I was looking forward to a train journey through the foothills of the Pennines on a crisp sunlit December morning but all I got was gloom. In needed inspiration and, as I found, I was headed in the right direction. The Studio was bright, welcoming, and had a creative vibe. It felt like a good place to be…..
Take a Walk on the Flip Side – How to Effectively Incorporate Flipped Learning into Undergraduate and Vocational Law Teaching.
I presented this ‘how to’ workshop with my colleague Gareth Bramley and we were keen to share with others our experience of implementing flip learning in two different contexts, one tried and tested and one more recent. To maintain a practical focus we gave only a brief overview of our understanding of what flip learning means, in essence it reverses the traditional approach of lecture driven passive learning so that the students carry out research and reading prior to the taught sessions which focus on student centred active learning. For a more in depth discussion there is a lot of interesting literature and studies and there is no better place to start than with the HEA .
We then moved onto to share how we flip on a postgraduate, vocational course, the Legal Practice Course. We highlighted the combination of learning technologies (including the specific tools e.g. Articulate, Quizmaker) that we use to promote student engagement with the learning process outside of the classroom setting, many of which were familiar to our audience. Our key message here was that we find that using a variety of learning technologies helps maintain good levels of student motivation and engagement with the work that they have to complete prior to contact time. We made the observation that in our experience, the screencast is a particularly useful tool for providing an overview and guidance and is popular with the students as it is a re-useable resource which can be an effective tool in helping the students structure the independent learning expected of them in the flipped learning model of delivery.
To illustrate this point we displayed a screenshot of a typical page from our VLE showing links to a blend of e-learning activities the students are required to complete prior to one teaching session. This included a complete the blanks exercise, a screencast and a quiz, successful completion of which was conditional on a resource being made available which would enable the students to check their understanding of the work they have done.
To put the e-learning activities into context within the course and to demonstrate what materials are required to enable the students to navigate online materials and a flipped course more generally, we handed out an example of some hard copy materials that we produce to accompany our course. Having hard copy materials available meant that we were able to share examples of our activity plans and show the level of detail they contain including learning outcomes, estimated time to complete the tasks, precise instructions or directions for the task and that each plan is numbered so that students are able to map out their work and plan their time accordingly. We hoped that being able to see actual materials used provided some helpful guidance as to the practical details that need to be addressed in learning materials, to enable students engage with all the work they are required to do outside of contact time effectively and in an informed manner.
Finally we talked about the teaching sessions which focus on student centred active leaning. In these sessions we use a variety of learning activities designed to test and apply the students’ understanding of the work they have completed in advance of the session. We highlighted the physical and environmental factors that we find have a significant impact on the learning experience, on of the key ones being that we set up the teaching space so that the students work in small groups which have been allocated at the start of the session by the tutor. This may seem unusual in the postgraduate setting but we have found it provides an incentive to prepare adequately and promotes communication and team working skills.
Having covered how we flip in one context in some detail, my colleague, Gareth Bramley then talked about how he has used this experience to flip his teaching on an undergraduate degree course by utilising screencasts and directed reading questions which prepare the students to participate in interactive lectures which are followed by seminars. We wanted to share how we have adapted the flip learning model to meet the needs of a different student group. It also gave us the opportunity to discuss how we use screencasts and whether or not they are a substitute for lectures, (we do not think they are). We also received some interesting questions about the time investment required to develop and implement a flipped course which, in our experience, is considerable and should not be under estimated.
We rounded off the session by summarising what we have found to be ‘flipping brilliant’ and ‘flipping difficult’ about flipped learning! Our view is that flipped learning benefits students as it facilitates improved engagement and deeper active learning. It is also extremely rewarding for those who teach. The challenges are the time investment (see above) and the need for careful management of student expectations as it demands a lot of them too.
The reaction to this session suggests that there is considerable interest in flipped learning but there is some trepidation about the work it may involve and where it has been implemented it is often the result of a brave individual initiative. For those who are interested in flipped learning, the key is to keep building on experience and sharing it through events like the conference so that the debate on the merits of flipped learning can continue and teachers can continue to inspire one another.
Rachel Cooper, University of Sheffield.