Dr Edward Tew – Lecturer in Accounting, HBS.
Flipped learning revisited
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us in UoR moved to ‘emergency’ remote teaching at the end of the spring term. Colleagues across the university were developing instruction using VLE platforms such as UoR Blackboard and students were studying and working online at a distance.
At the same time, we are urged to use different ways to provide meaningful online learning. In response, UoR has recently published a Teaching and Learning Framework for Autumn 2020 intending to balance the online delivery with interacting teaching. One particular point to note is that this framework is “influenced by pedagogical approaches used in flipped learning” (UoR, 2020). With this in mind, I thought of sharing with you my reflection on the Flipped learning, particularly on the framework proposed by Flipped Learning Network (FLN) (2014) and its application during this Covid-19 pandemic.
According to FLN’s (2014) definition, flipped learning is:
“a pedagogical approach in which direct instruction moves from the group learning space to the individual learning space, and the resulting group space is transformed into a dynamic, interactive learning environment where the educator guides students as they apply concepts and engage creatively in the subject matter.”
With this definition, the flipped learning /classroom is built around the four “pillars” F- flexible environment, L- learning culture, I- intentional content, and P- professional educator (Flipped Learning Network, 2014). I believe these four “pillars” can be applied in online flipped lessons which students learn either synchronously or asynchronously. To meet the demand for distance/online learning, especially given the current pandemic, I hope to share my reflection on the use of flipped learning by considering the four pillars accordingly.
- F – Flexible Environment
In this pillar, educators allow a variety of learning modes in which students choose when and where they learn either group work or independent study.
Application: Select a platform that will be the hub of your online classroom and for all your instructional activities and resources. In my module, I stick to use the Blackboard (BB) as my core online learning platform with students. Don’t be afraid to be experimental and mix the available tools on the BB, such as wikis to upload students’ group work, presentations, and research activities. There are many other platforms available such as Google Classroom, Microsoft Teams, Webex. The key is to use what is already familiar to students so that the learning process and activities are made easier for them to navigate and participate effectively.
- L – Learning Culture
The learning culture in flipped learning has shifted the traditional teacher-centred model to a learner-centred approach. As a result, students are actively involved in knowledge construction as they participate in and evaluate their learning in a personally meaningful manner.
Application: Once you’ve chosen your platform, decide how you will organise learning to encourage a learner-centred learning culture. To do this, communication is the key. In my module, I made sure the module was easy to navigate. I made sure the learning aims and objectives are clearly stated so students can see what they were learning for each topic/ lesson. I also made use of the BB’s module page with folders created to indicate my teaching materials, learning activities and presentations etc. Next, I tried to encourage collaboration in learning using tools such as discussion boards, wikis, blogs or online meetings (i.e. WhatsApp, Team, Zoom). These would provide user-friendly spaces to get my students to work collaboratively and sharing ideas. With all these tools, I have constantly made it clear that students were expected to do their learning first before coming to meet together for critical discussion and interaction.
- I- Intentional Content
In this pillar, educators decide what they need to teach and what materials students should explore on their own. This pillar aims to maximise classroom time to encourage student-centred learning as considered in pillar 2 above.
Application: Intentional learning occurs when we purposefully select and deliver the content to actively engage students in learning. In my module, I always leave a ‘gap’ for students to further explore and research the subject topic in a group or individually. I used the discussion board and wikis to see their collaborative work and research on the subject matter. I also made sure they could apply what they have learned in an assigned case study. I intentionally used the assessment strategies that test students’ ability to conduct their research and critical thinking. Textbook’s resources and library learning resources are particularly useful in this respect.
- P – Professional Educator
FLN (2014, p.2) proposes that “Professional Educators are reflective in their practice, connect with each other to improve their instruction, accept constructive criticism, and tolerate controlled chaos in their classrooms. While Professional Educators take on less visibly prominent roles in a flipped classroom, they remain the essential ingredient that enables Flipped Learning to occur.”
Application: The teacher’s role in an online flipped classroom is to facilitate learning as in a physical classroom. In this case, it means it is essential to be available to your students virtually, providing instructional support and feedback. In my module, I monitored the online discussion board and provided feedback promptly. I also used BB Collaborate to have 1-2-1 and group sessions with students to moderate students’ learning progress and provide constructive feedback.
This is a challenging time for numerous reasons particularly the anxiety of the unknown surrounding the virus. Given the current situation under the COVID-19 crisis, implementing online flipped learning/classroom makes sense so students do not fall behind in their learning. However, barriers and challenges to develop an effective one must be acknowledged. In this view, I resonate with FLN’s (2014) quote for Professional educators above as I need to be agile and robust to improve my instructional strategies, accept constructive criticism, and welcome controlled chaos in this online flipped classrooms. We must adapt, change quickly and moving forward effectively to counter the challenges in this unprecedented time.
Flipped Learning Network (FLN). (2014) The Four Pillars of F-L-I-P™ , Reproducible PDF can be found at www.flippedlearning.org/definition.
UoR (2020) Teaching and Learning: Framework for Autumn term 2020, available at: https://www.reading.ac.uk/web/files/leadershipgroup/autumn-teaching-proposal-v11.pdf