Flipped class entails a highly productive pedagogy in ways more than one. It helps engaging students better, reduces the burden of time-crunch for faculty and facilitates better learning experiences. It becomes icing on the cake, if we really know how to bring innovations in flipped class methodology. Here is an account of few experiences in experimenting with innovative ways to flip a class.
During a fortnightly instructor’s meeting, one of my colleague was sharing his recent experience in the classroom. He had a typical problem that students would not be interested in abstract knowledge. Students do not come prepared in the class. He would generally share a pre-read but invariably students would not go through it. The number of students who would come prepared and had gone through the pre-read would hardly be countable on fingers and sometime not even more than 1-2. “This is really sad and I really feel hurt as a teacher when students do not come prepared in the class”, he said. On the other side of the story, students complained it was hard for them to comprehend abstraction. They feel bored reading texts which runs in pages and hardly carry ‘relevance’ for them. Anything which students fail to relate to either life or experiences, stay not so relevant for them. It is hard for them to spend much time on such stuff and they also feel hurt when pre-reading is quite large and runs in 20-30 pages.
Seemingly, the idea of explaining practice through abstraction route was not working well. Then he decided to bring in practice as the first thing in the class which students would understand better. After a good deal of deliberation on practice in the class, he then weaved theory out of it. Students comprehended and received it really well. Encouraged as he was, my colleague also started sending pre-recorded short video lecture on students mobile through WhatsApp group. He had this habit of forming WhatsApp group of students in his course. By doing so, he demonstrated one of several ways in which a class can be flipped to create better engagement and learning. The route he followed was innovative. He decided not to start his class from theory and move on to practice and examples. He flipped it around and decided to start his class from practice and examples and then moved to theory. Later he also adopted a means to share theory with the class by sending them video instead of asking them to read several pages. What he did was really innovative as he pushed the theory outside the class. He shared his observation that earlier when he used to give texts to read, hardly few students would come prepared but now when he is sharing video on theory with them, almost all of them would have seen the video. This made it easier for him to start the class with examples and practice, rather than abstraction and theory.
Benefits of Flipping the Class
Many educators today are practicing flipped classroom by reversing the pedagogical order. Traditionally, a classroom is meant for lecture. A flipped classroom is designed for learning through practice, while students do pre-work as precursor to practice. A pre-recorded short video on a given topic is often watched by students before entering the class. Classroom session is organized in a workshop mode where students can test their skills in applying knowledge. This kind of reversal in teaching pedagogy is based on active learning principle, leading to repurposing the class time.
A flipped classroom is also looked at as a personalized education wherein students tend to take the responsibility of their own learning and teachers can afford to take the role of a facilitator (Uzunboylu & Karagozlu 2015). It also entails increased interaction between teachers and students. Some scholars have reported that a flipped classroom allows problem-based learning inside the classroom (Bergmann & Sams 2012) and hence also facilitates experiential learning to take place. Flipped classroom methods do allow students to go beyond classroom and step out the class which is congruent with the 24 x 7 learning (anywhere and anytime). Learning is neither confined to nor a prerogative of the classroom alone. In fact, the cause of learning begs for capturing all the spaces which may add to the learning of the students. Enfield (2013) explained that students are encouraged to move out of the classroom to learn anytime and anywhere by flipped classroom approach. The most useful study strategy can be chosen and used by students while moving at their own pace through the instruction. Hung (2015) demonstrated that students’ participation, satisfaction and performance showed a positive change after taking part in this pedagogical approach.
In yet another published work on meta-analysis to capture the effect of flipped classroom on student learning (David et.al 2019), it was found that:
- Students in flipped classrooms achieve significantly higher assessed learning outcomes than students in traditional classrooms.
- Students are equally satisfied with the learning environment.
Dale’s Cone of Experience can be helpful
Edgar Dale in his seminal works asserted that a teacher must engage students through multi-media as it will have profound impact on their learning. Learning through abstraction will create ‘symbolic experience’, while we also need to provide opportunity to students for ‘iconic experience’ and ‘direct, purposeful experience’. Learning through observation will create iconic experience while learning by doing is necessary for purposeful experience. This means if teachers keep on lecturing and students keep on listening, it will not create any significant learning experience and further students will not tend to remember such kind of leaning for long. It is not surprising that students fail to remember even the fundamental question at the end of the course and fair pathetically in job interviews. It does not add to employability anyway. This also means that teachers need to move beyond lecturing and add visual, demo, hands-on exercises, simulation, collaborative lessons and ‘doing the real thing’ as part of teaching pedagogy.
My experience of flipping the Economic History of India (EHI) class for management students
In one of the most interesting experiment, I tried flipping the entire course on Economic History of India (EHI) for management students. I have been offering EHI as part of Liberal Arts bucket to post graduate management students. The course is divided into 20 sessions of 75 minutes each, i.e. for 30 hours in total spread over the trimester. This enabled me to engage 2 or 3 sessions a week which allowed me to keep gap between the sessions. The nature of the course is pretty analytical, data driven, storytelling and great narratives. Fortunately, there are several high quality online modules available which helped students in reinforcing the knowledge part. Being part of the British Indian History, there are many powerful symbols, documentary, movies, and discussions available. I resorted to multi-media in a big way. Right from a rapper-video to movie, I carefully selected the incidental material to support pre-learning on the topic. These ‘study materials’ were carefully curated and handed over to students. I also used class WhatsApp group for maintaining continuous communication. Collaborative learning groups created and students have been asked to see the video and other materials together. The groups were then asked to search more literature and prepare notes around the context which relate to the video materials. A set of instructions were issued to students outlining the expectations from presentation to be made in the class. The class generally will start with the presentations made by the collaborative groups. My job was mostly to put additional points into the talk, appreciate and encourage them, and support with abstractions wherever needed. It was a great experience both for me as well as my students. I can summarise the entire experience in following points:
- Using web-based resources and multi-media helped me flipping the class effectively.
- Students enjoyed watching movie and other multi-media materials. It was reflected in their joy while explaining episodes.
- Their google-search for literature became focussed, extensive and in depth.
- The learning outcomes of the course could be achieved far above the threshold. It also led to creation of a meaningful YouTube video for a larger audience on Economic History of India.
- As an instructor, it allowed me a lot of time in the class which I used for cross-referencing with insights from sociology, history and literature. This made the learning experience of students’ board-based and insightful.
However, the benefits of a flipped classroom do not come of its own to either students or faculty. Students need to take up the responsibility of learning on them. Without getting well-versed before entering a flipped class would make them dumb participants. At the same time faculty needs to prepare well, devote effort and time to create coherent sequence of pre-classroom and during classroom delivery. Nevertheless, it is worth taking efforts for both students and faculty.
- Bergmann, J., & Sams, A. (2012). Before You Flip, Consider This. Phi Delta Kappan, 94(2), 25-25.
- Uzunboylu, H., & Karagozlu, D. (2015). Flipped classroom: A review of recent literature. World Journal on Educational Technology. 7(2), 142-147.
- David C.D. van Alten, Chris Phielix, Jeroen Janssen, Liesbeth Kester (2019). Effects of flipping the classroom on learning outcomes and satisfaction: A meta-analysis, Educational Research Review, Elsevier, 28, 100281.