their own. This could be at home watching a video, or it could be reading a book in the library or listening to a podcast in the car or on the train. Students can even be doing these activities in the classroom utilising what is called an in-flip or blended approach to learning.

Providing lower-level learning activities in the individual space

If you know Bloom's Taxonomy (below) you will remember that the activities at the bottom of the pyramid are the lower levels of thinking, remembering, identifying, and gaining a basic understanding of content. Lower-level learning activities are those that develop these easier aspects of the taxonomy, activities that simply deliver content.

Current research tells us that teachers spend the majority of their time in class delivering content and doing low-level learning activities. Teachers stand at the front of the classroom and present their content and students “learn” it. This activity is very much a low-level activity! Students are mostly passive unless you call on them to answer a low-level question such as, “what did I just say?” or “when did the ANZAC troops land in Gallipoli? 

Low-level activities are those that have students developing a single item of knowledge or multiple items of knowledge. And it is these that we are removing from our group space into the individual space. We letting the students learn the content on their own, BUT we are also going to check they have understood the content before shifting to higher-order thinking and learning activities.

Providing higher-level learning activities in the group space

The higher-level thinking activities towards the top of Bloom's Taxonomy are done during higher-level learning activities and often require students to develop their collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity. This is where deep work happens! Where students begin to connect items of knowledge, critique them, or bring them together to create something completely new. This can be as simple as students evaluating a case study, but it can also include collaborative projects, and practical activities such as creating pieces of work or exploring ideas through movement and practical application.

Usually, this looks like students completing assessment tasks or other activities that are often sent home, hence the misunderstanding about flipped learning. Often flipped learning is taking the lecture you gave in class and providing it as a set of notes, audio, or video for students to consume at home and then taking those questions requiring application and critical or creative thinking, often sent home as homework because we lack the time in class to complete them after lecturing for most of the lesson, and doing them in class. 

Flipped learning is really about trying to rearrange your workflow so that you are putting into practice your answer to the following question:

What is the best use of class time?

I can guarantee that the answer to this question is NOT giving a lecture! We are no longer the gatekeepers of knowledge, there is no longer a need for us to lecture as often as we do in class. Instead, we need to shift to becoming coaches of learning. Designers of learning experiences, critical friends who provide timely and effective feedback, and the person who helps students to build connections and make their learning meaningful and engaging. 

Classrooms should be fun learning spaces full of rich, engaging, and meaningful learning activities! They should not be places of passive consumption as a teacher talks and students either play the school game by regurgitating what we say or get bored and either play around or fall asleep in class. 


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