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How and Why to Flip a History Lesson

60 second histories
by: Squaducation date: 04 Dec 2015

The traditional way that classrooms work is that there is content perhaps by teacher input, perhaps some reading, use of video, textbooks, IT and research sheets. Pupils absorb concepts, ideas, knowledge or theories. At the end of the lesson a homework or prep is given and that will be to show an understanding of what has been learnt. This might be by using diagrams, written assignments or question and answers. In this traditional model the teacher tends to be at the centre of the process disseminating information and answering questions - a very didactic method of teaching. 


There is another way that has become popular called the flipped classroom. This involves reversing the content and homework elements. Instead of the input being done in the classroom it is done as the homework. This is usually in the form of a video either created by the teacher or from a website such as 60 Second Histories. The latter of these has a virtual classroom that enables students to access only the videos the teacher wants them to see by giving them a passcode to that virtual room. Many vides are now also posted on school learning platforms such as Firefly and Moodle. Other elements can also be made available for research purposes or even specific made podcasts. The value of this is to re-align and repurpose the use of classroom time where pupils use the time in class as a workshop. “They inquire about the content given to them, test their skills in applying knowledge, and interact with one another in hands on activities. During class time teachers function as coaches or advisors, encouraging students in individual inquiry and collaborative effort” (Educause). The written/group work is now done in the class under the guidance of the teacher, rather than as homework, where feedback can be given immediately


The advantage of this style of teaching is that it is more pupil-centric. It motivates students to be more engaged in their individual learning and to take responsibility for what they know. It is a more collaborative process too. Students are able to demonstrate and share their knowledge more readily with each other – breeding confidence and an understanding that you can achieve more by working together and sharing information. By enabling pupils to watch content in their own time they are given flexibility to stop, rewind, fast-forward as necessary and work ideas and concepts out in their own time in a less pressurised atmosphere. Students come to class prepared with knowledge, questions and ideas that they have garnered and will therefore be cemented better in their minds for having done so.


Classroom time can better be used for making sure that these concepts have been absorbed and understood properly. Discussions are had when the students are more confident with the material and thus more able to learn from each other and check, and critique each other’s work – a very powerful process if done in the right atmosphere. Teachers have found that by flipping lessons the pupils get more quality time with them and that the voice most often heard in the classroom is that of the pupil. In this way students are taking more responsibility for their own learning. It is pupil-centric.


Teachers do need to be aware of, and understand, the dangers. The organisation and preparation by teachers needs to be very precise and can be time consuming. Teachers need to be technically astute with modern day communication methods and pupils may find that they prefer face-to-face input from teachers. In the same way that watching an opera on TV is not the same as seeing the real thing live on the stage so watching on a TV can be less personal for the student. One of the teacher’s greatest assets is sometimes as an actor on the stage presenting and explaining and one has to be careful not to lose this. It is one way that a teacher builds up a relationship with the pupils in that class. Also pupils can often feel that they can get their education by surfing the net rather than attending school, a dangerously divisive attitude for some. However one can get around this by good use of resources – and there are a lot out there. By using a variety of media and sources you can vary the input greatly, finding experts to give their interpretations to pupils and asking the pupils then to challenge them in class. Questioning is a great way of learning and becoming more critical in your thinking.


Like many activities finding a balance is key. By flipping a lesson you are putting greater emphasis on the student to be more active in their learning rather than being a passive observer. This should lead to higher order thinking on the part of the students. There are significant learning opportunities in terms of correcting misunderstandings, direct and fast feedback, and the application of knowledge and peer assessment.


The concept of flipping lessons has been developed over the last few years. The key ideas are that the teacher is freed up to give more personalised attention to pupils, can circulate more freely and that there is less sitting and listening and more doing and learning by the pupils.


Certainly there are advantages to both models and a good teacher will find a balance of both. However getting students to take charge of their own learning, getting them to engage in media with which they are familiar and making as much use as possible of the time of the teacher can only benefit all stakeholders in the process.


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