Flipping wonderful, or too good to be true?

Flipping – a way to develop student deeper learning and engagement as well as higher quality work or too good to be true?

Speakers and the Art of Flipping workshop showed flipping can be a useful tool to support the development of deep rather than surface learning. This brief look at the workshop organised under a Teaching Innovation Award by Dr. Mark Jepson (Materials), Dr. Simon Hogg (Materials) and Dr. Nicola Jennings (Chemistry) looks at what flipping is, and how it could work for you and more importantly for your students.

What is flipping?

Flipping is part of a process which moves from didactic knowledge transmission in large lectures to use contact time for the lecturer to bring his/her knowledge to bear on those concepts or specifics that students have identified as problematic. Students pre-engage with the transmission of knowledge before the lecture, either by reading, and/or listening to a podcast or video of material. They take ownership of the content by identifying what they find clear and what they do not.

Some academics may already be taking just this approach. However, for those who want to explore the idea the workshop was a great introduction.

Dr. David Dye, Reader in Metallurgy at Imperial College, records 15-minute single-concept videos in his office with a white board (and all-important board rubber). He posts them online and then asks students to complete a short online quiz/test after viewing. The last question asks what they want further explained. He then addresses those areas in the lecture, getting students to peer instruct each other, explaining their own understanding. As they discuss Dye moves round the room, identifying areas of confusion and explanations given before delivering his summation. In this way each student is directly, actively involved in their learning.

Before engaging with flipping and PI (Peer Instruction) he explains to his students why he uses this approach and how the technique develops deeper learning. Lecture notes are released on a blog  and videos via his YouTube channel Several academics use these as  Open Educational Resources for their own flipped sessions.

Dye says his Monday 9am lectures have seen better attendance, higher engagement, deeper student understanding as well as achieving greater personal satisfaction with and institutional recognition for his teaching.

Dr. David Nutt from Reading uses a similar 15-minute lecture recording followed by a quiz with a final question: ‘After this lecture and test one (or more) concept(s) I’m finding difficult (am confused about) are…’ He feels students need as much training on how to meaningfully watch a video as they do in how to make lecture notes. Second year students expressed greater appreciation of the approach to final years which he attributes in part to expectations.

In Birmingham Dr. Jeremy Pritchard engaged flipping with students developing seen exam assessment questions. His experience, together with those outlined by Professor Simon Lancaster (UEA) and Dr. Marcus Collins (PHIR) gave an overview of advantages as well as potential pitfalls.

 Keys to successful flipping:

  • Timing is important – start with first or second years.
  • Set expectations at the start with a session explaining how you use it and why.
  • Use formative assessments which can be marked by the VLE
  • Select the right discussion questions for contact time. [Dye bases his on reflection on concepts at issue, responses in the online review, exam answers from previous years and previous years’ students.]
  • During PI sessions, walk around lecture theatre, ask and listen

Professor Simon Lancaster a chemist from UEA is clear about when to flip. “If your students are doing spectacularly well then you don’t need to flip. It is not a recipe but a single idea. By taking the delivery aspect out of the classroom then I am freeing lots of contact time I can use in a much more effective way.”

Perhaps one reason flipping, PI and student-led assessment are attracting the attention of academics now is the increasing pressure to develop more effective ways of teaching large groups. Flipping say those who have tried it can raise understanding and make all students within large groups feel engaged as well as challenged.

The message from this very valuable workshop: explore what suits you in terms of disciplinary requirements, your own personality which influences your teaching style, your students and the requirements for their learning. Try it on a small scale, a few sessions per module to start with and see what works for you and your students.

Resources for further information:

Flipping – Lancaster, S.J. (2013) The flipped lecture. New Directions 9(1), 28-32. DOI: 10.11120/ndir.2013.00010 http://journals.heacademy.ac.uk/doi/abs/10.11120/ndir.2013.00010

Wilson, S.G. The flipped class: A method to address the challenges of an undergraduate statistics course.Teaching of Psychology, 2013, Vol.40(3), pp.193-199

Peer Instruction – http://mazur.harvard.edu/research/detailspage.php?rowid=8

Simon, B. ; Cutts, Q. Education peer instruction: A teaching method to foster deep understanding Communications of the ACM, February 2012, Vol.55(2), pp.27-29 [Peer Reviewed Journal]