Thursday, May 29, 2014

The flipped classroom

There's a lovely description of the flipped classroom on the University of Queensland's website. It draws on material from a website maintained by Vanderbilt University’s Center for Teaching.

The authors of the site explain:
In essence, “flipping the classroom” means that students gain first exposure to new material outside of class, usually via reading or lecture videos, and then use class time to do the harder work of assimilating that knowledge, perhaps through problem-solving, discussion, or debates. In terms of Bloom’s revised taxonomy (2001), this means that students are doing the lower levels of cognitive work (gaining knowledge and comprehension) outside of class, and focusing on the higher forms of cognitive work (application, analysis, synthesis, and/or evaluation) in class, where they have the support of their peers and instructor. This model contrasts from the traditional model in which “first exposure” occurs via lecture in class, with students assimilating knowledge through homework; thus the term “flipped classroom.”

Key characteristics of the flipped classroom

  1. First exposure to new material: Students are provided with an opportunity to gain their first exposure to the content of their course prior to class. Often, this is via a web-based resource, but it could be simply through readings set by the lecturer to be read in advance of the face-to-face learning event.
  2. Preparation for class: Students are often given an incentive to prepare for class. Vanderbilt recommends giving them marks for the pre-class activities. It would work equally well with many cohorts to ensure that those students who are properly prepared have a better in-class experience.
  3. Checking understanding: Lecturers do need to monitor how well students have completed this preparatory work. Formative assessment strategies work well in this context, as do short summative strategies, like quizzes. There are a range of strategies described throughout this blog that can be adapted for this purpose. These strategies for monitoring student understanding are probably best implemented online before class, or in the early stages of the face-to-face class. Without comprehension of the material, students won't be able to engage in the face-to-face activities well, and they won't gain the most from them.
  4. Applying, analysing, synthesizing, and evaluating: Finally, provide in-class activities that focus on higher level cognitive activities, that give students opportunity to deepen their understanding and increase their skills in drawing on their new knowledge and applying it to solve authentic disciplinary problems. These problems don't have to be new to the discpline, but they ought to be new to the students. They may provide a gateway to the next block of disciplinary knowledge to which students are introduced.
The Vanderbilt University site provides a range of suggested readings for those interested in exploring these ideas further.

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