Student Leadership

How Flipped Learning can change your classroom

Rabiah Mahmood

Over the past few years, the idea of ‘talk-less’ teaching has garnered much attention and we are encouraged to adopt it as standard classroom practice for many reasons; it reduces teacher talk, emphasises to students the importance of them working as hard (if not harder) than the teacher to facilitate their progress, increases student engagement and allows us to spend more time circulating the classroom and assessing the strengths and needs of our students.

To get to this point, lessons need to be planned in a way that allows students the opportunity to seek information for themselves, to use their prior knowledge to advance with the information they are provided with in lessons. This is where flipped learning comes in; if the information students need to know can be given to them before the lesson, this will allow us to spend more time with them in lesson on the application of theory, practical work and exam practice, as opposed to using that time to introduce key concepts to them. Using this approach has allowed me to spend the majority of my contact time with students doing exactly that – being in contact with them, communicating with them personally and individually, clarifying any confusions and misconceptions, explaining ideas on a 1-1 basis to personalise each student’s learning experience and build relationships to promote a positive learning environment.

So, how can you share with students the information they need to know outside of the lesson?

If the resources students use in lessons are accessible to them outside of school, for example, a textbook they can take home, buy themselves, or better still, access for free online, they can be encouraged to pre-read the upcoming lesson and make notes to prepare for the lesson content. To provide some structure, the task can be scaffolded by constructing comprehension style questions to ensure students are able to access the fundamental ideas within the information they are pre-reading. These do not need to be extensive; a few key questions can be enough. These can be uploaded on to Edmodo in advance of the lesson for students to complete in their own time, or shared with them however you would prefer in advance of the upcoming lessons.

Another way that students can be prepared for a new unit of work is by asking them to define key terms they will be expected to use and apply; again, a simple table with the key terminology can be constructed to ensure students are provided with some structure and this will become a glossary within their notes, which they can reference any time they need. They can also be asked to enhance the task creatively by drawing images to help them understand what the key terminology means or by using it in a sentence. To stretch students, they can be asked to apply what they understand by answering textbook questions, and to differentiate, a different version of the information can be provided to support students with the task, such as a website aimed at a lower key-stage or watching a video instead.

Using the flipped learning approach will allow more in-class lesson time to be dedicated towards ensuring students have a richer learning experience, will involve our students more directly in the process of teaching, learning and assessment, and it will, hopefully, change your experience as a classroom practitioner for the better, as it has mine.

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Collaboration, Group work, Literacy, Oracy

Five Ways to use Collaborative Learning in the Classroom

Nick Bentley-Lead Practitioner 

Follow him on Twitter: @MrBentleyTweets

“What the child can do in cooperation today, he can do alone tomorrow.”  Vygotsky (1986)

I remember the first time I used collaborative learning in my English classroom; during my PGCE year I separated my class into groups to create short role-plays to summarise the five acts of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It all seemed to be going swimmingly until the Act 5 group took to the stage, and inexplicably turned the joyful comedy of the wedding scene into a violent, gruesome bloodbath. I was rather worried about what my subject mentor would think when he spoke to me afterwards. Thankfully, he was pleased with the creativity and comedy that they were able to unpack in a rather different way within the lesson! It supported us to explore the genre of comedy in a fresh way, and I remain very pleased that it happened.

Although I am not entirely sure if this is the kind of learning he had in mind, if we put to one side his gendered use of language, Vygotsky (1986: 188) has outlined a really interesting point about the benefits of collaborative approaches to education. So, I would like to use this post to share five ways of using collaborative learning in the classroom which, though some teachers may be aware of, will hopefully be meaningful for others.

Process Drama

Despite the unexpected twist I experienced during the Midsummer lesson, drama can be a valuable way of encouraging learners to collaborate. Whilst many drama practitioners advocate teaching the subject by focusing on the creation of polished pieces of theatre, Bolton (1986: 22) has instead outlined how drama can be used as a learning medium emphasising “interaction with the objective world at a feeling/thinking level,” naming it ‘Process Drama’. Process Drama allows students to work in groups to explore topics from across the curriculum through drama. Examples of this might include learners creating still images to represent key words and tricky concepts, role-play to act as scientists, mathematicians or journalists and performances to explore poetry, foreign language material and historical texts.

Structured Conversations

Radhakrishna and Ewing (2015:85) have suggested that think-pair-share conversations might “keep students prepared [and] to get more involved in class discussion and participation.” A helpful way of facilitating this increased participation can be structured conversations, which ensure that all students within a class care able to share their points of view, or approaches to completing a task, without one dominating.  It can involve sentence starters, time-limited conversations, or even a “speed dating” approach; ensuring that the interactions learners have with each other are clearly structured, can be a wonderful way to improve the quality of their conversations.

Roles and Responsibilities

A common concern with group work is that students might be passive in their learning, and allow others to do all of the work without making any contributions. Allocating roles and responsibilities to each student within a group can be a helpful way of avoiding this potential pitfall of cooperation in classrooms. Roles and responsibilities can have all kinds of different names – directors, leaders, champions, or even mini-madams to name but a few – but it really can support effective differentiation in the classroom, by ensuring that the learners are each given areas of focus which meet their particular capabilities, interests and needs.

New Groups

In line with Vygotsky’s theory of a Zone of Proximal Development, wherein effective cooperation can mean learners are stretched to reach new understandings, Wells (2000: 58) argues that “dialogue [serves as] a form of collaborative meaning-making in which both individual and collective understandings are enhanced.” So, swapping groups during the lesson can be a helpful way of students sharing and presenting different levels of challenging information to their peers, alternating between differentiated and mixed attainment groups, and developing learners’ social and communication skills across the lesson.

 Carousel

Helpful for developing a positive buzz or atmosphere around the classroom, offering learners the opportunity to participate in a carousel is a fun way to embed collaborative learning. Students work in groups to complete a task at different stations in the room, before swapping to another station, rotating around the whole classroom until all students have worked on all activities. I like to play carousel music to signal to the students that it is time to move around the room, although I appreciate that not everyone would enjoy this approach!

These various forms of collaborative learning can facilitate effective differentiation, social learning and improved communication skills. As Vygotsky suggests, however, an integral point is that by working together, they can stretch their skills into new areas of achievement. Undeterred by my students’ rewriting of Midsummer as a grisly tragedy, I have thoroughly enjoyed embedding collaborative learning in my lessons. Whilst I am sure that many will be familiar with some of the approaches I have described, I hope that some of these strategies can be helpful, interesting and enjoyable for practitioners helping their students learn new skills and synthesise new knowledge.

 

Bibliography

Bolton, G. (1986). Selected Writings on drama in education.  Essex: Longman Group Limited

Radhakrishna, R. and Ewing, J. (2012) “TPS (Think Pair Share) as an Active Learning Strategy”. NACTA Journal 

Vygotsky, L. (1986). Thought and Language. London: The Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Wells, G. (2000). Dialogic inquiry in Education: building on the legacy of Vygotsky. In C.D. Lee and P. Smagorinsky (eds) Vygotskian perspectives on literacy research. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press