Flipped Learning; A subtle shift in pedagogy that transforms learning for all

10 November 2017

You may have read the EEF Mathsflip Report which has just been published. As Project Manager for MathsFlip, in this post I aim to offer some further insight into our journey of Flipped Learning…

A focus on deeper learning

At Shireland Collegiate Academy we have used a Flipped methodology since approximately 2011 to extend and deepen understanding, and with our P8 score of 0.45 feel convinced it’s an approach that ‘works’ for us. “Flipped” learning is a simple idea where teachers share knowledge and in the case of MathsFlip, model mathematical concepts or procedures with pupils before they arrive in lessons via an online platform.

The approach is far more powerful if pupils also complete an assessment task to show their understanding of what they have just learned before arriving in school. This allows teachers to look at responses before the lesson and therefore more effectively differentiate and target pupils within the class; essentially AfL before the lesson starts.

Of course the face to face teacher contact is still there, but it is used in the most effective way possible, not to impart knowledge to the children but to add value to the content, to interrogate the students’ understanding and facilitate them to deepen their learning. Early on some teachers were worried about this adding to their already heavy workload; something else they would have to plan and prepare for. But in actual fact all we are doing is delivering the same lesson and the same aspects but just the first parts get delivered outside of the classroom beforehand via a flipped task online. This frees up the teacher’s time to focus on classroom activities with more impact, such as giving more personalised support to pupils who are struggling, answering queries or questions, holding discussions, challenging misconceptions or allowing pupils to apply their knowledge and delve deeper into the material and apply their understanding to problem solving and reasoning activities.

The ease of staff adoption and the impressive rate of pupil progress made us think the flipped technique could be implemented easily in other schools and across different key stages. Kirsty Tonks and Nikki Jones (Mathsflip Project Directors) applied for funding from the Education Endowment Foundation for a two year Efficacy Project and hey presto, MathsFlip was born!

This involved helping schools to set up the online learning environment for flipped learning and providing training and resources on how to get the most out of the approach. Our MathsFlip Resource Zone provided teachers with a wide range of high quality maths resources all mapped to the maths curriculum, with a particular focus on the development of problem solving and reasoning skills, so essential to success.

As Kirsty Tonks, Project Director points out: ” There are key things that you need to do to adopt a Flipped Learning approach, but the focus is not (and should not be) the technology used.  And it is true that the idea of flipping learning and delivering content before the lesson can be delivered off line, but using technology enables teachers to see the responses before the lesson and therefore adapt and more accurately target and support students.  You couldn’t do this without the use of technology and access at home. ”

I agree that it is really important to stress that the approach is far more about a shift in pedagogy, and is not device dependent. We encouraged schools to carry out an audit of home internet access and found that the majority of pupils had ready access to the flipped tasks (the technology was present in most homes through a range of methods – phones, ipads or laptops) so it isn’t necessary schools provide devices for pupils to take home.

Successes

As Project Manager I was working ‘on the ground’ with schools and across the project saw many stand out successes where schools fully embraced the use of technology, and the flipped methodology formed part of everyday practice. Where this happened, I saw a change in the learning culture; children were put at the centre of their own learning and had a better understanding of their mathematical strengths and areas of development. For example, one school speaks with wonder about an SEN pupil who was previously silent and froze in class discussions, who has had such an increase in confidence that she now films herself teaching her mum the information she has learned through Flipped Learning and uploads this to the class site for all in the class to see.

Intuitively we felt the approach would support higher attaining pupils who were more motivated and more independent in learning but the report showed the impact on Maths was slightly higher for children eligible for Free School Meals. MathsFlip may therefore be an ideal approach to help narrow the attainment gap between FSM pupils and their peers. One school who engaged particularly well, saw an increase from 57% to 77% at Level 5 and triple the percentage at Level 6 from 9% to 27%, which with little difference in the abilities of the two cohorts, they fully attribute to their adoption of the Flipped Learning approach.

‘Flipped Learning has made us totally rethink what makes learning really effective. We were so impressed by the impact of the approach, we are now extending flipped learning to other years and areas of the curriculum. It enables teachers to put children at the centre of their learning, making ‘home-work’ genuinely meaningful and purposeful and creating classrooms where children are prepared, excited and active.’  Headteacher Survey response

Many parents said they felt empowered and in a much stronger position to support their children with mathematics as they learned the maths alongside their children. They also reported that their children were far more engaged with this type of purposeful homework ‘I don’t have to nag him to do homework anymore – it’s amazing!’

As the report acknowledges, teachers also spoke positively about the approach. As one teacher put it, ‘I’ve been a maths leader for 10 years but I am learning so much and I am really reflecting on my teaching and changing what I do because of the MathsFlip project. I feel that flipped learning has had a really positive impact enabling pupils to progress more quickly during the lesson. The children have a more secure understanding of different aspects of maths and I have found that they retain the knowledge for longer than before the project.’

I’ll leave you with the words of a Year 6 pupil from cohort 1 of the project:

‘Miss, homework is my favourite subject now. I just love Flipped Learning. I feel so much more confident. This project has made me love maths!’

Posted on 10 November 2017
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