Flipping the modern classroom

Jim Baker

Jim Baker, a self-identifying maverick, is a teacher of over 40 years who doesn’t take himself too seriously. He has written for the Guardian, and prides himself on finding the best teaching methods for each student. The majority of his career was spent as a chemistry teacher at Lincoln Christ's Hospital School; during his time there, he reached the final 13 in the Salter's ‘Chemistry Teacher of the Year’ award. He is a freelance educational consultant, and acted as Chemistry Expert for The Chemistry Journey Project’s Virtual School Initiative. He is a contributory author of Teaching Secondary Science, Constructing Meaning and Developing Understanding, 4th Edition BlogFacebook | YouTube |

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Website: www.jimbakersonlinelearning.co.uk Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


First of all, for those unfamiliar with ‘flipped learning’, my presentation will help explain. Flipping is not new, as back in the 80s, before the days of the World Wide Web, I would give my students handouts to study in preparation for the next lesson (hence the term ‘prep’, as opposed to ‘homework’). This then freed up the lesson for learning where the content of the handouts could be discussed, questions on the handouts answered and practical work done to reinforce the handouts.

The advent of the World Wide Web took this concept (now known as ‘flipped learning’) to a whole new level. Rather than having to rely on handouts from me, my students now have access to unlimited resources, thanks to the WWW.

Why should we ‘flip’?

Conventionally, teachers give their students information in class. Why, when the students can access this information without the aid of the teacher? What a waste of the teacher’s valuable time! Also, by giving this information in class, it is given ‘one way’ which may not be accessible to all students.

"Even if the teacher’s information is accessible in class, if a student does not understand an early point, the rest of the lesson is lost."

By providing various resources (notes, videos, animations etc) for each topic, hopefully each student will find one to suit them. Even if the teacher’s information is accessible in class, if a student does not understand a point made early on in the lesson the rest of the lesson is lost. One cannot keep asking the teacher to stop and repeat or explain a point. If, however, the students have access to this information before the lesson, they can re-read notes and replay videos / animations as many times as they like until they understand. With twiducate, students can post a question 24/7/365 there, and these posts can be answered by their peers or by the teachers who receive an email as soon as a new question/answer/comment is posted.

This is where the paradigm changes, allowing the teacher to respond to the student very quickly, which increases the student’s enthusiasm as well as their learning. So, conventional marking of exercise books is replaced by productive, ‘immediate’ feedback which is when the student wants it. No, the teacher does not have to be at the computer/tablet/phone 24/7/365, but can at least respond to the student or give the students a time when s/he will be available to answer questions. This takes up far less time than marking and is far more efficient.

As mentioned above, conventionally, teachers give information in class. I hope I have convinced you in the paragraph above that there’s a better option. Also, conventionally, at the end of the lesson the teacher sets homework - the same task to the whole class. Firstly, why is the same work set to all students? Those who can do the work are wasting their time. Secondly, why set questions to do at home (when the teacher is not there)? This is precisely the time the teacher is needed.

Flipped Learning solves these two problems with the current paradigm. I have explained why the students should access the information prior to the lesson and not be force-fed by the teacher in the lesson. I have proposed that homework, as mentioned above, should be replaced by prep, and the questions conventionally done for homework be done in class so the teacher is there to help the students when they need it. In my experience, the flipped learning student has far more ownership of his/her education, and so is far more enthusiastic, learning far more and becoming more independent.

I’ll finish with five bullet points to help you get started with flipping your students’ learning.

  • Check out my presentation on ‘flipped learning’.
  • Put your whole course plus resources on a platform such as ‘Twiducate’.
  • Have alternative resources for each topic (to cater for different learning styles).
  • Add resources (to twiducate) as more become available (students are motivated if you can use resources found by them).
  • Explain ‘flipped learning’ to your students so they can understand the benefits for them.

Do you use flipped learning with your pupils? Share your experiences below!

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