FlipCon Adelaide Review Day 1 Part 2 (Primary School Discussion Panel)

Originally published on c21teaching.com on 25 November 2016

“If you are the expert on flipped learning, be generous and be polite”
– The Primary School Discussion Panel

Following the opening address by Rupert Denton (@rupertdenton) and the Keynote by Jon Bergmann (@jonbergmann), both of which I reviewed in the previous article, the conference delegates split off into their first session. I attended a Primary School Discussion panel consisting of Jon Bergmann, Matthew Burns (@burnsmatthew) and Kirsty Tonks. It was an intimate group, with around twenty delegates in the room to ask questions.

One of the questions was about strategies to check that students have watched the video. A useful strategy that was offered up was to have students submit an entry ticket as a summary of what they have learned, or that an interesting question related to the flipped content needs to be offered to the class for exploration during the subsequent lesson or unit.

The question was asked about what do students prefer vis-a-vis flipped learning compared to traditional pedagogical approaches. Matt Burns spoke to this and indicated that he actually asked his students for their thoughts on this and that it was typically a mix between some preferring straight flipped, some preferring straight lecture and some preferring a mixture of flipping and lecture and which was typically around 70% / 10% / 20%. Looking back at that conversation, I wonder if the results are influenced by how much which teacher-made videos are used in comparison to teacher-curated as the research by Peter Whiting which I referred to in the previous article and will write about in more depth in a later article indicated that that can have a significant impact on student academic outcomes. This also fed into a question about how to manage the forest of hands in the air requesting assistance during the group learning time and understanding who wants to be rescued from thinking and who is unable to continue without assistance because they do not understand a concept. A very simple solution was offered up, and it was also pointed out that squeaky wheels sometimes are the ones which do not need the attention.

A criticism that is often leveled at flipped learning is dealing with students not completing the homework, now referred to as the individual learning. The response really is quite simple. Students often do not do assigned homework in the traditional context because it is either too difficult, takes too long, is too boring, so this problem is not new at all. However, flipped learning can encourage students to complete the homework. One of the keys to a successful flipped classroom is that the flipped content is succinct, therefore the individual learning space for a single class should not be longer than perhaps ten to twenty minutes allowing time to watch, rewatch, make notes, and answer and also ask some questions based on the flipped content.

Someone asked a question about whether there has been a noticeable age where the shift from in-flip to out-flip is a good choice. Jon responded that from what he has seen, the tipping point appears to be in Year Three. Prior to that, in-flipping definitely appears to be a better choice for implementing flipped learning, while from Year Four onwards, out-flipping appears to be the best way to utilise flipped learning. Within Year Three, it appears that it will depend on the particular cohort of students as to which option will work best, or perhaps even use the year to transition from in-flip to out-flip.

There was a range of other issues discussed to varying degrees. Recording the marking and feedback of student work was posited as being a worthwhile way of providing higher quality and quantity of feedback, particularly in writing, and projects within the applied sciences and the creative arts. We were reminded that how we think we sound is not how we actually sound. The way our voice sounds on a recording is our actual voice and irrespective of whether we like the sound of our voice on a video, it is what our students hear every day anyway. Essentially, tough luck and get over it!

The panel was asked about differentiation in a flipped classroom and whether multiple videos are recorded to suit each level of learning needed in the classroom. One suggestion was that you record your video as normal and then when you reach the point where the content is going to step up to a higher level simply say in the video that the next level of content is for Group X and then give the next level of the concept or skill in that section of the video.

The next interesting discussion point was around the benefits to utilising flipped learning. We are often told that it is a good thing when students ask questions, and in many cases that is most certianly true. However, there are times when it is not a good thing for students to ask questions. One of the benefits of flipped learning is that you can give the full explanation of the concept or skill being addressed without being asked a question that you were going to answer in your next sentence, or any other of a dozen types of interruptions that make a five minute explanation take fifteen minutes.

Discussion returned to homework, and I asked Jon, via e-mail after the conference if he could elucidate vis-a-vis his thoughts on homework as it related to flipped learning and the research around homework and what education thinkers such as Alfie Kohn (@alfiekohn) have said about homework and he advised that he has written a book outlining in detail his thoughts around homework and how to address it as part of flipped learning, Solving the homework problem by flipping the learning, which will be released in April 2017. Jon also reminded the audience that the evidence around homework is not as conclusive as Alfie Kohn has made it out to be.

The panel was asked whether flipped learning works with disadvantaged or those students who might be considered academically challenging or disengaged. Some of the best results are being seen with students who are disengaged, such as Clintondale High School who saw a significant reduction in negative and anti-social behaviour and a rise in student engagement and academic outcomes for their students.Part of this success comes with using a single system for managing student access to the flipped content, a learning management system or LMS. The audience was told that it typically takes two to three to really become comfortable and au fait with a learning management system and then another year or two after that to really decide whether or not it is suitable and works within the specific context.

The panel was once again a very informative and interesting session. It was great to hear from other primary educators and get a feel for what challenges and concerns they are dealing with. As always, thank you for reading, and if you missed the previous article in this series, you can find it by clicking here

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