Teaching models / muddles?!

Has Covid-19 forced the adoption of the flipped classroom model?

Let’s be honest, despite the best efforts of everyone involved (students, teachers and parents!), homeschooling still feels very reactive at the moment. We are still thinking of this as a short-term necessity, and trying to replicate the face-to-face experience in a different setting, just until things get back to “normal”.

What if we saw this as an opportunity to pause and re-think what advantages a different school day could look like?

Have we been here before?

Digital learning has been through a similar journey in the past 20 years or so;

At first, we started by trying to replicate a face-to-face experience by making learners read everything that we would previously have said in a classroom, followed a test at the end… Does this sound familiar? This led to dull, hours-long courses that paid little attention to what behaviours we actually wanted to change. Courses that took little advantage of being delivered digitally, other than saving the tutor time.

Although this was “improved” over time by adding video, testing throughout and interaction (remember the “engaging” drag and drop?), the principle was the same; Learn some theory, test your knowledge at the end. The experience was very insular. The liner nature meant that if you had further questions about the subject, or needed help understanding something, the support simply wasn’t there.

This is where blended learning came in for digital trainers. But I wonder if the same blended learning model works for today’s secondary pupils.

Blended learning

Blended learning is a form of education that takes place both online and in a brick-and-mortar location. Both modalities are integrated into a cohesive learning experience for the student. In blended learning scenarios, “face time” between students and teachers is not replaced by online course delivery. Rather, the online component of the learning experience usually consists of exercises or additional content that complement the in-class lesson.

I guess this is where my kids currently were, pre-lockdown. They were taught the theory during the day, and then the theory was ‘tested’ in the evening, using an online quiz; MyMaths for example.

Not much has changed in 40 years

If you think about it, this is pretty much the model that was followed when I was at school too (pre-PC!) — It is just the online test was replaced by written homework.

However, the same issues affected me then, as they do my kids now — What if I mis-understood the theory bit? Where was the support I needed to put the theory into practice in a ‘real-world’ environment?

Sure, there was some support from my parents, assuming that they had previously studied the subject, but that was about it.

Hybrid learning

Often, the term hybrid learning is used almost interchangeably with blended learning. However, there is a subtle distinction. In hybrid learning, a significant portion of the course takes place online. In contrast with blended learning, a hybrid learning scenario replaces much of the student-teacher “face time” in a brick-and-mortar location with online interaction.

I guess that this is what schools are trying to implement now (albeit rapidly!) — Zoom or Teams are used to deliver the lesson, or a pre-recorded video / PowerPoint is shared with the student. The student then tries to use that knowledge to complete online tasks (homework).

The issue that we are seeing is that with the model, the support still isn’t really there when it comes to putting words into actions.

It still feels the wrong way around to me.

Flipped classroom

So, perhaps now is the time to truly turn this all on its head once and for-all — Theory training / teaching is predominantly data download. And elearning, videos or simulations are good at that bit…

The flipped classroom is another form of blended learning where a student is first exposed to new material outside of class (which is where they are having to do all of their learning now anyway), usually in the form of an online presentation. This could be a YouTube presentation, a simulation, or piece of elearning that explains the benefits of the piece. The “Why” if you like…

When the student then attends class (via Zoom / Teams), the tutor’s time is used to apply the material in the form of problem-solving and group discussion.

Embed the learning

The missing piece of the jigsaw is understanding how the knowledge is embedded, avoiding the needs for “cramming” of information via revision or study guides further down the line.

This is where spaced repetition has a part to play. Subtly revisiting topics over a period of time until they become second nature to the student.

We use this technique in business, so perhaps it is time to start using a spaced repetition app as part of “homework” too?

What is working for you and your children when it comes to “homeschooling” — Perhaps it is time to ask them how they want to learn.