WE 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. Rebecca Garrard is a Science Teacher at Crispin. Here, she shares her experience of introducing her students to flipped learning in order to improve competence, confidence and ability within GCSE Science.
I was really pleased to have been invited to join the Whole School Education programme this year and struggled to pick from the great selection of strands. With COVID-19 still very much on everyone’s minds in October when I selected, I chose the ‘digital flipped learning’ strand. This was with the hope of gaining some inspiration on how to embed independent learning in the case that we should have to return to remote learning (which of course we did in January), but also to take the platform we’d been using in Crispin School (Microsoft Teams) and focus on the many benefits it could have in my classroom.
When I attended the first conference, which introduced the idea of using action research to improve classroom practice, I felt excited because, as a Science teacher, I tend towards evidence-based research and self-reflection and evaluation practices anyway. I was, however, a little anxious about how I was going to find the time to embed some new techniques in my practice when I was still getting to grips with being a nomadic teacher, teaching Science without engaging practical work and, of course, general anxieties over rising COVID cases as we moved towards the winter months.
With all that being said, it was clear to me that a year of lockdown learning hadn’t been quite the setback to learning it was professed to be. My students seemed to come back eager to be in the classroom, to engage and ask questions. This seemed to be a prime opportunity to include some new ways of learning, promoting independence (something I’ve previously made a focus of research projects within school) and encouraging students to use the world of technology available to them.
In essence, I wanted to combine one of my own interests (effective revision strategies) with promoting independence digitally. I therefore set out to investigate whether introducing students to flipped learning and retrieval practice techniques helps them to maximise time spent in class on higher order thinking skills (application etc.), improving their competence, confidence and ability to work independently in GCSE Science.
As with any best laid plans, a lack of time really stalled my progress with this project. Although I started to make some headway with understanding my learners and introducing them to flipped learning homework activitie, the Scientist in me knows that reflecting on two homework tasks does not a thesis make! To combat this, I have asked to retain my current research group (9X1) over the next couple of years to really start embedding the practice into their Science GCSE experience.
I set out with a questionnaire to gauge student confidence prior to any adjustments (flipped learning homework). I also designed a simple template using statements from a metacognition document that had been disseminated to us previously and a resource suggested to me by my head of department.
The results of my questionnaire were largely overwhelmingly positive, with my students quoting that I put them at ease by giving them time to think about answers in class but making them answer questions verbally. One student did suggest that to “focus more on exam style questions in lessons” would raise his confidence, which is exactly what the flipped learning homework I produced set out to do. Getting students looking at theory gives us more time to practice challenging content in lessons.
I was also delighted by the quality of work produced by a number of my students during their homework time, which they verbally told me was challenging, lengthy but useful.
I selected tasks that I know take a lot of time to practice in the classroom, for example drawing lens diagrams and enzyme theory. To provide a control group for comparison I happened to be teaching my similar-ability Year 10 group lenses at the same time which I did without setting them the flipped homework. The Year 10 group all asked for more practice and support with lenses whereas my Year 9 group were directing me when I went through a model under the visualiser in class.
To further reinforce these findings I asked my trial group to complete a reflection questionnaire with two thirds of the respondents saying that they felt more confident following the flipped learning tasks.
These findings have encouraged me to think about the year ahead and I have actually continued to develop the same template for the coming term. Although I am going to make some small changes based on feedback from my Year 9’s who have stated that, on occasion, they would like some variety within the website where they do their self-teaching, They suggested other websites such as BBC Bitesize which they have become more familiar with this year.
I would also like there to be further accountability for homework completion (which has been made easier this term with the school dropping staggered lunchtimes). I would also like to further my contact with home, putting together a booklet or a Microsoft Team ahead of parents’ evening to share best practice and revision techniques with them so that they are better able to support their children with accessing more challenging content in Science.