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EdTech & Design, Promising Practices, Teaching

Students, Please Turn to YouTube for your Assignments

One of my frustrations as a senior level Math teacher at Okanagan Mission Secondary in Kelowna, B.C., had always been insufficient classroom time to work with students. I typically spent 80 percent of class time lecturing. I was the one doing the math; my students were passive observers. I spent hours coming up with innovative lesson plans to make my lectures more student-centred, but in reality I was the sage on the stage. I then sent the students away to struggle with homework on their own.

Students regularly told me that they hit a wall when it came to completing their homework. They listened intently in class and completed a couple of questions with the limited time they had, but once they got home they struggled and were often lost. The struggle itself is not a bad thing, but the frustration is.

Now the struggle has been brought into the classroom, with peers and teacher able to offer assistance. What happened? I introduced a dramatically different way of teaching known as “Flipped Classroom,” which I discovered at a conference in Woodland Park, Colorado, in the late spring of 2011.

FROM LECTURER TO TEACHER

Instead of traditional lectures dominating classroom time, the lecture is compressed and delivered via websites like YouTube, which students can view at home or anywhere they choose. I have been able move from lecturer to what I believe a teacher should be: someone who helps, prods, inspires, encourages and supports students.

I found it quite easy to lecture about math for 45 minutes, four times a day. It was second nature for me to turn on the overhead projector and speak about a topic I knew well and enjoyed. Now, I spend my classroom time moving from student to student, helping them understand the curriculum.

Before I introduced the Flipped Classroom, I found it quite easy to lecture about math for 45 minutes, four times a day. It was second nature for me to turn on the overhead projector and speak about a topic I knew well and enjoyed. Now, I spend my classroom time moving from student to student, helping them understand the curriculum. I engage them in discussion on the content, question them about their reasoning, and listen to their ideas about mathematics.

In the Flipped Classroom, differentiated instruction has become possible, even in a class of 25 to 30 students. When I was delivering my lectures to the class, everyone had to move at my pace. Now I let my struggling learners take extra time in units where they need it, while my strongest learners can move at an accelerated pace and challenge themselves. If they finish the curriculum early, they can move on to the next course while they are still technically in my class.

The really exciting thing about the self-pacing is that it allows students to take responsibility for their own learning. They no longer simply come to class as passive observers; it is their responsibility to pace themselves and meet the deadlines that I have set in place.

SELF-PACING AND RAISING THE BAR

The Flipped Classroom has also allowed me to raise the bar for all my students. The B.C. Ministry of Education has set the minimum grade to pass a course at 50 percent. In subjects like Math this just isn’t good enough to ensure success in subsequent courses because mathematical concepts build upon one another year after year. A student who cannot add and subtract integers is likely to have difficulty solving a two-step algebraic equation.

So I have raised the bar. For students to advance through the course material they need to demonstrate an understanding of 70 percent or higher on their quizzes. I chose 70 percent as a mastery level because I felt it was an attainable goal. I didn’t want my students to settle for a low grade even if it had no effect on their over-all average.

When students achieve greater than 70 percent on their first attempt, they move on. If a student does not achieve mastery, the student and I determine where the misunderstanding took place. I usually give these students a small learning task to reinforce their new understanding and then let them attempt the quiz again. In my experience, 95 percent of students are able to demonstrate mastery – 70 percent or above – on their second attempt. The 70 percent mastery has ensured baseline knowledge for each of my students.

Mastery has changed how students learn in my class. Students now view quizzes as a learning tool, not as a summative assessment tool. Across all my classes this past year I have seen a three to five percent increase in test scores. The mastery learning that I have implemented helps students understand what they know and what they do not know. No longer am I putting a test on a student’s desk when both the student and I know he or she is going to fail. Mastery learning makes success the norm, rather than the exception. 

Prior to flipping my classroom, I gave students daily quizzes that were not returned until the following class. By that time, they were rarely concerned with anything other than the grade at the top and were busy focusing on the new content at hand. Those assessments were meant to be formative, but were only formative for me; the students were not learning from them. Now my students get nine out of 10 on a quiz and ask their peers what went wrong on that single question. 

MASTERY ASSESSMENT WITH MOODLE

Mastery learning would not have been possible without the combination of the Flipped Classroom and Moodle, a course management system that allows me to generate tests and provide unique multiple attempts at the click of a button. I have compiled a large repository of math questions, sorted by learning outcome and difficulty level, so I can ensure that students are getting assessments that are equally difficult, yet contain different questions.

Using Moodle has allowed me to further break down the walls of the classroom and give students more flexibility. They are able to access Moodle and complete their formative assessment quizzes wherever they have an Internet connection and receive immediate feedback. Students who have demonstrated mastery on their first attempt at a quiz will often retake it for extra practice before a summative assessment. I have logged on to Moodle some nights and seen half my students completing quizzes on their own time at home.

Before I flipped my classroom I gave my students traditional paper-and-pencil tests where they needed to show their calculations to demonstrate their understanding. Using Moodle, students answer numerical-response questions and multiple-choice questions. Initially, I was concerned that, without their detailed calculations, I wouldn’t to be able to see what students were really doing on their summative test, but within the first month my thought process completely changed. Since I now have more time than ever to work with my students, I am spending a significant amount of time observing their understanding of the curriculum, correcting them when they skip a step or misunderstand a procedure. This makes the feedback that I have traditionally put on their summative test less important.

Between the Flipped Classroom and Moodle, technology has changed the way I am using my time. I no longer spend hours marking tests; instead I use that time to come up with in-class learning activities that are more beneficial to my students’ learning.

COMMON QUESTIONS

The question I’m most frequently asked is, what do you do when a student doesn’t have a computer or Internet at home? In the last semester, I taught 120 students, and two of them did not have access to the necessary technology. This didn’t prove to be a significant issue. One student, who did not have Internet access, was given a USB drive with the lecture videos on it so he could watch at home. The other student, who did not have a computer, came to class 15 minutes early and completed his lessons then. I have not yet encountered a problem due to lack of technology that we have not been able to solve.

A second question I often get from teachers is, what do you do when a student doesn’t watch a video at home? In that case, I usually have the student watch the video in class while the other students are completing their daily learning tasks. These students normally realize, after a while, that their casual approach causes them to fall behind their classmates.

Lastly, many ask if the Flipped Classroom is going to replace teachers. In my opinion the Flipped Classroom makes the teacher more important than ever. I am now working with students in a more personal way, helping to facilitate their learning. I have to react to unknown problems, find alternative strategies to help students solve questions, and develop activities to get students to understand challenging concepts. I did all of these things in the traditional model of teaching, but only for a couple minutes per class. Now I spend my entire day doing them. 

CONCLUSION

The Flipped Classroom is much more than students watching videos; it is about the flexibility that the videos offer. As a teacher I have built a classroom that is more efficient; students are using their class time to learn, to practice, and to perfect. My classroom has shifted from a teacher-centred to a student-centred environment. The feedback I have received about the Flipped Classroom from students and parents has been overwhelmingly positive. They like the flexibility and personalization that it offers. It has changed the educational landscape for me because, for the first time in my career, I feel I am really teaching.

 


 

A Flipped Network Conference will be held at Okanagan Mission Secondary School June 21 and 22, 2013, in Kelowna, B.C. For more information, visit www.flipnetwork-canada.com or email graham.johnson@sd23.bc.ca

EN BREF – Adoptant l’approche de la classe inversée, l’enseignant transmet la matière en dehors des heures de cours en préparant des vidéos qui compriment la matière et en les téléchargeant dans un site Web tel que YouTube, où les élèves peuvent les visionner à la maison ou ailleurs. L’enseignant de mathématiques dont il est question ici peut alors consacrer le temps de classe à circuler parmi ses élèves, à les engager dans une discussion au sujet du contenu, à les interroger sur leur raisonnement et à écouter les idées qu’ils émettent au sujet des mathématiques. Les élèves assument la responsabilité d’établir leur propre rythme et de respecter les échéanciers établis par l’enseignant. 

Meet the Expert

Graham Johnson

Graham Johnson is a senior Math teacher at Okanagan Mission Secondary School in Kelowna, B.C. He is enrolled in a master’s program at the University of British Columbia Okanagan. His thesis is titled “Student Perceptions of the Flipped Classroom.”

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