Flipping Fantastic: a case study of blogs as a platform for flipped learning.

Flipping Fantastic: a case study of blogs as a platform for flipped learning.

The Flipped Classroom

It is apparent that there are individual differences as to what motivates and does not motivate a learner (Jones, Valdez, Nowakowski, & Rasmussen, 1994). The empirical support for active learning, generally defined as any instructional method that engages students in the learning process, is extensive (Bonwell & Eison, 1991). Further, there are increasing indications that learners’ expectations of technology, and, as a result, of learning, are not being met (BECTA, 2008). Following on from this research, I considered an implementation of a ‘flipped classroom’ where students are primed with knowledge prior to the session. Flipped learning is a form of blended learning that encompasses any use of technology to leverage the learning in a classroom.

In recent years, learner-centered pedagogy has received considerable attention (Pierce & Fox, 2012; Findlay-Thompson & Saint, 2014; Warter-Perez & Dong, 2012). A learner-centered approach to teaching incorporates teaching strategies that focus on the needs, preferences, and interests of the learner. This approach is desirable because it helps learners to become actively engaged in the learning process, take responsibility for their learning, and enhances their skills to learn how to learn (Keengwe, Onchwari & Onchwari, 2009). Active learning is grounded on the constructivist theory that emphasises hands-on, activity-based teaching and learning during which students develop their own frames of thought (Keengwe et al., 2009).

The ‘flipped classroom’ instructional model was developed by Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams in 2007 to provide instruction to secondary students who were missing class and therefore missing instruction. Using videos to support students’ learning has attracted the attention of a large number of researchers (Young and Asensio, 2002) and a key concept within the idea of flipped learning is the use of new technologies to support learning; or as some would label: blended learning (Garrison and Kanuka, 2004). The ‘flipped learning’ method provides an opportunity for teachers to provide more personal feedback and assistance to students, but also to receive feedback from their students about the activities that they are undertaking and what they don’t yet understand (Wiley and Gardner, 2013).

Student perceptions of flipped learning were considered by Bower (2013) who stated that a teacher no longer needs to provide a synchronous lesson to his or her students. The flipped classroom offers those educators looking to reinvent their practice a way to move from being the “sage on the stage” to the “guide on the side” (King, 1993). There are many examples of the use of a flipped classroom in contemporary classrooms (Pierce & Fox, 2012; Findlay-Thompson & Saint, 2014; Warter-Perez & Dong, 2012).

The fundamental idea behind flipping a classroom is that more classroom time should be dedicated to active learning where the teacher can provide immediate feedback and assistance. The learner completes a task outside of the classroom that will often involve watching a video clip, sometimes narrated by the instructor. This prepares the student with information that will be built upon in class. In relation to Bloom’s Taxonomy, the learners are developing their knowledge and understanding outside of the class which gives more time in class for the instructor to develop assessments, activities and tasks that build on this and develop the higher order skills (Bloom, Englehart, Furst, Hill, & Krathwohl, 1956). Some educators have claimed that assessment-related activities used in the classroom convey important information about what is valued there, and hence have an influence on students’ achievement goals (Ames, 1992; Harlen & Crick, 2003).

Following on from this, the current action research considered an implementation of a ‘flipped classroom’ where students were primed with knowledge prior to sessions. Students completed a flipped task prior to the session that involved a reading task, watching a short clip, and completing an online quiz. The class resources and extension work was placed on the class flipped blog for use following the session. Therefore, embedding the technology into the session, both prior to, and following the session with the aim of creating a ‘blended’ learning environment. This method was sustained for a full term with students completing a flipped task each week prior to their first session.

Blogs as Flipped Classrooms

Initially the flipped classroom was developed on the WordPress platform using a ‘learning management’ plugin developed by Woothemes called Sensei. This flipped classroom (accessible at www.jamiesflipped.co.uk) consisted of two areas: the weekly resource blog and the weekly flipped task. Each week I would place the classroom resources on the site for students to make use of, download and complete the extension tasks, which were optional. The flipped task was uploaded each week to be completed prior to the first session the next week. This task would always compromise of a reading task, a short (~10 minute) video clip and a selection of multiple-choice questions. These multiple-choice questions allowed me to monitor the completion of the task for each learner and provided me with scores to measure progress, but it also gave immediate feedback to the student allowing them to reflect on their responses.


Three classes of AS students taught by myself were selected to use the flipped learning approach. A comparison group of students who completed their AS course in the 2012-13 year were matched with the current students on sex and prior achievement for statistical comparison of value added scores. Qualitative responses from each of the current students were collected to contextualise any difference in progression over the course of the year and gain insight into the students preferred teaching style. Final measures of impact cannot be made until the terminal results of the AS examinations have been released in August 2014.

Some of the Impact

Students’ overall perceptions of flipped learning where measured through an online questionnaire that asked about student engagement with flipped learning, preferences for teaching style and feedback for future implementations of flipped learning. The results from the questions on perception of flipped learning over the first half-term of the year are shown in the table below (figure 1).

Table showing sub-set of results from a questionnaire on the impact and perception of flipped learning.

Figure 1: table showing sub-set of results from a questionnaire on the impact and perception of flipped learning.

The overall perception of flipped learning were positive and suggest that the students found it more engaging as a ‘homework’ task than more traditional methods as well as allowing them more time with the instructor to develop this knowledge in class. Qualitative feedback from the class on open questions about their preference for flipped learning suggested supported the responses to the quantitative questions with students stating that they ‘enjoyed’ flipped learning and ‘liked the ability to access the work anywhere’. One student even commented that ‘the flipped tasks have given me something to do when I’m bored on the bus home’.

Is Flipped Learning Flipping Fantastic?

Research related to the potential impact of the flipped model is focused on the effects of preparing learners with direct instruction outside of the classroom, prior to receiving in-class instruction. Research on the effects of priming on memory indicates that when learners are exposed to particular stimuli their memory of that stimulus is improved due to their previous experience (Bodie et al., 2006). By providing students with instruction outside of the classroom, learners are, in essence, ‘primed’ for the active learning tasks.

Teaching is not just about giving the students knowledge but also providing the learner with signposts to help develop their studentship skills and become a better learner in general (Dunlosky et al., 2013). Stretching and providing extension activities for all learners is a key theme that is embedded into any outstanding lesson, allowing students to move away from a restrictive activity and develop further awareness of an area or improve their skills. There is no doubt that Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives for the cognitive domain (Bloom et al., 1956) has had a considerable impact on educational thought and practice all over the world. If the taxonomy is embedded into the curriculum in the first weeks then students can use their meta-cognitive skills and consider with greater skill what a question is demanding of them.

Screen Shot 2014-05-30 at 10.25.31Using the flipped method has allowed me to signpost different skills within Bloom’s Taxonomy to them in a structured way. Learners are aware that the tasks that they complete as part of the flipped classroom give them a foundation of knowledge that will be built upon in class. The use of Bloom’s stages within the taxonomy are further embedded within class through the use of learning tasks that used as consolidation tasks on the flipped activities. Each lesson is developed to build upon the flipped task and work up through Bloom’s taxonomy using resources such as a ‘learning ladder’ (figure 2) of different tasks grouped into the six stages within the taxonomy (Russell, 2014).

Angelo (1995) suggests that classroom learning improves when (a) students are personally invested and actively engaged, (b) they receive prompt and comprehensible feedback, and (c) they work cooperatively with their classmates and teachers. Students are actively engaged before they enter the classroom through the use of a flipped lesson. They know what they will be learning about, and bring an awareness of what the session is going to contain allowing them to interact with the starter activities immediately. Using the flipped method it gives more time in class to focus on activities, therefore, feedback is prompt and regular, from the embedding of consolidation tasks to the use of the AfL for whole class feedback and reflection. Finally, the students are able to work cooperatively, supporting each other from the initial task based on the flipped session to group work and discussion throughout, with extension work following the session.

One issue that must be raised is the access to technology and individual preferences for the use of it as a learning tool. Technology can be engaging for some learners, but it is important to recognise that students are more motivated by opportunities to progress; they are motivated by opportunities to ask and answer their own questions; and they are motivated by opportunities to learn together with like-minded peers (Tucker, 2012). Aware of this the flipped classroom was implemented for the first half-term, and only once a week to allow a range of other activities to be used.

Outstanding teaching techniques are based on the goal of “students becoming the agents of their own learning rather than the object of instruction” (Hamdan, McKnight, McKnight, & Artfstrom, 2013b, p. 4), and these techniques are designed to get at the deepest levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy (Anderson & Krathwohl, 2001). In a recent literature review, Hamdan et al. (2013b) recognised that teachers achieved increased student engagement, critical thinking, and better attitudes toward learning when active learning techniques, such as flipped learning were applied. This was reflected in the feedback from learners in my classes this year. The flipped classroom has given me more time in class to work with students rather than teach the entire class. This time has enabled me to differentiate between my learners better, give more one-to-one feedback to each learner and become aware of the strengths of each of my students. Flipping fantastic.



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