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Does flipped learning work?

Today’s learning environment is a far cry from ten years ago. In part this is due to Jon Bergman and Aaron Sams who in 2007 introduced the Flipped Classroom, a technique that has seen continual strong growth and adoption amongst educators. Evidence supporting the effectiveness of flipped teaching piles up, as teachers in turn share and develop best practice.

... they [students] reported it increased their involvement in learning, understanding of the learning material, and confidence in their ability to understand it.
The European Journal of Open, Distance, and E-Learning, Jan. 2014

The crux of flipped learning is allowing students to access material before they come into the classroom. Whether it’s simple reading material, or more ambitious content such as screencasts, videos or podcasts. The key is to ensure it’s all accessible and, of course, the more stimulating the better.

There’s plenty of opportunities to incentivise students to engage with the material. For younger children this could be stars, house-points or stickers in their books. Older students may be less susceptible to immediate gratification (though still appreciate it), but will identify with the easier and more engaging learning path, moving from outside to inside the classroom.

A huge positive of the Flipped Classroom is that it can provide rapid feedback on understanding, allowing class activities to be tailored accordingly. This means assessing students before they come into the classroom. This could be through online assignments or polls that help inform a lesson’s structure.

Once in the classroom, the focus should be on deepening student understanding and increasing skills for using their new knowledge. If we apply Bloom’s taxonomy to Flipped Learning, students are doing the lower levels of cognitive work (gaining knowledge and comprehension) outside of class, and targeting the higher forms of cognitive work (application, analysis, synthesis or evaluation) in class, at which stage they have the support of their peers and teacher.

Firefly provides the tools for teachers to create a Flipped Learning environment with ease. It facilitates the creation of rich, engaging resources for students of all ages, and makes those resources easily accessible to them. Plus, there’s plenty of ways to assess their ability to understand the material, both at an individual and class level.

Does it work? 

Perhaps unavoidably some skepticism persists. Whether it’s perceived unsuitability for younger children, difficulties for students with Special Educational Needs accessing materials, and an opinion that its more of a HE technique. But, learning is learning, whether it takes place in a school or in higher education – strategies that we use may become refined, but the fundamental process is the same.

... what learning comes down to is some quite simple truths: the more the brain is stimulated, the more its synapses fire, the more neural connections are made and the more easily [the better] they work... as humans, we need to consciously engage with the stimulus and give meaning to it.
Peter Ireland Buckingham University

Today’s tech savvy children have instant access to a wealth of information – a recent report noted how children as young as two can navigate their way round a tablet. There is no question that students still need teachers to direct them towards relevant and reliable information, but the role of the teacher is now to help them evaluate and refine their understanding, to apply it in a meaningful and constructive manner. Surely it is time we stopped treating our students as children, and engage with them in the learning process.

There are two kinds of teachers: the kind that fill you with so much quail shot that you can't move, and the kind that just gives you a little prod behind and you jump to the skies.
Robert Frost

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