Flipping brilliant!

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I am currently writing this blog whilst attending the 12th International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning conference (ISSOTL) in Melbourne, Australia, thanks to generous funding from the Higher Education Academy (HEA) to present a paper on Abertay’s current academic reforms. There have been a number of very interesting papers so far, providing plenty of food for thought but I want to focus this short post on the notion of the “flipped classroom”. Let me begin with an ancient Chinese proverb:

“Tell me and I will forget. 

Show me and I might remember.

Involve me and I will understand.”

I attended a really interesting workshop yesterday led by colleagues from the University of Adelaide on the Flipped Classroom, the key points of which are summarised in the slide image below. Essentially, the idea behind the approach is to promote deeper student understanding and engagement by maximising the value of student-staff contact time on collaborative, interactive interventions and provide pre-sessional learning materials such as recorded lectures to enable students to adequately prepare before class. At Abertay, there is increased interest in the use of technology to support delivery and student learning and some colleagues are trialling flipped classroom-types approaches in their teaching. This includes the use of lectures, short videos, open resources and online discussion forums pre-session then getting students to interact with each other and the lecturer through collaborative, action-based activities during contact time. Some take home messages for me from the session were as follows:

  1. Begin modestly. Better to go for a starter before going for a banquet!
  2. Be strategic. Some content and concepts lend themselves more naturally to a flipped approach than others. Flipped sessions are particularly well suited to areas which the students find difficult to understand through conventional teaching. It would be rare for a whole module to take a flipped approach, it is better to use for specific sessions.
  3. Learning spaces are important. The traditional lecture theatre is not the best environment but it is not impossible to adopt flipped approaches to such settings. There are examples of flipped classroom working in situations with hundreds of students in a room. Numbers of 15-30 are probably best, however, with the room set out in tables to enable group work/ discussion.
  4. Flipped approaches require a mind shift for academic staff. To act much more as a facilitator of student learning than as deliverer of content.
  5. Work with a colleague. It is much better to work with others, bounce ideas, share practice and challenges rather than try and go it alone.
  6. Just do it. Getting involved and giving it a go is the best way for staff to understand the concept and trial the techniques above.

This last point is very important and something which I and the rest of the TLE will reflect on going forward. we have run sessions on the Flipped Classroom before but, ironically, they have been done using more traditional teaching methods i.e. talks and discussion. I would like to take things to the next level and use a flipped classroom approach for more of our TLE activities including perhaps a future TLE seminar to give staff practical first hand experience of flipped teaching and hopefully, a deeper understanding of the subject in hand.

if you are interested in finding out more or have ideas for flipped classroom staff development sessions, please do get in touch. There is also a useful online HEA flipped classroom toolkit

Happy flipping,

Alastair Robertson, Director of TLE

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