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Is your school ready for Flipped Learning?

A curious case of a very good school (read A+ category in a metropolitan city) came up recently. The school has always been a pioneer in introducing innovative concepts and implementing them successfully. The rise of tab based learning systems and service offerings of a few e-content companies led them to introduce tab-based learning in their school. All the parents were counselled about the uses and significance of moving from books and heavy bags to tabs and e learning. The process was established and the students and teachers were given the required hardware. Everything looked great and the management was very happy. One day, one of the good teachers of the school came and put in her papers. She mentioned that she had a personal reason and won’t be able to continue. The real shock came when 12 more teachers put in their papers within next three weeks. This was a matter of grave concern and disbelief in what exactly was happening in the school. Finally after a month of investigation the reasons were identified.

To understand what happened, let’s first understand what exactly is flipped learning. Flipped classroom denotes a reversal of traditional teaching, where students first gain an exposure to new material outside of class, usually via reading or lecture videos, and then harder work of synthesizing that knowledge through discussions, projects and activities happens in the classroom. The term “Flipped Classroom” was popularized by teachers Bergmann and Samms at Woodland Park High School, Colorado, in 2007 where they adopted a strategy to reverse the timing of homework and lectures. Reading material & video lectures were provided for students before class and then exercises (homework) was done in class under supervision. In fact one of the Harvard Physicists Eric Mazur has been using a similar technique called Peer instruction for over 25 years. https://youtu.be/Z9orbxoRofI

The driving points are:

·      Teacher creates/designates/maps the reading material or video lectures to be seen for a particular class

·      Students get first hand on knowledge outside the class at their own speed, and then apply and analyze the knowledge in the class.

There are two meta-assumptions here:

·      The teacher should be the material owner/administrator/controller and plan corresponding activities for class

·      Students should be interested to learn

If any of these assumptions fails, the system collapses completely. Let’s look at what went wrong in that school.

Failure of meta-assumption 1:

The flipped material was beautifully created and mapped to the CBSE syllabus by the e-content company. The teachers would ask the students to watch the videos and come prepared for the class. That meant that if teachers had to take 6-7 periods the next day, they must themselves spend time on watching all videos, reading all the text, related links provided & understanding higher order thinking questions, etc. on the content that was created from the perspective of another person.  It sounds much easier than it is. Even if a teacher spends only 30 minutes per period for preparation (which is not enough) that would mean around 3 hours per day of extra work, after school.

The system started failing here.

Failure of meta-assumption 2:

There are generally two types of students, one who are interested to learn, & the others who are still not interested. The interested ones embraced the system better than expected. They started going through all material and would even explore related links to have a better understanding. They started asking a lot of questions in class and teachers had to spend a lot of time in problem solving and query handling, and more often than before couldn’t handle the questions. The less interested one’s just didn’t go through material &/or were very easily drifted to distractions online. These students were not able to relate to most of the things, as there was very less teaching time now and the problems for the teacher started increasing.

The teacher started failing here.

And that’s why the teachers were resigning.

Does it mean flipped learning is not useful? It is. In fact, it is one of the most impactful ways of teaching today and is going to drive maximum learning for educators as well as learners. Here’s a success story:

A school in Aligarh, has created a very beautiful system. The teachers have to plan & embed e-learning resources in their teaching and have to prepare the teaching flow for as many topics as they can. The only rule is, the content & its flow have to be managed by the teacher. The teachers send the links to the students before the class and the students have to come prepared from home. The teachers then are ready with activities for class and all learners have a role to play in those activities. The school has also initiated a yearly award system for this practice and teachers whose work is most innovative and impactful are awarded for their work. The teachers love the concept and have reported an increased student engagement. This an example of successful implementation of flipped learning. And if you look closely, they didn’t need any external help, neither in hardware nor in software, for creating this system.

Some checkpoints to self-assess if a school is ready for flipped learning:

  • Are the teachers in the school passionate to learn & implement new ideas?

(Write down five new things that your teachers did in last one year)

  • Are the teachers well aware of various pedagogies and are successfully applying them in class teaching?

(Create a rubric of assessing the effectiveness of various methodologies and how often are they used))

  • Does the school have infrastructure for teachers to create and plan content?

(List the tools present in the school for teachers to access and create content)

  • Is there a teacher recognition/acknowledgement system present?

(List down names of the teachers who have been awarded by the school in last one year and for what)

  • Does your school up-skill the teachers and evaluate the teacher effectiveness regularly?

(List down the learning programs that the teachers have attended and file the teacher learning report for the same)

So, the big question.

‘Is your school ready to plan & implement flipped learning?’

Cheers.

Rishabh Khanna

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