Currently viewing the tag: "flipped"

Most university lecturers will have their favourite anti-lecturing quote. Mine has always been Camus’ oft-quoted “Some people talk in their sleep. Lecturers talk while other people sleep”. Another favourite is the variously attributed definition “Lecture: a process by which the notes of the professor become the notes of the student, without passing through the minds of either.”

In fairness to university lecturers, none of the lecturers I know deliver these kind of dreary monologues. Also, if a lecturer is timetabled into a room with a lectern, projector and screen, and tiered seating containing 250 students then surely we cannot chastise them for using that room for the purpose it was designed and intended for. Obviously such space can be subverted and used differently (as professors such as Eric Mazur and Simon Lancaster have done), but surely the best solution is simply not to build these kinds of spaces in the first place. If active, participatory learning in small groups is what is best (and the evidence suggests that it is) then why not build spaces that accommodate this kind of learning and teaching.

At the University of Northampton that’s exactly what is happening. As was recently reported in the Sunday Times, the University of Northampton’s Waterside campus “is to be built with no traditional lecture theatres, providing further evidence that the days of professors imparting knowledge to hundreds of students at once may be numbered.” The new campus ”is the first in the UK to be designed without large auditoriums.”

While it is true that the majority of teaching that takes place at the Waterside campus is planned to be active, interactive and participatory, and to take place in small classes, there will obviously need to be some element of professors imparting knowledge to their students. This is, after all, for most people a key part of the process of teaching and learning. However, the plan for Waterside is for such ‘professorial knowledge imparting’ to take place online, prior to attending class; a process often known as flipped or blended learning. This means that time is not taken up in the small class sessions with getting knowledge across to the students, or with ‘covering content’, but on helping students to understand, assimilate and make sense of the knowledge they have grappled with prior to attending class.

Professor Nick Petford, Vice Chancellor of the University of Northampton, is not only building a campus in which active, participatory, small class teaching will be the norm, but as a member of the teaching staff he is already teaching in this way himself. Professor Petford adopted this blended learning approach in his physical volcanology classes during the 2015/16 academic year, and you can see him talking about how it went in this video.

Blended Learning and Physical Volcanology

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This is a fairly long blog post, so in case you don’t have time to read it all, the key message is this:

Flipping the classroom is likely to lead to improvements in student performance and reduced failure rates when it is used as part of an overall strategy to create a more active learning environment. These gains are likely to have the greatest impact in classes with less than fifty students.


John Dewey

"Education is not an affair of 'telling' and being told, but an active and constructive process." John Dewey, Democracy and Education, 1916

One important question arising from our earlier blog posts, ‘What is the flipped classroom?’ and, ‘Designing a flipped module in NILE’, is whether or not flipping your class will improve student learning. Clearly there must be some evidence to support a flipped approach to teaching and learning, otherwise we wouldn’t be suggesting it, but what is that evidence, and where is it?

At the risk of appearing to concede defeat before we’ve even begun, I would like to start by looking at a recent paper which argues that flipping the classroom does not guarantee any gains in student achievement.

 

Flipping the classroom is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition to generate improvements in learning

‘Improvements from a Flipped Classroom May Simply Be the Fruits of Active Learning’ is a very interesting paper by Jensen, et al (2015), and it is clear from the title what their findings are. They begin the paper by stating one of the main problems behind many of the claims that the flipped classroom improves student learning, which is that there are normally too many variables that have changed between the flipped and the non-flipped classroom to isolate flipping as the key variable. They note that flipping the classroom usually leads to more active learning taking place (indeed, this is often the reason that teachers want to flip the classroom in the first place), and they investigated the extent to which the increase in the amount of active learning, not flipping, is the key variable.

Jensen, et al. (2015)

Study design by Jensen, et al (2015)

Jensen, et al (2015) took a class of 108 students and divided them into two groups, one of 53 and one of 55. One group had a flipped experience, the other a non-flipped experience – however, both sessions were very active. The diagram on the left indicates how the sessions worked. The flipped and non-flipped classes were compared with each other, and also with the previous year’s class of 94 students, referred to as the original class. While the content and the underlying structure of the teaching remained consistent, a great deal of time and effort was put into creating additional materials for the flipped and non-flipped classes, which is evident from reading the paper.

As will be clear from the title of the paper, the flipped classroom did not produce statistically significant learning gains or improvements in attitudes to learning over the non-flipped classroom, and neither the flipped nor the non-flipped classroom significantly outperformed the original class. The one area in which the flipped classroom did produce a statistically significant improvement was in final examination scores of low level items (e.g., remember and understand type questions) over the original class.

Regarding these results I think that it is important to make at least two observations. Firstly, it should be borne in mind that the students in the study were high ability, highly motivated students attending a private university at which the average ACT score of students is 28 and average GPA is 3.82. For context, an ACT score of 28 would put a student in the top 10% and a GPA of 3.82 would be between an A- and an A. Whilst not necessarily Oxbridge students, they are solid Russell Group students, the kind of students who “virtually teach themselves; they do not need much help from us” (Biggs and Tang, 2011, p.5). Secondly, the original class appears to have been be a fairly active class already, certainly if judged by the standards set in the definition by Freeman, et al (2014) which we will look at later.

The study by Jensen, et al., did come up with other interesting findings though. One finding (2015, p.8 and p.10) which reinforces the importance of time spent with lecturers was that,

Students “perceived their time with the instructor as more influential for learning, regardless of whether they were participating in” the flipped class or in the non-flipped class … “the presence of the instructor and/or peer interaction had a greater influence on students’ perceptions of learning than the activities themselves.”

Additionally, Jensen, et al., were not dismissive of the potentials and advantages of the flipped classroom, noting (2015, p.10) that,

“If active learning is not currently being used or is being used very rarely, the flipped classroom may be a viable way to facilitate the use of such approaches, if the costs of implementation are not too great. As the research indicates, using active learning in the flipped approach can increase student learning as well as student satisfaction over traditional, non-active learning approaches.”

The claim made by Jensen, et al., that active learning is the key variable is certainly very credible, and, as we shall see, it is increasingly apparent in recent publications that flipping the classroom is a very popular way of creating a more active learning environment.

 

Flipping the classroom is a good way of making classrooms more active

‘The Flipped Classroom of Operations Management: A Not-For-Cost-Reduction Platform’ is a 2015 paper by Asef-Vaziri, and it provides an excellent introduction to the flipped classroom. Additionally, the literature review in the paper gives a good overview of some recent publications on the subject. A wide variety of active learning ideas are discussed in the paper (pp.74-80) and they give a good insight into the practical workings of Asef-Vaziri’s flipped classroom. Right from the outset Asef-Vaziri (2015, p.72) makes it clear that the benefits of using the flipped classroom are because it allows more class time to be spent engaged in active learning:

“Class time is no longer spent teaching basic concepts, but rather on more value-added activities, such as problem solving, answering questions, systems thinking, and potentially on collaborative exercises such as case studies, Web based simulation games, and real-world applications”

Asef-Vaziri’s classes were fully flipped in the autumn of 2012 (141 students) and 2013 (157 students), and the average grades were compared to those of the classes in the spring and autumn of 2011 (both with 160 students) which not flipped. The results were as follows:

Autumn 2012
flipped classroom
Autumn 2013
flipped classroom
Average grade increase over
spring 2011 traditionally taught class
+7.4% +7.3%
Average grade increase over
autumn 2011 traditionally taught class
+11.8% +11.6%

The improvements in Asef-Vaziri’s students’ grades are undoubtedly impressive, and these high gains are likely to result from the significant amount of time and effort that Asef-Vaziri put into re-designing the course.

What came across very clearly in Asef-Vaziri’s paper is the idea that the flipped classroom offers ‘the best of both worlds’, creating increased opportunity to engage in active learning in ways that are difficult for the traditional classroom (due to lack of time) and difficult for online classes (due to lack of face-to-face interactions).

A cursory glance at a number of other recent publications about the flipped classroom makes it clear that a key motivation for using it has been in order to create more active learning opportunities. For example, in their paper, ‘Moving from Flipcharts to the Flipped Classroom: Using Technology Driven Teaching Methods to Promote Active Learning in Foundation and Advanced Masters Social Work Courses’, Holmes, et al (2015) state that the desire to engage in more active learning was the primary driver behind introducing the flipped classroom.

A number of other papers bear out the notion that flipping the classroom is a popular way of adopting a more active approach to teaching and learning, including: Gilboy, et al (2014); Hung (2015); Love, et al (2013); Roach (2104); See and Conry (2014); Simpson and Richards (2015); and Tune, et al (2013). All of these papers make the connection between the flipped classroom and increasingly active approaches to teaching and learning.

Hopefully the above discussion goes some way to making the case that the flipped classroom is a good (or, at least, a popular) way of creating a more active classroom. We will now look at some more evidence in support of the idea that adopting an active approach to teaching and learning is likely to improve student performance.

 

Active learning increases student performance

Active learning is certainly not a new idea. John Dewey (1902, p.6) knew that learning is an active process, and referred to it as such since the beginning of the last century. Some years later, 112 to be exact, Freeman, et al (2014) published an important meta-analysis of STEM education in which 158 active learning classes were compared with 67 traditionally taught classes. Aleszu Bajak, writing in the daily news site of the journal ‘Science’, summarised the paper as follows: ‘Lectures Aren’t Just Boring, They’re Ineffective, Too, Study Finds’. And Eric Mazur, cited in Bajak (2014), said

“This is a really important article—the impression I get is that it’s almost unethical to be lecturing if you have this data.”

The results of the paper “indicate that average examination scores improved by about 6% in active learning sections, and that students in classes with traditional lecturing were 1.5 times more likely to fail than were students in classes with active learning.” (Freeman, et al, 2014, p.8410) To get a sense of the significance of the results, the authors note (p.8413) that had it been a medical randomised control trial it may have been stopped early because of the clear benefit of the intervention being tested; in this case, the active learning. The authors also note that because the retention of students on active learning courses is higher, and because it is lower ability learners who typically drop-out, the positive effects of active learning could actually be greater than reported because the active learning classes were holding on to a higher proportion of their lower ability learners than the traditional classes. And, good news for Waterside, active learning was shown to have “the highest impact on courses with 50 or fewer students.” (p.8411)

One issue which may be useful is to define what is meant by active learning. For the purposes of their study, Freeman, et al (2014, p.8413-4) adopted the following definition:

“Active learning engages students in the process of learning through activities and/or discussion in class, as opposed to passively listening to an expert. It emphasises higher-order thinking and often involves group work.”

Freeman, et al (2014, p.8410) state that for the purposes of their study the “active learning interventions varied widely in intensity and implementation, and included approaches as diverse as occasional group problem-solving, worksheets or tutorials completed during class, use of personal response systems [clickers] with or without peer instruction, and studio or workshop course designs.”

Other studies about the effectiveness of adopting a more active approach to teaching and learning in STEM subjects include Hake’s 1998 paper ‘Interactive-engagement vs traditional methods: A six-thousand student survey of mechanics test data for introductory physics courses.’ The paper concludes that:

“Comparison of IE [interactive engagement] and traditional courses implies that IE methods enhance problem-solving ability. The conceptual and problem-solving test results strongly suggest that the use of IE strategies can increase mechanics-course effectiveness well beyond that obtained with traditional methods.”

Also of interest is ‘Peer Instruction: Ten years of experience and results’ in which Crouch and Mazur (2001) discuss the positive effects of replacing a more traditional approach to physics teaching with Mazur’s method of peer instruction, an approach to teaching and learning developed in the 1990s which inspired the flipped classroom movement.

Whilst a good deal of the most rigorous and credible quantitative studies into active learning have been carried out in STEM subjects, Hung (2015) makes the point in the paper ‘Flipping the classroom for English language learners to foster active learning’, that,

“it is evident that although the flipped classroom approach has mainly been conducted in STEM fields, its feasibility across disciplines (in this case, language education) should not be underestimated.”

 

Conclusion

It’s important to make clear that this has not been an extensive, rigorous and systematic study of every recent publication on the flipped classroom, so any conclusions drawn must take that into account. Nevertheless, and with this in mind, I think that we can still draw a few conclusions with certainty, and a few more with slightly less certainty.

We can be very confident that:

  • Active learning produces statistically significant improvements in student achievement in science, engineering and mathematics.
  • Active learning in classrooms of under 50 students produces the largest gains.
  • Even a small amount of active learning will produce positive gains in student achievement.

We can be reasonably confident that:

  • The positive effects of active learning seen in science, engineering and mathematics will be applicable to other subject areas.
  • Lecturers in a variety of subject areas have successfully flipped their classrooms.
  • The gains in students’ learning achieved by the flipped classroom are more likely to be a result of increasing the amount of active learning taking place online and/or in the classroom.
  • Flipping the classroom is a good way of creating a more active learning environment.

It may be the case that:

  • The gains in student achievement produced by flipping the classroom will have a greater effect in non-Russell Group universities.
  • Flipping the classroom will have a greater effect when focused at the level of knowledge, understanding and application rather than analysis, synthesis and evaluation.

From the papers looked at, it is not clear:

  • Whether there are significant differences in the effectiveness of different types of flipped/active learning opportunities.
  • Whether there is an optimal level of student activity online and in the classroom (i.e., is more always better?)
  • Whether students from all cultural backgrounds experience similar improvements in performance from the flipped/active classroom.
  • Whether students whose first language is not the language in which the course is taught experience additional benefits or disbenefits from flipped/active classroom.

Readers wanting to look at the literature themselves and draw their own conclusions are directed to the further reading section at the end of this blog post, which provides links to many recent papers on the flipped classroom from a diverse range of subject areas.

 

References

Asef-Vaziri, A. (2015) The Flipped Classroom of Operations: A Not-For-Cost-Reduction Platform. Decision Sciences Journal of Innovative Education. 13(1), pp.71-89.

Bajak, A. (2014) ‘Lectures Aren’t Just Boring, They’re Ineffective, Too, Study Finds’ Science News. 12th May.

Biggs, J. and Tang, C. (2011) Teaching for Quality Learning at University, 4th Edition. Berkshire: Open University Press.

Dewey, J. (1902) The Child and the Curriculum. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, p.9.

Crouch, C. and Mazur, E. (2001) Peer Instruction: Ten years of experience and results. American Journal of Physics. 69(9), pp.970-977.

Freeman, S., Eddy, S., McDonough, M., Smith, M., Okoroafor, N., Jordt, H. and Wenderoth, M. (2014) Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering and mathematics. PNAS. 111(23), pp.8410-8415.

Gilboy, M., Heinerichs, S. and Pazzaglia, G. (2015) Enhancing Student Engagement Using the Flipped Classroom. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. 47(1), pp.109-114.

Hake, R. (1998) Interactive-engagement versus traditional methods: A six-thousand-student survey of mechanics test data for introductory physics courses. American Journal of Physics. 66(1), pp.64-74.

Holmes, M., Tracey, E., Painter, L., Oestreich, T. and Park, H. (2015) Moving from Flipcharts to the Flipped Classroom: Using Technology Driven Teaching Methods to Promote Active Learning in Foundation and Advanced Masters Social Work Courses. Clinical Social Work Journal.43(2), pp.215-224.

Hung, H-T. (2015) Flipping the classroom for English language learners to foster active learning. Computer Assisted Language Learning. 28(1), pp.81-96.

Jensen, J., Kummer, T.. and Godoy, P. (2015) Improvements from a Flipped Classroom May Simply Be the Fruits of Active Learning. CBE – Life Sciences Education. 14(1), pp.1-12.

Love, B., Hodge, A., Grandgenett, N. and Swift, A. (2014) Student learning and perceptions in a flipped linear algebra course. International Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology. 45(3), pp.317-324.

Roach, T (2014) Student perceptions toward flipped learning: New methods to increase interaction and active learning in economics. International Review of Economics Education. 17, pp.74-84.

See, S. and Conry, J. (2014) Flip My Class! A faculty development demonstration of a flipped-classroom. Currents in Pharmacy Teaching and Learning. 6(4), pp.585-588.

Simpson, V. and Richards, E. (2015) Flipping the classroom to teach population health: Increasing the relevance. Nurse Education in Practice.15(3), pp.162-167.

Tune, J., Sturek, M. and Basile, D. (2013) Flipped classroom model improves graduate student performance in cardiovascular, respiratory, and renal physiology. Advances in Physiology Education. 37(4), pp.316-320.

 

Further reading about the flipped classroom

Asef-Vaziri, A. (2015) The Flipped Classroom of Operations: A Not-For-Cost-Reduction Platform. Decision Sciences Journal of Innovative Education. 13(1), pp.71-89.

Bristol, T. (2014) Flipping the Classroom. Teaching and Learning in Nursing. 9(1), pp.43-46.

Brunsell, E. and Horejsi, M. (2013) A Flipped Classroom in Action. The Science Teacher. 80(2), p.8.

Chen, Y., Wang. Y., Kinshuk, and Chen, N-S. (2014) Is FLIP enough? Or should we use the FLIPPED model instead? Computers & Education. 79, pp.16-27.

Enfield, J. (2013) Looking at the Impact of the Flipped Classroom Model of Instruction on Undergraduate Multimedia Students at CSUN. TechTrends. 57(6), pp.14-27.

Forsey, M., Low, M. and Glance, D. (2013) Flipping the sociology classroom: Towards a practice of online pedagogy. Journal of Sociology. 49(4), pp.471-485.

Gilboy, M., Heinerichs, S. and Pazzaglia, G. (2015) Enhancing Student Engagement Using the Flipped Classroom. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. 47(1), pp.109-114.

Herreid, C. amd Schiller, N. (2013) Case Studies and the Flipped Classroom. Journal of College Science Teaching. 42(5), pp.62-66

Holmes, M., Tracey, E., Painter, L., Oestreich, T. and Park, H. (2015) Moving from Flipcharts to the Flipped Classroom: Using Technology Driven Teaching Methods to Promote Active Learning in Foundation and Advanced Masters Social Work Courses. Clinical Social Work Journal. 43(2), pp.215-224.

Hung, H-T. (2015) Flipping the classroom for English language learners to foster active learning. Computer Assisted Language Learning. 28(1), pp.81-96.

Jacot, M., Noren, J. and Berge, Z. (2014) The Flipped Classroom in Training and Development: Fad or the Future? Performance Improvement. 53(9), pp.23-28.

Jensen, J., Kummer, T.. and Godoy, P. (2015) Improvements from a Flipped Classroom May Simply Be the Fruits of Active Learning. CBE – Life Sciences Education. 14(1), pp.1-12.

Kim, M., Kim, S., Khera, O. and Getman, J. (2014) The experience of three flipped classrooms in an urban university: an exploration of design principles. The Internet and Higher Education. 22, pp.37-50.

Love, B., Hodge, A., Grandgenett, N. and Swift, A. (2014) Student learning and perceptions in a flipped linear algebra course. International Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology. 45(3), pp.317-324.

Lujan, H. and DiCarlo, S. (2014) The flipped exam: creating an environment in which students discover for themselves the concepts and principles we want them to learn. Advances in Physiology Education. 38(4), pp.339-342.

Roach, T (2014) Student perceptions toward flipped learning: New methods to increase interaction and active learning in economics. International Review of Economics Education. 17, pp.74-84.

See, S. and Conry, J. (2014) Flip My Class! A faculty development demonstration of a flipped-classroom. Currents in Pharmacy Teaching and Learning. 6(4), pp.585-588.

Simpson, V. and Richards, E. (2015) Flipping the classroom to teach population health: Increasing the relevance. Nurse Education in Practice. 15(3), pp.162-167.

Slomanson, W. (2014) Blended Learning: A Flipped Classroom Experiment. Journal of Legal Education. 64(1), pp.93-102.

Tune, J., Sturek, M. and Basile, D. (2013) Flipped classroom model improves graduate student performance in cardiovascular, respiratory, and renal physiology. Advances in Physiology Education. 37(4), pp.316-320.

Safe is Risky

Cartoon by Tom Fishburne - www.tomfishburne.com

Following on from the blog post, ‘What is the flipped classroom?’, it seemed that it would be useful to put the ideas discussed there into practice, and to design and build a flipped module in NILE. As you would expect, there is no one way of putting together a flipped module that will work well for everybody – how you choose to design and run your flipped course will depend on a number of things, such as the level of study, size of class, what you enjoy doing in your face-to-face sessions, and what it is that you’re teaching. How you design your course will also depend on what kind of blend you want between the online and the face-to-face teaching elements. For example, if you want to take a two hour a week face-to-face course, and put 50% of the teaching online, this could be blended as a one hour online and one hour face-to-face session every week. However, it could also be done as a two hour online session in week one, followed by a two hour face-to-face session in week two, and so on. You could also rotate the online and face-to-face sessions on a three or four (or more) week basis, or even have all of term one online, and all of term two face-to-face (or vice versa).

The (fictional) course that has been designed and built in NILE has been created with the following in mind:

Title of module: CRIT101: Critical Thinking – A Practical Introduction
Level: 4
Credits: 10
Duration of course: 12 weeks
Contact hours per week: 2
Blend: 50%
Blend type: weekly blend (1 hour online, 1 hour face-to-face per week)

Additionally, the course has been built with the aim that the face-to-face sessions should be highly participatory and focussed as much as possible on dialogue with and between students. Again, this is not necessarily how everyone will want to run their face-to-face sessions – you may prefer to do just in time teaching1, peer instruction2, team-based learning3, problem-based learning4, small-group teaching5, or any number and mixture of other things that you can do in a face-to-face teaching space.

If you would like to find out more, you can enrol yourself on ‘Critical Thinking – A Practical Introduction’ and browse through the materials and the activities. The course begins with a set of three Panopto presentations which introduce the course and the NILE site to students, so this is a good place to begin when looking through the course. To access the course, login to NILE and click on the ‘Sites and Organisations’ tab. Type ‘CRIT101′ in the ‘Organisation Search’ box, and click ‘Go’. You will then see the course listed in the search results. Click on the drop-down menu next to CRIT101, and select enrol (see screenshot below).

Enrol CRIT101

The course is fully functional, so feel free to contribute to the discussion boards and take the tests, etc. It’s also very mobile friendly, so works well via the iNorthampton app on iOS and Android devices.

If you have any thoughts on the course, suggestions for improvements, etc., please feel free to respond to this blog post, or to email me directly at robert.farmer@northampton.ac.uk. If you would like to arrange a meeting with a learning designer to discuss what technologies are available in NILE and how you could further develop your own modules, please email LD@northampton.ac.uk.

 

Notes

1. Just in Time Teaching (JiTT) is a responsive method of teaching in which the content of the in-class sessions is determined by student responses to online activities, often only completed between 1 and 24 hours before the class begins. For more information see: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/just-in-time-teaching-gregor-novak
2. Peer instruction is a method of teaching developed by Eric Mazur at Harvard University in the 1990s. For more information, a good place to start is: http://blog.peerinstruction.net/2013/08/26/the-6-most-common-questions-about-using-peer-instruction-answered/
3. Team-Based Learning (TBL) is an approach to teaching and learning developed by Larry Michaelsen. For more information see: http://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/team-based-learning/
4. For more information about Problem-based Learning (PBL) (and enquiry-based and action learning) see: http://www.learningandteaching.info/teaching/pbl.htm
5. A useful guide to small group teaching can be found in Phil Race’s book, ‘The Lecturer’s Toolkit, 4th Edition’ (Routledge, 2015). See, chapter 4 ‘Making small-group teaching work’.

Introduction and Rationale
Scott Parker ran a Social Work module using a flipped classroom model and social media in order to stimulate analysis, critical thinking and discussion in seeking deeper learning of themes, topics and issues. One of the key issues underlining this project is that online resources and social media should support the more ‘formal’ teaching process rather than replace it totally.
NILE does have the facility to set up ‘blogs’ or discussion boards’ which can offer similar access to learning materials and opportunities for discussion. However the decision to use Facebook as a platform was an effort to shift the focus from purely academic ‘work’ to a more fluid discussion base beyond the confines of lectures and University based software. Scott points out that clearly there are some caveats within this area of study. There is blurring between the personal and private within user’s lives with potentially risky outcomes, for example; comments can be taken out of context and there is the potential for exploitation of vulnerable users.
Relevance to Practice and lecturing role
The volume of information students need to be exposed to far exceeds the modular structures and ‘contact hours’ stipulated by the Social Work programme, one answer to this is utilising online resources such as Panopto recordings (online video/information dissemination recorded by tutors allowing students to watch at their leisure) to utilise the ‘flipped classroom’ i.e. the online materials are used to ‘set the scene’ and present facts/figures/data etc. With the next face to face teaching session used to assess learning via electronic ‘polls’ or seminar work. This can offer insight into individual student learning/understanding and can serve to direct the focus of onward teaching aimed at deeper understanding and potentially further use of social media to engender peer discussion and debate.
Face to face teaching remains an expectation within a University environment; however this must be enhanced by additional activities and resources to enrich the learning process. Use of social media in teaching may also enhance the collaborative nature of learning; students can discuss/debate issues online and potentially this can include the lecturer, particularly when planning an activity or setting a task for students to complete as part of independent study or group work. This can also support effective reflective practice, illustrating how the ‘original’ theme/discussion item has developed and ideas have ‘evolved’ offering effective feedback for reflection.

Size and structure of Group
The cohort focus was upon level 5 Social Work Students engaging on an Adult Services 20 credit module. Out of a total 35 student in the group it was hoped that at least 20 would consider taking part; in the event 24 participated. Scott was also able to seek feedback from students who declined to participate, particularly with respect to their perceived value of digital/social media to learning.

Emerging Themes
The discussion pages material prompted debate; however students clearly expected more ‘stimulation’ of material by the tutor, despite being informed that the discussion page sought to encourage peer debate and discussion students remarked on how the material and discussion challenged their views and thoughts. This illustrates the overall pedagogic value of enhanced opportunities to offer material in varied and accessible ways in supporting student learning and engagement. Additionally when considering student satisfaction, the module evaluation reported a concurrent level of satisfaction in student expectation, engagement and learning outcomes.

Reflection
There was evidence that uses of a range of ‘external’ resources i.e. those outside the formal teaching or seminar structure, add value to student understanding and learning.
The students who did not participate stated that time was a factor in not accessing the discussion page and clearly this was also true of my role as tutor in ‘stimulating’ discussion, as the project took place during a particularly heavy teaching period; this would have to be addressed in using such methods in the future; possible setting aside a specific time to have ‘live’ discussion, which students could engage directly with and after the ‘live’ session contribute or merely read the discussion dialogue. This could then be used as a ‘starting point’ in seminar sessions to make effective links between module teaching material and wider discussion/engagement.
The project also sought feedback regarding the use of Panopto (video/powerpoint) material to support learning. Generally there was a very positive response to the value of this, which again aims to take the teaching out of the formal lecture theatre/seminar session to an accessible and re-useable format. This suggests a mix of learning tools continues to be appropriate in meeting a diverse range of learning styles and whilst this is time-consuming to prepare, the value to learning and the potential enhanced quality in understanding and engagement with material appears worthwhile.
Anecdotally, it appears that there may have been some impact upon academic achievement as the previous year cohort average module grade was C, whilst this year it was B-. Clearly there may be other factors involved in the improvement of student achievement; however the themes identified in this project suggest that additional resources offer tangible benefits to students.

Click Scott Parker Research Project PGCTHE June1014 – v1  to download Scott Parker’s full report “The use and added value of digital resources and social media in supporting formal learning and teaching at HE level”

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Mazur - Flipped Classroom (CC-BY-NC 2.0 Derek Bruff)

CC-BY-NC 2.0 licensed image by Derek Bruff

One of the more discussed topics at the University of Northampton at present is the idea of the ‘flipped classroom’ or of students engaging in ‘flipped learning’. A major reason why this is being discussed now is that use of the flipped classroom could well be a major feature of the University’s new Waterside campus1, however this is not the only (nor even the best) reason for interest in this subject. As will undoubtedly be clear, the best reason for adopting a flipped learning approach to teaching and learning is that it offers pedagogical advantages, and we will certainly look at some of the evidence in favour of flipped learning in a later blog post. However, our purpose in this post is simply to outline what flipped learning is, and how one might go about doing it.

The key points in this post are:

1. Very simply put, the flipped classroom is one where students access content and engage in activities designed to develop their understanding before class, and then use the class time to discuss and engage in depth with issues, ideas and questions arising from the pre-class content and activities.

2. Whilst there may be some barriers to adopting this approach, most (if not all) can be overcome.

3. The flipped classroom is very relevant to the University of Northampton at the moment as it is one of the models of teaching and learning which will work very well in the new Waterside campus. However, there’s no need to wait until we get to Waterside to try it out, as it’s something that will work well right now.

4. There is a lot of support available to staff wanting to try out the flipped classroom, and staff are encouraged to try out this approach to teaching and learning.

 

What the flipped classroom is

I was introduced to the idea of flipped learning in 2012 by the Harvard Professor Eric Mazur, when I attended his keynote speech2 at the annual conference of the Association for Learning Technology. The idea of the flipped classroom owes a great deal to the work of Mazur, whose ideas about peer instruction3 formulated at Harvard in the 1990s evolved into what we now term flipped learning. To use Mazur’s terminology, what happens in a traditional classroom is that class time is typically taken up with ‘knowledge transfer’, often a lecture, and students then complete tasks outside of class in order to process and understand the subject matter, which Mazur terms ‘knowledge assimilation’. What Mazur proposed is that the knowledge transfer stage should be covered prior to attending class, and that the class time could then be used to help students assimilate what they had read or watched prior to coming to class. The ‘flip’ is simply that knowledge transfer now happens outside class, and knowledge assimilation now happens in class.

“Mazur’s reinvention of the course drops the lecture model and deeply engages students in the learning/teaching endeavor. It starts from his view of education as a two-step process: information transfer, and then making sense of and assimilating that information. ‘In the standard approach, the emphasis in class is on the first, and the second is left to the student on his or her own, outside of the classroom,’ he says. ‘If you think about this rationally, you have to flip that, and put the first one outside the classroom, and the second inside. So I began to ask my students to read my lecture notes before class, and then tell me what questions they have [ordinarily, using the course’s website], and when we meet, we discuss those questions.’” 4

 

Putting the flipped classroom into practice

Obviously no classes at Northampton are taught only via lectures, and I suspect that very few (if any) lectures at Northampton are pure didactic monologues, but Mazur’s ideas could still be used to good effect to free up more class time to spend with students helping them to understand the material and the subject in more depth.

If this approach appeals to you, then an example of how you could put it into practice is by putting your lectures online, and using your class time to engage students in activities and tasks which will help them to fully understand the material which was covered in your lecture. The online lectures should be short, certainly no more than thirty minutes, but two fifteen minute lectures would be preferable. And supporting the video lectures will probably be some reading, a book chapter or journal article perhaps. Students may watch your lectures a few times in order to get the most from them, and students for whom English is not a first language may benefit greatly from the ability to watch and re-watch the lectures. You’ve now freed up an extra hour to spend with your students, so what’s the best way to use that hour?

Well, there are plenty of options here. If you’d prefer a more teacher-led session then one idea would be to ask your students to complete a pre-class test or survey in order to find out where the gaps in their understanding are. Perhaps you’d prefer to give them a test so that you can check their understanding yourself, or perhaps you’d prefer the students to determine for themselves what they did and did not understand, so you ask students to submit questions about the material. Their questions or their test results could then form the basis of a class session in which you discuss and answer the questions that the students submitted in the survey, or provide further clarification on the things they got wrong in the tests. This approach is often called ‘just in time teaching’ as you don’t really know what you need to cover in class until the test or survey results have been submitted, and this is often less than 24 hours before the class is due to start. If you’d prefer something more student-led then you could still use a pre-class test or survey, but this time you take the students questions (or develop your own questions based around the things they got wrong in the tests) and get the students to answer their questions themselves. This is the approach that Mazur uses, which he terms peer instruction.

“Mazur begins a class with a student-sourced question, then asks students to think the problem through and commit to an answer, which each records using a handheld device (smartphones work fine), and which a central computer statistically compiles, without displaying the overall tally. If between 30 and 70 percent of the class gets the correct answer (Mazur seeks controversy), he moves on to peer instruction. Students find a neighbor with a different answer and make a case for their own response. Each tries to convince the other. During the ensuing chaos, Mazur circulates through the room, eavesdropping on the conversations. He listens especially to incorrect reasoning, so ‘I can re-sensitize myself to the difficulties beginning learners face.’ After two or three minutes, the students vote again, and typically the percentage of correct answers dramatically improves. Then the cycle repeats.” 5

Other options could involve a blend of just in time teaching and peer instruction. These are not the only approaches though, and whilst there is no one correct way of doing things, it’s probably safe to say that an approach which sees the students actively engaged in class is likely to lead to them learning more than an approach in which the students are passive. A visual idea of how the flipped classroom could work in practice is given below:

An Approach to the Flipped Classroom

An Approach to the Flipped Classroom - click image to view full size

 

Waterside – a flipped campus?

Can you flip a whole institution? Yes, you can. Clintondale High School in Michigan started flipping its classes in 2010, and now delivers all classes using the flipped model. They claim that this approach has led to dramatic reductions in both failure rates and discipline problems6. The University of Technology, Sydney, has developed a teaching and learning strategy which fits extremely well with flipped classrooms7, and has set up its own Flipped Learning Action Group to promote the use of this approach8. Does this mean that Waterside going to be a flipped campus? No, it doesn’t. Whilst we won’t have any lecture theatres, and while much of the teaching and learning will happen in smaller teaching spaces (twenty to forty students), a one-size-fits-all approach would not be the best option for the new campus. Nevertheless, what is encouraged for Waterside is what is encouraged at both Park and Avenue campuses here and now, which is participatory, student-led teaching and learning and the use of both class time and technology to engage students in active, exciting and transformative learning experiences.

 

Will students complain if I flip my classroom?

Possibly. Students may expect lectures and they may think that they learn from them. Students may also like lectures because they’re easy: not much is expected from attendees at lectures as they are “the teaching moment that most promotes passivity and discourages participation.”9 If you adopt a flipped learning approach then students will have to work harder both in class and before class. This is a good thing, and if you want to counter objections from students who want you to lecture you could refer them to bell hooks’ essay quoted above, ‘To Lecture or Not’10, where she tell us that “When we as a culture begin to be serious about teaching and learning, the large lecture will no longer occupy the prominent space that it has held for years.” You could also refer them to Graham Gibbs’ article, ‘Twenty terrible reasons for lecturing’11, in which he explains and provides evidence as to why lecturing does not “give students a rich and rewarding educational experience.”12 In addition, the recent National Union of Students’ publication ‘Radical Innovations in Teaching and Learning’ is worth referring students to as it asked universities to, amongst other things, consider what place the lecture has in “a modern, democratic university.”13

 

Support for flipping your classroom

What support is available to academics wanting to try out flipped learning? Well, an excellent place to start is with the Learning Designers and the Learning Technology Team. The Learning Designers will be able to explain more about flipped learning, and will be able to help you successfully plan and implement flipped classroom sessions.  And the Learning Technology Team will be able to provide you with training and support regarding the technologies that you may want to use as part of your flipped classroom sessions.

To end, it’s worth pointing out that changing the way one teaches takes time, and without support from professional services staff, colleagues and managers, change is not likely to happen. Change, especially radical change, also needs failure to be acknowledged as a possible and legitimate outcome, as not every new technique that we try out will be a success. However, perhaps the flipped classroom offers a low-risk opportunity for change, as there is plenty of training and support available from the Learning Designers and the Learning Technology Team, and the evidence, which we will look at in a later posting, seems to suggest that this is an approach that works.

 

Contacts

Learning Designers: LD@northampton.ac.uk

Learning Technology Team: LearnTech@northampton.ac.uk

 

References

1. Parr, C. (2014) ‘Six trends in campus design: 5. Informal, flexible learning spaces.’ Times Higher Education Supplement. December 2014. [online]. Available from: http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/features/six-trends-in-campus-design/4/2017412.article

2. Mazur, E. (2012) ‘The scientific approach to teaching: research as a basis for course design.’ YouTube. [online]. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aYiI2Hvg5LE

3. Lambert, C. (2012) ‘Twilight of the Lecture.’ Harvard Magazine. March/April 2012. [online]. Available from: http://harvardmagazine.com/2012/03/twilight-of-the-lecture

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid.

6. See: Clintondale High School (2012) Our Story. [online]. Available from: http://flippedhighschool.com/ourstory.php

7. UTS (2104) ‘Learning 2014 Strategy.’ YouTube. [online]. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rL0eFmac7mA

8. UTS (2014) ‘Flipped Futures.’ UTS Newsroom. August 2014. [online]. Available from: http://newsroom.uts.edu.au/news/2014/08/flipped-futures

9. hooks, b. (2010) Teaching Critical Thinking: Practical Wisdom. Abingdon: Routledge. p.64.

10. Ibid. pp.63-68.

11. Gibbs, G. (1981) Twenty terrible reasons for lecturing. SCED Occasional Paper No. 8, Birmingham. 1981. [online]. Available from: http://shop.brookes.ac.uk/browse/extra_info.asp?compid=1&modid=1&deptid=47&catid=227&prodid=1174

12. Ibid.

13. NUS (2014) Radical Interventions in Teaching and Learning. [online]. Available from: http://www.nusconnect.org.uk/resources/open/highereducation/Radical-Interventions-in-Teaching-and-Learning/