The Potential of the Flipped Classroom: Post Number 3

A Collaborative Action Research Project
Dave Scott & Jason Publack Grade 9 Humanities

As outlined in our last post found here, we have been looking at the potential of the flipped classroom within the context of a grade 9 Humanities class. In case you haven’t encountered this model of learning, within the flipped classroom students watch classroom instruction for homework as part of a video or ‘vodcast’. Class time is then spent on inquiry-based learning where students apply what they learned at home and are also given the chance to ask questions and receive feedback.

Whereas last time we had students watch a series of videos on how to write a business letter, this time Mr. Publack’s videos focused on how to write an essay. Here is an example of one of the videos:

After having students watch a series of three videos on how to write an essay, they then set out to write a position paper around the following question:

Of the following three economic systems: state run, mixed, and market, which one best serves the greatest number of citizens in Canada? 

In trying to evaluate the effectiveness of these videos we had students complete a short anonymous survey. Additionally, we asked three students to take part in a focus group interview. Here are the results of our research.

Survey results:

As can be seen in the first response, many students found that it would be necessary to attach an assignment to the video in order to ensure everyone watched the videos. This is one of the areas we struggled with in regards to the flipped classroom. Often the keenest students were most likely to watch the video; however, students that may be struggling or are less likely to do homework were the least likely to watch the videos. Thus, a question that emerges from the student’s responses concerns the type of assignments that would be most effective to include with a video. What might this assignment look like and how can we ensure it doesn’t become a fill-in-the-blank worksheet that fosters a kind of learning antithetical to our philosophy of inquiry at Calgary Science School.

As can be seen from the second survey responses, not all students felt this was a very useful way of learning. In this regard, a full 40% felt that it was not useful. However, 39% found it somewhat useful. The low score as to its usefulness opens up some important questions regarding the nature of the flipped classroom and our own approach in taking up this model of learning in our classes. Responses from the longer answer questions provide insights into both the strengths and weaknesses of this approach. Here are some key insights from the students as to the effectiveness of this approach.

Why or why not do you find this a useful model for learning? 
Responses reflecting limitations of this approach:

Well I’m not going to watch the videos to learn something if your going to teach it to me the next day. If you record yourself teaching in the classroom, I might go back to hear something again, but I’m not going to watch anything prior to a lesson.

I think we should learn things at school – then apply the homework at home. 

I think learning from the teacher is much more beneficial than watching a video at home and I think that a lot of students would become distracted and not actually watch the videos.

I prefer to learn with the teacher in front of me so I can ask questions, and interact more with what is going on around me. Many people also do not watch the videos, and it seems like a lot of work for the teachers to go to if not everyone is watching the videos.

Responses reflecting the strengths of this approach:

That would be very useful because it would give us more independence.

I feel that this is useful because every student at CSS has a laptop and could watch the video and then go work with what they learned. 

I like learning by doing and I think this was well done. 

Responses showing both strengths and weaknesses:

Because no matter what you’re always going to have students that won’t watch it, but I suppose if you are short on time it, might work. 

It may be beneficial as there are less distractions, but it will make it difficult for students to acquire help if needed. 

I feel that we are a very technology based school, which is why using teacher videos are very effected because we as a generation respond well to that. But I feel that not everyone will take the time to watch the video or assignment. Also assignments such as videos sadly can easily be abused.

Focus Group Interview: 
Many of these comments were reflected in the focus group interview. Here are some key ideas that emerged in that discussion.

Mr. P talked just like he did in class and he was enthusiastic and it was entertaining then again I couldn’t ask questions or I couldn’t add my own comments. 

It was good to go back on and go over some of the things you hadn’t seen before. And pick some stuff up. 

It’s kind of like different because you can connect to him when he’s in the room, but you can’t do that through a computer screen. 

It’s a lot harder to be distracted in the classroom when he’s talking to you rather than to a camera. 

Not everyone watched the videos so it might not be the best model for every student. 

Suggestions: 

I would find more benefit if he videotaped himself teaching in the class and then I could go back and watch it. Then we could go back and look onto to it and see what he seemed what he said. 

 Maybe not really for learning, but I prefer the idea of actually using an educational environment to really learn and apply ideas instead of just being introduced to them. We see new concepts every day. Why should we go to school to learn something we can view from home? In the flipped classroom, the school becomes a safe experimental environment. 

This could be a resource to use if you need help. This was be good especially before the PAT writing exam. But I don’t think these kinds of videos should be mandatory. School is for learning and we already spend like seven hours there so to have to go home and do even more work is a bit much. 

The insights from the students give us much to think about as we move forward with integrating the flipped classroom in a Humanities class. I particularly appreciate the suggestions by our students.

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