Flipping the classroom

Last week the LRS team plus guests attended a workshop on “The Flipped Classroom”, led by Lynne and Alyson from Learning and Teaching Enhancement. In true ‘flipped classroom’ style, we had to do some work outside of the classroom before the workshop itself – most of which was  watching videos, one of which I will share here (sorry I don’t have links for the others – they’re on BlackBoard). This one was particularly useful for me as I had no idea what flipping the classroom entailed – it actually wasn’t as radical as I had expected! Also, there are penguins (and a walrus):

After I’d watched the first video I had a few questions/statements written down:

  • Learning styles? The other week I attended a presentation during which it was said (by the presenter) that the whole idea of learning styles was being questioned…Anyway…
  • What if the students don’t read/watch the materials in advance of the class?
  • What is students don’t have access to the internet outside of the university environment?
  • I don’t want to participate or be active.
  • I don’t like group or collaborative work.

A few of my questions/concerns had been allayed by the time I’d finished watching the other videos and reading the materials on BlackBoard – I particularly liked the ‘scrambled classroom’ idea; a combination of flipped elements and short ‘lectures’.

In the workshop, we started off by doing a pop quiz about the materials we were supposed to have looked at, using the Socrative app, a free online voting system which we had all downloaded. This was quite a fun way to do things and of course also a good way of testing whether or not we had all prepared for the workshop!

Lynne and Alyson both gave a good overview of what flipping the classroom can mean in practice, and talked about the advantages and disadvantages of teaching in this way. The advantages are:

  • Students can learn at their own pace
  • Students with learning disabilities can revisit the materials
  • Devoting class time to the application of concepts may give instructors a better opportunity to detect errors in students’ thinking and spend time with individual students
  • Students can work collaboratively
  • Technological innovation allows distribution of resources (avoids, e.g. not enough copies of books)

Disadvantages/concerns are:

  • There is a limited amount of scholarly research on the effectiveness of the flipped classroom method
  • It requires careful preparation and time
  • Students need access to technology outside university
  • Will students engage with the flipped classroom method?
  • Putting more content into the curriculum means more work for tutors
  • Does it work for all students?
  • The flipped classroom method has had poor evaluation from students

In the second half of the workshop we looked at how we could use the flipped classroom method in our own teaching. I found the idea of doing this quite challenging because I mainly teach researchers and academic staff and I was worried they would find it patronising, and wouldn’t want to engage with the pre-class activities because they wouldn’t have time (or would say they didn’t have time). It’s often difficult enough to get academic staff to turn up to a booked session, never mind asking them to do work for it ahead of time as well. But perhaps I’m doing them a disservice…

Anyway, we got into two groups and each group made a plan of how they would carry out a flipped classroom session. This was our plan for a session teaching academic staff about our institutional repository:


As you can see, we talked about the division between the flipped part (tasks to do outside the classroom before the session) and the ‘teaching’ (face to face classroom-based stuff). I think, for academic staff, it’s important not to give people too much to do outside the classroom because they probably won’t do it and it may put some them off attending the session altogether. Also, the

so what?

is really important. No one wants to go to something or do something they feel will be waste of time, so  we need to make sure that students (and staff) know the benefits of taking part for them, personally as well as generally.


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