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.