Ben Hollis is a classroom teacher at Wilmslow High School. In this guest blog, he describes his experience of using flipped learning as part of our Lab Classrooms programme in 2020/2021.
Whenever I set out on a new bit of research, I often develop (dis)illusions of grandeur and a sense that I will, in some way, revolutionise the world of education with my small-scale research project, only to come crashing back to earth when it doesn’t quite work. This time I was convinced that I could do the following: come up with a flipped learning formula that empowers pupils, makes it meaningful and ultimately requires less work from all involved. Now a revolutionary I may not be, but a somewhat winning formula for my own teaching and my own flipped classroom, I feel I may have!
My project set out to improve pupil engagement with homework in my Year 8 German class. My worry was that if pupils didn’t engage with flipped learning, the follow-up lesson would be a disaster: the gap between the engaged and the disengaged would widen. I was concerned the disengaged pupils would hold back the engaged and I would get flustered and give up.
My answer was Pear Deck, an online learning platform that pupils like and that enables them to write answers that can then be shown anonymously on the board in the next lesson, to be reflected and built upon. I asked pupils to use their sentence builders (a modern take on the old vocab list) to create 5 sentences, having not yet learned the vocabulary involved and being tasked with doing so as part of the exercise. The implementation of Pear Deck immediately had the desired effect. Over the previous six months, five pupils on average would not engage with the homework task. After the initial implementation of Pear Deck, I suddenly only had two students not engaging. I understand this is a small victory, but this had been the lowest I had ever experienced in my class.
I still had two students who hadn’t done the work, which is when I implemented my next step. All pupils were given another person’s work to check, translate and work with. The two pupils who did not do the work understood the importance of doing the work in advance. The next time round, I had 100% engagement and this pattern continued forward.
I let the flipped learning become routine before asking the pupils for their opinions. It was one of the two pupils who had not initially engaged who said:
“It’s easy. It’s easier doing it for the first time for homework than having to remember stuff we’ve learned.”
I’ve reflected on this a lot since and have realised that this child is saying that it’s easy, because they know how to learn but they aren’t great at reflecting or using what they are meant to know. It made me consider all of those years of setting a homework task designed to reinforce and reflect, which some pupils did not feel equipped to do independently. By flipping it around and giving lesson time to reflect in a guided way, this was having a positive impact on what would have been disengaged pupils.
My classroom is now full of good reflectors. Using Pear Deck to capture the flipped learning meant that I had 30 pupils’ work at my fingertips to display, use and play games with. Flipped learning has done something really special for my class. It has engaged learners and got them learning and reflecting. The real question is how this will work with other year groups, other classes and other subjects, but that is something exciting to explore!
This Flipped Learning project was part of the Whole Education Lab Classrooms programme. Lab Classrooms is an opportunity to engage critically with research, trial a new approach in your classroom and reflect on which teaching and learning strategies are the most effective for your learners. Each Lab Classrooms strand is ‘two for one’ – improving both learners’ knowledge and wider skills, such as teamwork and communication.