Student Reflections on Flipped Learning: What Works, What Doesn’t

Allen TX HS Commons Area

The Commons area at beautiful AISD (Allen Integrated School District)
High School (the site of FlipCon 2016) 

This past week at FlipCon 2016, we had the pleasure and good fortune to hear from a panel of four students who had experienced several flipped classes at Allen High School. Three of them had completed a year of college, providing additional perspective.

The initial observations that they shared before conference participants asked questions made it clear that they felt that experiencing flipped learning in High School helped prepare them for college. They had learned to be more disciplined and more responsible about being self-motivated learners.

Following are some excerpts and reworded interpretations of the students’ responses to questions asked by FlipCon 2016 attendees.

What would you change about the flipped classroom experience?

Some of the videos were too long.

Sometimes watching the videos took a long time, even if they weren’t too long (5 minutes of video could turn into 15 minutes of work to take notes and review; 15 minutes turns into 45). It felt like a lot of work.

Sometimes I felt like I needed to ask a question right then and there and that couldn’t happen.

Do you ever look up videos on line to help you learn now that you are in college?

Yes (although teacher made videos are preferable).

If you could give any advice to flipped classroom students, what advice would you give?

Take it seriously. Spread it out, don’t cram lots of videos and ‘catching up’ all into one day.

Did you retain what you learned, or was it short term?

I/we retained information for some classes, but not for others. It depended on how interested we were in the subject, and how effectively it was taught.

What NOT to do?

Reading back slides on the videos [this is a classic mistake many presenters make as well – always do your best to avoid presenting text and just reading it back – Ed.].

Boring, ugly slides are a turn off (i.e. like plain old black text on a white background … jeez, put a little effort into it people).

Make the videos tool long (10 minutes is a good guideline … much longer than that and they should be broken into multiple videos).

Face or no face?

“It depended on the teacher” (that got a lot of laughs).

“I liked seeing a face”.

It depended on the course – for example, I generally liked it in science but not in math.

What was your initial reaction when you learned that the teacher was not going to lecture but have you watch videos?

I felt a little angry, like they weren’t really teaching. I thought teaching was the teacher standing up there lecturing. I felt like teachers were trying to beat the system. Over time though, that perspective changed.

What is the optimum video length?

25+ minutes is just way too long! 10 minutes is great – even if it was several 10 minute videos on separate topics.

“I’d rather have three 10 minute videos than one 30 minute video”.

Did you have any teachers who used other teacher’s videos?

We did, but it felt like the teacher wasn’t teaching, but some of those videos were really good.

I would have preferred the teacher to use their own content … it seemed like they cared more (but it was still good if they supplemented their own videos with someone else’s well done videos).

Some of the external videos are good and can help.

In a physics class, the videos were made by my teacher working with another teacher and that worked well.

Did you feel like you were teaching yourself?

In my physics class, the videos were too simplified versus what I needed to know, so I had to teach myself a lot.

Being interested in the topic has an impact (it felt more like teaching myself when it was a subject I was less interested in).

From a student’s perspective, what’s the downside to flipping?

Some students won’t take it seriously, but they might not take it seriously in a regular classroom either.

Sometimes dependency on the technology can be a bit of a challenge.

Some students might not transition as well as others.

Inferred from other answers: flipped with crappy videos is not a good experience, and overly long videos were a problem.

What do you want us to do to make sure you watch the videos?

Taking notes (completing a notes outline, or creating notes from scratch)

One teacher that they liked a lot moved from a “fill in the blanks” notes outline to requiring students to create their own notes over the length of the course and they seemed to think that worked well.

A quick quiz at the start of the next class can work well too.

What helps to make you WANT to watch the videos?

An introductory clip that applies to the real world, an example of ways it applies to the world around us (in other words, contextualize it before getting into the meat of it).

Diagrams help when they made sense.

One teacher would start the videos with a silly little song based on the material and this would capture my interest.

What should teachers do at the start of class to set students up for success?

Make some videos about the flipped class and how the class is going to work, what to expect.

Conclusions

These students’ perspectives were very insightful. Some of the key takeaways included:

  • Keep the videos short
  • Teacher-made videos are generally much preferred to those from others (although good videos from other teachers can be great supporting material)
  • The students repeatedly expressed how much they preferred flipped instruction done well to non-flipped instruction
  • It is important to provide context for learning … why does it matter, explain it in a way that has meaning to me before getting into deep detail
  • One student who was dyslexic clearly appreciated being able to rewind and watch the videos repeatedly as needed, which allowed him to learn the material at his own pace
  • There is a distinct difference between good quality videos and poorly executed videos. Student were insulted by videos where the teacher simply read off PowerPoint slides.
  • Before flipping, be sure to help students know what expect. Discuss how to watch the videos, and why you are using this approach.

Naturally, there can be a lot more to flipping well and flipping poorly, and this was a small set group of students giving feedback. Nevertheless, this provided some really useful feedback and emphasized some of the key points often made by experienced and successful teachers using the flipped model. We are very grateful to Allen High School and the students who took the time to answer these questions and provide this valuable insight!

 

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