Reverse Learning

What my student think about the flipped classroom


My class making balloon kebabs

My year 12 IB Physics class is first approaching the completion of a full year of my flipped classroom and I wanted to know what they felt about the experience.  So in an attempt to respect their privacy and empower honesty I created a student questionnaire which they could complete at their own discretion.

From the top it is really rewarding to a 100% emphatic yes to both enjoyment of the flipped classroom method and also that they would like to continue with this method next year.  This obviously makes me very happy but it is the finer details which my students shared which I hope others will consider.

The students felt that the flipped classroom method was less stressful as they could review without feeling like a hindrance and do this in a time suitable to them.  They did however note that getting this right took a little bit of time but now they have a routine and will sometimes do an additional viewing just before the lesson to be better prepared.  That preparation is something that they even admit to transferring to other classes by watching related videos.

At the beginning of the year I was using videos which were available online and felt this was an acceptable starting point before I moved onto producing my own clips.  Now the majority of my class specifically mentioned that content produced by me was much better as they felt it was additional teacher contact time and I used the exact language which they needed to know.  That exact language point is crucial as it highlights my use of specific IB Physics words and symbols which they pick out as being vital for exam success.

I also asked questions about phases of a typical class.  They felt positively about starting activities reviewing required knowledge, the opportunity to question their own misconceptions, time to develop and practice skills.  Within this there was also a clear feeling in the class that they would happily reduce practical lab time.  Now my hands are tied here due to requirements of the IB Physics course but it does make me think that I need to revisit lab work with respect to better integrating a learning aspect.

Another element of my own flipped classroom is the requirement to independently complete related online mastery questions. I use the excellent Minds on Physics tool by allocating specific units and getting the pupils to record their own progress.  The students felt the process reduced stress but not requiring work to be handed into a teacher and also by getting immediate feedback.  It should be noted that the recently increased game aspect of this tool has seemingly gone down very well with my class (I make this statement based on the impassioned wailing I hear in the corridor when they only have a little bit of life left and they come across a difficult question).

So the key points I want to make about the flipped classroom that I have learnt from my wonderful class:

  • Students do learn how to manage themselves to make this method effective
  • Making your own video’s really matters with respect to teacher contact and correct syllabus language/ style
  • The right online question bank is a great tool for student learning (plus reduces stress on all)

And finally …my year 12 IB Physics flipped classroom really works and so could anyone else’s.

Flipped classroom and a changing perception


Some rights reserved by Genna G

Thinking about perception – I am now approaching the end of my first flipped academic year.  I have personally found that this has allowed me to refine the content to exactly what the student’s need, so cover more content whilst having more class time for improved learning strategies and developing deeper understanding which has resulted in all round better grades. Yet I also know that this is just my perception and that I do not have enough data to realistically make statements about better achievement.  Recognizing this, I decided to search for some harder data and distributed questionnaires to those teachers exposed in some way to my flipped class experience (department members, line managers and other interested parties.



For my teacher questionnaire I was really interested in how perception was changed through observing my experience.  I asked this sample to remember their opinions at the start of the year and to identify changes.

At the start of the year the sample showed overall neutral to positive attitude towards what they perceived to be the flipped classroom.  Highlighting benefits such as:

  • Better position to respond to student needs/ Differentiation easier to manage
  • Encouraging use of prior knowledge to expand on in class
  • More time to take on challenging concepts

However, the sample also had a number of concerns:

  • Overreliance on dumping content onto homework time
  • Lack of student motivation/ students not completing tasks

Now a year later the sample has shifted to an even more positive attitude towards what they perceive to be the flipped classroom.  They have also identified the following recognizes additional benefits of the flipped classroom:

  • Challenges teachers to stop lecturing
  • Frees up time to do real learning/ Greater onus on learning
  • Opportunity for deeper understanding

However, new issues have also been highlighted:

  • Students need more education about this teaching style
  • Parents need to be educated

I also asked about where they felt the flipped classroom could be utilized and they indicated with older students in math, science and, surprisingly for me, languages.


So this is interesting and shows a positive change in perception about the flipped classroom.  The problem is this is all about perception and not about what is actually happening and for that I have to ask my students and that will be in my next blog post…

Trails and tribulations of the flipped classroom


The reflection upon where I have got to with my own flipped classroom seems a sensible culmination of my coetail experience.  From my first introducing the idea to my year 12 Physics class the IT integration has developed.  I am now producing more and more considered vodcasts which reflect my own improved understanding of the tools and the student requirements.  Furthermore the increased teaching time has meant the continued integration of further IT tools into the teaching and learning process.  As my students have now got used to the flipped classroom techniques they are in a position to honestly reflect on their experiences to provide a data driven element to the discussion.

Improving my vodcasts?



Science teacher goes wrong

For those that follow my blog over this past academic year I have been flipping my IB diploma Physics class.  In a previous blog (I Launch myself onto You tube) I shared my initial vodcasts and the related reflection.  So now a few months further down the line I am returning to further reflect on the vodcasts that I produce.  I have happily continued to use the Camtasia software for recording and editing as I find it easy to use and crucially upload with.

The first improvement was quite straight forward.  MOVEMBER was over so I could thankfully remove that ridiculous moustache.  This took an even greater importance when I recognised the unnerving similarities between myself and the lead character of the excellent series Breaking Bad which unfortunately depicts a science teacher loosing their way.


The second issue I highlighted was my own hand writing.  For this I did what I often do in the classroom used type text in some for of presentation software such as PowerPoint.  I had been looking at other vodcasts on the net and was aware that some students had commented negatively about vodcasts which spent an excessive amount of time watching the presenter write things out.  Yet had also seen examples where the teachers then rushed through content. With this in mind here is one the vodcasts I produced using these tools considering practical methods to deduce a specific heat capacity.


I selected this vodcast as it highlights two reflections of my own.  Firstly I recognise that at the end as I am going through some calculation examples my explanation kind of tails off.  I really should add some statements like “now consider this question….. and now pause and do you own calculations before the answer appears”.  Secondly my discussion about practical Physics is not very practical – it is a PowerPoint and a floating head.  To capture this aspect I will need to more carefully consider where I set up my webcam or bring someone else into support my filming.  An example of the integration of techniques I am therefore considering is shown here with a vodcast by noted practitioners of the flipped classroom technique Aaron Sams and Jonathan Bergmanns who are discussing a similar topic.


With respect to my own class progression my first semester has been completed and the average class results are higher then in previous years as are those of the best students but this is a small and talented cohort some I don’t want to over analyse those facts.  For now my flipped classroom journey goes on.

I launch myself onto Youtube


Having spent some time setting up the structure of my reverse learning classroom I have now truly flipped it by making my own knowledge front loading videos.  The final push was that I could not find anything on the web that was just right for my class to cover the concepts of power and efficiency.

I used camtasia recorder to simultaneously capture my screen (writing onto a Smart Note) and my webcam (so adding my face to the proceedings).  It took me a little time to get the section of the screen I wanted to capture correct and I also had to place a pile of books behind my screen to keep it still whilst I was recording.  Yet these were minor teething issues.

For the structure of the vodcast I wanted to keep it short and too the point with; key formula, discussion and then example (s).  I mapped out what I wanted to point out on paper and placed the discussion point and example question at the top of different SmartNote pages.  Structured so I could go over all in one take requiring no time consuming editing – which I managed.

Camtasia recorder automatically transferred the recorded content into a camtasia editing suite in which I added a title screen and then uploaded directly onto my youtube channel. This was incredibly easy!

So here is my first video discussing power:


Here is my second video discussing efficiency:


I look back on them and already have some issues.

1) My handwriting is not great and this is accentuated by writing onto the tablet screen.

2) Why did my first video have to be at the end of MOVEMBER.  I have been developing the kind of moustache which should not be seen around young children.

3) It should be displacement not distance in my deconstruction of the power formula.

Yet although I have those minor concerns I am really pleased because with the outcome because of the relative ease and the short time they can be produced in.  These are the features which I need to convince me to keep on producing these vodcasts.  Plus I know next time I teach this content I will do it again and it will be better (just like all teaching should be).

Flipping the students or just losing them



The independent learning element of the flipped classroom and the formative assessment element of mastery are features which may cause alarm in certain cultures (this word can, and should, be interpreted in many ways here).  So when some of my students started showing interest in moving to another science option I was not completely surprised by these thoughts.  I immediately asked for a meeting with my own admin team (whom I am quite sure also wanted to speak to me about this issue).   I admit that I did have an unjustified niggling fear that at the culmination of this meeting I would be asked to go back to the old ways.  Yet I also recognise that my school has always been supportive of innovative educational processes as long as it is well considered and has the best outcome for the students at the core.  As people who have read this blog previously I hope it has been made clear that I really do believe in the pedagogical benefits of the flipped classroom.  As it turns out my admin were determined to find out about what was actually going on in my classroom and having clarified carefully considered steps towards finding a solution which would help move everyone forward.


This whole process has made me reflect on the process from both my own perspective and that of my students which I hope will be beneficial to all.  However the underlying message of this post is that we should always take the opportunity to pay thanks to those people who support good education practice even if it is not the norm.  Thank you my admin team.


Now I need to go back in time a few days to the moment I received an e-mail from admin informing me that 3 members of my standard level physics class are considering switching to biology.  A panic set in and I started to reflect on my own notes from the class


1) I got my first clear feedback about a video I had set for viewing, the feedback was a student found the accent difficult to use.  This is a good sign indicating involvement in the process and will stimulate the production of my first own video (more about this in the future)


2) One student has not completed any of the mastery questions and several seem to have got stuck on the basic speed and acceleration questions.  I really need to make it clear that there is not a requirement to complete these tasks sequentially and in reality they have two years to reach mastery in all areas.  I will contact those students and recommend attending my after-school support session on Thursday’s.


3) Students had shown concerns about finding time to complete internal assessment (IA) work.  I need to help students appreciate that IA runs parallel to the course and students can manage their own time to complete tasks but must remember that doing it promptly keeps it fresh in their minds.


The students in question arranged to visit the biology class for a lesson and the teacher very supportively made an effort to interview the students who were considering moving classes to get to the route of their motivation.  The key points made were:


1) They like physics but are concerned about the future demands of the course


2) They are unsure as to how the increased pressure from other classes would impact the requirements of the flipped classroom (e.g. future time management issues)


He also noted that Biology and Physics are very different sciences with knowledge retention at the heart of Biology and problem solving at the heart of Physics.




Before meeting with my admin team, I further analysed the situation and felt some further issues were at play:


1)    Students are not used to the expectations of independent learning


2)    The acceptance of failure in achieving mastery is a new experience for many


3)    The initial topic of mechanics does not initially contain that much new content so students will not be able to fully appreciate the learning benefits of this process




The outcome: An open discussion facilitated by admin took place in my class to help both sides better understand their own learning needs. From this I will now be better supporting my students by:


1) Creating a required learning checklist, which I will create from the course syllabus, to support each stage of independent learning


2) End each lesson with further instructions on what is required from the next stage of independent learning


3) Start each lesson with a few minutes discussing any issues which arose from the independent learning to help recreate the group element of learning which some felt they missed.


So I will put these ideas into practice and will keep you all informed about my own trails and tribulations with the flipped classroom.

Flipping the students


Who does not want an easy life, the path of least resistance.  Passive lecture style lessons provides that opportunity.  A flipped classroom situation demands student involvement to succeed.  Yet to actually succeed in a lecture style requires student involvement as well.  The flipped classroom is designed to be more student centered and for (potentially many) different learning paths to be found that reflect the learning styles of those students.

These are the internal arguments that I have been having and I recognise that the success of a truly student centered classroom lies with the motivation of the students.  So this has to be a key consideration.  I am in a good place though, I know most of the class from previous teaching experience and the ones I have not taught before are new to the school.  So I open with absolute honesty and in my first lesson I explain the concepts of the flipped classroom.  I even show them the Sal Khan video “How video can reinvent education“.  To get the class reflecting on their own preferred learning styles I use the great “How do you learn?” website.

The first actual Physics concept which my standard level Physics class is uncertainty.  A topic which undoubtedly resonates with my own worries.  I have identified a number of choice tools to consolidate their understanding and simultaneously experience the essence of the flipped classroom.  Whilst in class it is all hands on where we consolidate with an activity calculating density.  This works my one note to self is that I have to be really careful about the use of consistent terminology in videos.

As we move forward I introduce my expectation that there is a need for evidence that you have indeed attended the flipped class outside of mine.  I ask to see notes relating to the key points which have been covered.  I explain that my intention is to promote the transfer of knowledge to consolidate understanding and this is also the evidence which will inform my own mark book.  The need for them to enter my classroom prepared to face questioning and discussion of misconceptions  on what they should have covered outside the classroom.

The next couple of lessons seem to go well – all of the class having reviewed the content – although in reality much of this is a review of knowledge covered previously.  Then comes two lessons one day after the next and about 30 seconds into my starting knowledge review questions and it is clear that most of the class have not been able to manage their time effectively enough to be ready for this lesson.  For those that have I set up a table and support them through some consolidation questions.  For those that have not done anything I have a quick word and then shift their lesson task to a practical which was already in place – this is the joy of many paths, there is always something constructive to do.



Flipping the parents


I am happy with the internal mechanics of a flipped classroom and as I have discussed elsewhere I am working on helping the students recognise that this is a powerful tool for their education.  My second greatest fear is a parental backlash.  So I decided to go on the offensive and take the concept to the parents.

The parents (specific to class)

I wanted to the parents of my standard level Physics class to be well informed about the different teaching and learning strategy being utilised in my classroom.  Furthermore, I wanted them to appreciate that this method has their sons or daughters at the heart but that this also requires for them to take on this responsibility.  I also felt by opening up the mastery records page on the school portal it provides a useful insight for parents with respect to their child’s progression (and having a mother/father be able to monitor and push/ motivate my students to get stuff done is no bad thing either).  With this in mind I sent the following letter to the relevant parents.

Flipped Classroom Introduction

As it happens I have yet to have any responses.  I am not sure if this indicates that I was successfully clear and informative or that the parents are just not that worried.  Either way I felt it was the right start to any further conversations I might have to have with certain parents.

Parents (in general)

At my request “Learning styles and the flipped classroom” was added to the back to school night presentation night.  Now I recognise that this is not the most rock n’ roll of session titles – not including words such as exceptional learner or advice on how to handle a teenager.  With this in mind I expected at most 4 or 5 people to each of my two sessions.  As it turns out I had 16+ people in both sessions (more than the exceptional learner sessions which I expected to be a sell out but not as much as “mathematics in the context of NIST” which turned out to be a surprise draw.

You can take a look at the related prezi – Learning styles and the flipped classroom (if you are that kind of learner) but as I have not added a live audio soundtrack I will try and explain the different phases of the presentation.

Phase 1 – Introduction and self reflection

Having introduced myself I started the session by asking participants to identify their own preferred learning style from visual, auditory and kinaesthetic and to sit at an allocated table.  I commented that it was interesting how everyone had aligned themselves into the allocated boxes in such a quiet orderly fashion.  Maybe it was that as adults they are now really aware of what is their preferred learning style or maybe the situation did not provide an opportunity for discussion.  However, I felt that no one here had completely done themselves justice by sitting in a box and that in reality a map of the learning styles which best work for each individual would actually be a constantly evolving (dependent on a number of external factors) 3D shape.

Phase 2 – Our students are wise

I explained that I had recently asked a similar question to my year 11 science class who were about to start a teaching to learn unit on waves and that the response was fascinating.  I was able to sit back and am taken back at the various nuances they discuss.  Our students are aware of how best they learn and one of the key reasons for this is that the MYP has approaches to learning at its heart.  Which in turn prepares our students for the increased demands of the IB Diploma.

Phase 3 – How you and I learnt maybe did not perfectly work for us

Considering the preferred learning styles we have each identified how did they suite an academic lecture situation?

Phase 4 – There is a new way

To emphasize the fact that, through the internet, we have now have access to great educational resources I show the Sal Khan TED Talk, “Let’s use video to reinvent education”, which both explains the ideas of the flipped classroom and the ideas of mastery.

Phase 5 – My classroom

I explain how I have set up my own classroom – a typical classroom with students interacting (and with me focused on student support) but with an additional set of resources available through the class portal site designed to help all the learners present.  

Phase 6 – Mastery

Mastery will be displayed in my own class using the excellent Mind on Physics resource and is designed to help students identify where they need greater support from me and keep track of their own progression within the class itself.

Phase 7 – Know your child and help them know themselves

Talk to your child about their learning styles and what they study at school.  If they can do this then it is a great start.  If not then they may need your help on this journey.


Again the feedback from parents was positive but in a way that appeared they were more pleased to be let inside how different types of teaching and learning are taking place.

I think that both of the steps – the introductory letter and the back to school night presentation – have helped keep the parental community informed.  I think it is surprises which people respond badly to, so with that in mind I am happy that I have taken the chance to plant some seeds.










Reverse Learning – My adventure begins


Next academic year I will be teaching a year 12 standard level IB Physics course.  As advised by Mr. Bennet in his excellent informative presentations I am starting with one class and building from there.  With this class I hope to really integrate the concepts of a flipped classroom and where I really feel it will be most beneficial for the following reasons:

1) The requirement of the course itself and the impact the achieved levels have on future university acceptance provides a fairly big motivational stick.

2) I believe that increasing the amount of one-to-one teacher time with these students will result in the greatest improvement of achievement (as standard level students they are often not the next Physics university majors but they have a level of interest and the additional support will be important)

3) I can see the opportunity to self pace their learning will provide a great benefit to these students.

4) The course itself already has a clear structure with explicit learning objectives which I can use as the scaffolding for the course.


Some issues that I am aware of and am starting to think about solutions (comments relating to these will be warmly welcomed) but have not yet put anything in place:

Misconceptions – I know that it is crucially important to challenge misconceptions (and I am mentally flagging this point) but feel this can provide fun content for class time.

Monitoring – It is not going to be as simple as providing a % mark for the homework problems and a little general feedback.  This means that I will not have such a clear paper trail but I hope it means my greater involvement means that I am able to use my interaction to effectively monitor.  Plus at the end of each unit I will still set a test to cover that content.

Different types of learner – Videos are not going to suit everyone so also identifying parallel sources (textbook, websites…) is something I am looking to do.

Video production – I don’t feel that I need to produce every video.  I think the present online resources are great start (Khan AcademyBrightstorm/  However, I have signed up to a vodcasting social network and have downloaded Jing (although have not really done anything but get annoyed by the yellow blob over my Google Chrome tabs)

Developing a positive learning environment – I recognise that I need this to be a really trusting learning environment and hope that some peer teaching/ learning will help with this.

Learning Blog – I hope to use this to get students to show synthesis of understanding (but would this lack the community feedback which helps a blog blossom?

Critical thinking – I want it in my classroom

Practical opportunities – Identifying both practical tasks which promote understanding of concepts and those which fit the requirements for the internal assessment aspect of the course.



Reverse Learning – My Introduction


Salman Khan: Let’s use video to reinvent education



It all started with the video above were Salman Khan advocates using video to help re-invent the classroom.  Ivan Beeckman’s blog provided the background to the concepts of reverse learning.  I was sent a link to another educational video resource point called brightstorm by a colleague.  This all leads to me start following the comments made which led to a range of further viewpoints:


  1. Dereck Muller, Physics educator and science blogger, suggested one of the most important features that should not be overlooked is overcoming a students already present misconceptions.
  2. The Action-Reaction blog thought the Khan Acadamy is an indictment of education.
  3. Cybraryman advocates flipped classrooms
  4. Mr. Bennet discusses how a flipped classroom work for him

The title of this posting indicates that I think some of the ideas of reverse learning could be successfully integrated into my own teaching.  I hope this blog can help people follow my own reverse learning adventure.

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