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Is the future flipped ?

While the concept of a flipped classroom may feel alien to those of us who went to school more than a few years ago, there’s a swathe of research suggesting that switching the tasks completed by students at home and those carried out in the classroom can have a significant effect on learning outcomes if this is adopted as part of a more thorough transition to a flipped learning environment. A recent article by EdTechReview found that 96% of teachers who have flipped a lesson would recommend that method to others and 9 out of 10 teachers noticed a positive change in student engagement since flipping their classroom.

Despite this, it still feels that flipped learning hasn’t quite reached the mainstream and the initial hype surrounding the concept is dying down. But is this really the case or is flipped learning simply adapting as teaching styles and classroom technologies evolve?

The original idea behind flipped learning was for students to study a subject in their own time by watching video lectures, reading around a topic, or solving additional problems at home, enabling the classroom to become more collaborative and focused around group working and learning.

This student-centred form of active learning is said to allow learners to explore topics in greater depth and create richer learning opportunities. However, some teachers didn’t embrace the concept, others thought their school wouldn’t embrace it and yet more implemented a hybrid version of flipped learning but didn’t fully commit to the process. Those that did flip their classrooms encountered a number of issues, most notable of which was having no control over whether students actually completed the at-home tasks.

So is flipped learning still a valid teaching method and if so what does the flipped classroom look like in 2017? In recent years it has become clear that while roles can be flipped, to achieve the full effect classrooms must also be designed to encourage collaboration and ensure students can be connected to any devices needed to complete the lesson.

flipped1

This being the case, the traditional rows of desks facing a teacher and screen is not the optimum setup. In a flipped classroom, groups of students will sit at desks around the room with a teacher station centrally located. Each group will have a display on the wall rather than a central projector or screen for the entire class. Interactive flat panels are particularly popular in this setup.

Many educators also promote having areas set aside for quiet work, and flexible modular seating areas for informal discussions. With students bringing their own devices and working with tools such as tablets and laptops, desks with integrated charging and storage points are also popular.

However, this kind of setup does not come cheap and, with school budgets already stretched, it may not initially seem like the best use of scarce funds. Having said this, it should be noted that, by their nature, collaborative classrooms are designed to work for multiple age groups across multiple subjects so even an investment in a single flipped learning space could have a big impact on a wide range of students. In addition, in the competitive higher education sector, innovative use of the latest technology can act as a key differentiator when it comes to attracting students, with many young people now stating this is a pre-requisite for their place of learning.

While evidence of the benefits of flipped learning is more anecdotal than quantitative, it does seem to boost student engagement and means lessons can be revisited as many times as a student feels is necessary to develop the required understanding. It also develops key skills such as collaboration, teamwork, analytical thinking and communication which are crucial to success in most workplaces. The ability of teachers to provide more personalised learning and more deeply understand how a student is progressing adds a further element to flipped learning that can’t be ignored.

While flipped learning may have stalled in the UK, the opportunities are undoubtedly huge. Talking to those who have already flipped their teaching spaces, or to integrators who can advise on the best use of technology to create the optimal learning environment is a great way to find out how it could work for your school and transform learning from primary to higher education.

Eliot Fulton-Langley - Solutions Architect, CDEC Ltd Published on June 7, 2017

Link to Edudemic - Flipped Classroom

Link to Edis Education Best Learning Practices

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