3.1 Flipping?

by Sven Åke Bjørke July 2016

Pedagogical theories relevant for online learning

Flipping the classroom – or flipped learning – implies that emphasis is on student engagement and activity.  The traditional lecture is perceived as being of less importance, and if there is one, a taped version of it can be listened to at home. Transmission of information in the form of lectures or reading pages in a textbook belongs to the lower levels of understanding e.g. according to Bloom’s taxonomy. Learning processes requiring assessments, analyses, practical applications or implementations are at more complex, higher levels of understanding, and suitable for collaborative learning in class. Experiments, explorations, (guided) dialogues and creative, critical knowledge construction in a community of practice call for deeper understanding and practical competence. There are several arguments in favour of this approach:

Cognitive load theory

The theory claims that learners have a limited working or short term memory, but an unlimited long-term memory. The short term memory can only process a limited amount of information at the same time.  As a consequence, learners have a limited and selective attention span. If the learner gets many tasks to learn or is distracted by other items, the working memory becomes overloaded and learning stops. The cognitive load should be considered when planning a lesson to avoid overloading.

As a rule of thumb, the brain attention span for receiving information – or information processing – is limited to around 10 minutes.  Teaching should therefore be given in small chunks. Online video lectures should as a rule be of limited length. The long, traditional lecture is of less value in this context.

Most learners have a limited and selective attention span. When the learner works, she is selective, and can ignore other stimuli. However, it is still easy to be distracted by e.g. phone calls, e-mails, facebook updates and peers popping in for a chat. We can attend to only a limited number of stimuli at the same time – the attentional capacity. Instructional design should not overload the capacity of the working memory. A learner should complete one task before proceeding to the next. A good learning environment therefore requires at least some degree of individualisation. Learners and instructors must be aware of these limits and discuss how to handle them.

Self determination theory (SDT)

SDT studies human motivation and personality. Intrinsic and  extrinsic sources of motivation are in focus.  Social and cultural factors may facilitate or complicate a student’s sense of empowerment, initiative and ability to be proactive. STD studies how to support  a student’s experience of autonomy, competence and relatedness.   STD also studies the dynamics of motivation in development and wellness. The theory is that when the pedagogy is more individualised, the learner is empowered to choose between several trajectories of learning and thereby more motivated.

Peer instruction

According to the physics professor Eric Mazur, lecturing is often a waste of time. Students tend to store the information in their short term memory and forget it all when the exam is over. Mazur found that when he asked the students to form dyads – groups of two – and instructed them to explain the concept to be learned to each other, learning retention was much higher. Someone who had just learned the concept understands the conceptual difficulties  others might have. The expert teacher learned this a long time ago, and might not remember what he went through to achieve understanding.

Mazur proceeded to ask his students to read the material beforehand, and then gave them a multiple choice online quiz upon arrival in class.  The answers were stored on a computer or LMS. Then the students were asked to discuss the question with the neighbour. After some minutes, the students were asked to answer the same quiz. This entailed deeper learning and three times better understanding compared to just lecturing. Students who have to formulate their understanding in their own words, and explain or negotiate meaning with another learner, seem to learn more and achieve deeper understanding.

Flipping the class

Based on the experience of peer instruction, the process was developed into a theory of the flipped classroom.  Students are asked to view online video lectures at home. Problems that previously were done as homework, would be discussed in the class. Learners were consequently working on problem solving with others, thus applying higher level thinking skills rather than just passively listening to a lecture in class.

Typical for the flipped classroom are:

  • learners actively engage in the learning process
  • learners apply what they learned from watching the video lesson or read in a textbook
  • learners may review content by repeating the video lecture
  • learners receive personal assistance and attention needed to proceed to the next level of understanding
  • learners learn from each other
  • instructors guide in the learning process
“It is what the teacher get the students to do in the class that emerged as the strongest component of the accomplished teacher’s repertoire, rather than what the teacher, specifically, does” (Hattie, 2009, p.35) “It is not the knowledge or ideas, but the learner’s construction of knowledge and ideas that is critical”…So often learners become passive recipients of teachers’ lessons…but the aim is to make students active in the learning process – through actions by the teachers and others – until the students reach the stage where they become their own teachers” (Hattie, 2009, p.37)

“It is what the teacher get the students to do in the class that emerged as the strongest component of the accomplished teacher’s repertoire, rather than what the teacher, specifically, does” (Hattie, 2009, p.35) “It is not the knowledge or ideas, but the learner’s construction of knowledge and ideas that is critical”…So often learners become passive recipients of teachers’ lessons…but the aim is to make students active in the learning process – through actions by the teachers and others – until the students reach the stage where they become their own teachers” (Hattie, 2009, p.37)

Backwards design

A consequence of flipped learning for the students, is that the teacher must rethink how to plan the course. Rather than starting out with content and what the teacher wants to teach,  the teacher focuses on the intended learning outcomes (ILOs).  What are the learners expected to have learned and be able to do on completion of the lesson? Going from a teacher centered to a learner centered approach means that the lesson must focus on the outcomes and what the learners must do to achieve those outcomes.

Backwards design have three stages in the design process.

  1. Identify what the students are to learn and be able to perform on completion of the learning session
  2. Define the evidence that will show that the desired or intended  learning outcomes have been achieved
  3. Plan the lesson so that learners are able to produce the evidence showing that the intended learning outcomes have been achieved. Various learning activities leading to appropriate reification are usually needed

Next: Choosing approach

Flipping the classroom

 

Next: Choosing approach

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