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IATEFL Liverpool: Lindsay Warwick’s Flipping the Classroom and Student Attitudes

10 Apr

Lindsay looked at the practical issue of getting unmotivated students to join your flipped classroom community. You know, those students who don’t do their homework and who just show up for class if you’re lucky.

She compared a traditional classroom and a flipped classroom to show how much time can be devoted to practicing language in a flipped classroom—about 45 minutes of an hour lesson. In a traditional lesson, that might only be about 25 minutes of an hour lesson. The rest of the time may be taken up with a warmer, homework review, and then time where the teacher presents the target structures. In a flipped classroom, the presentation part is done at home via video.

She came back to a situation that seemed to resonate with attendees—students who want to learn English, but who don’t want to put in the effort. Or those who think that just coming to class once a week is sufficient.

Like Steven she pointed out the benefits of flipping. Students involved in flipped classroom experiments in the US have said that they really learned how to learn. Research is now starting to come through to support the idea that test scores improved by 67% and student attitudes improved by 80%. The benefits particularly impacted students with learning difficulties or special needs.

Lindsay admitted that her first experiment in flipping failed. The students were unmotivated and didn’t know how to learn for themselves. Reflecting on this, she compared the differences between state schools to adult education when it comes to flipping the classroom and brought up some things to consider.

State schools

  • Weekly objectives
  • Online task/check notes
  • ‘Naughty students’ watch the videos in class
  • Teacher sets individual deadlines for students who still have difficulties. She pointed out that it’s important to let students fail so that they learn to overcome their failure and improve.

Adult education

  • Objectives per lesson rather than weekly objectives
  • Can it be patronizing to check learners’ notes and tasks?
  • Will some students just think watching videos is the easy life?
  • Will learners who don’t watch the videos withdraw from the groups?
  • Will learners feel patronized when the trainer sets individual deadlines for lagging learners?

Lindsay recommended being explicit about the objectives, explaining their relevance to learners’ lives, getting them to think about what they can do to achieve their goals, and informing them of the teacher’s/trainer’s expectations.

In her school, she also allowed students to choose between taking the final exam or finding some way to show that they have understood the lessons thanks to the videos. Offering students a choice can indeed increase their motivation, plus it also accommodates students who may not be good test-takers.

Lindsay also gave some clever tips for making students want to watch the video.

  • Send them something before the lesson, perhaps by email. This could be an email, a screenshot of a video, or a puzzle to solve. The students will find the answer in the video. She used an example in which she sent an email to a student
  • Videos need to be concise—5 to 10 minutes is sufficient.  Students often go back and watch the videos over and over again, so make them watcher-friendly.
  • Videos also need to be simple so that students can understand them. Surprisingly, students learned better when they watched videos that they felt were more confusing. Let me (or Lindsay rather) explain. Students who watched a video of a person simply talking and using correct target structures felt the video was clearer, yet on tests, they retained less. Students who watched a video of a native speaker and a non-native speaker talking (complete with communication breakdowns, corrections, and mini explanations) felt the video was more confusing, yet on tests, they retained more.

In flipping, it is important to spend time showing students how the whole system works. You’ll need to figuratively hold their hand at first and lead them to more flipped autonomy. Don’t just throw them into the system. It also takes practice to train them (and possibly yourself) to work in a flipped classroom. Getting into a good pattern is key to the success and it takes time to build new habits.

One issue is that the videos work better is they are personalized. However, this can mean a lot of extra work for the teacher if they have to create new videos for every class or every learner if your students are in 1-on-1 lessons.

This talk nicely complemented Steven’s. While he showed us the tools to flip, she showed us some things to think about to help us flip effectively. This does indeed sound like something to experiment with!

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