Would you have dared to turn the traditional classroom teaching upside down? Teacher Anne Cathrine Gotaas at Sandvika Upper Secondary School in Norway claims there are good alternatives to traditional classroom teaching. She has used ‘flipped classroom’ in her economy and mathematics classes since 2007, and has since seen a clear rise in student attainment as a result.
But how do you flip a classroom? The method is simple: students prepare for class by watching video lectures prepared by the teacher using itslearning at home. They then spend their classroom time working with assignments. Using this technique, she has found more time to spend with individuals and small groups of students in class, guiding them through assignments and dealing with any individual gaps in understanding.
More time for individual students
Anne Cathrine Gotaas
was one of two winners in the Best use of itslearning 2011 awards. She won based on the work with flipped classroom in itslearning. The other iMac and camera went to Dee Kerwick-Chrisp from the UK for extremely creative use of the individual learning plan (ILP). Both winners demonstrated extremely good uses of itslearning that are showing to have a positive effect on students’ education.Anne Cathrine has found that students learn better if the theoretical videos are included in practical tests and explaining sequences in itslearning. “While the explaining sequences are used to guide the students through a learning path, the tests provide instant feedback on the answers and let the students assess their own level of knowledge,” she explains.
Although she never assesses the tests herself or gives a mark, she uses the results to see where students have struggled with the theory. She can then plan her classroom time more effectively to deal with gaps in her students’ understanding.
To make it easier for the students to find the videos later, they are also available in a folder structure in itslearning.
Inspired by distant teaching course
Anne Cathrine first learned about the flipped classroom concept when attending an online further education course at a university way back in 2005. Back then her teachers published learning videos in itslearning where they outlined the theory on a whiteboard. If the students didn’t understand what was taught the first time, they could go back and watch it again.
“I discovered that this method was helpful,” she says. “The fact that I could see the theory several times helped me immensely. I probably wouldn’t have managed to pass if I’d had to rely on books alone.”
Helping weaker students
Two years later, Anne Cathrine taught a class in which 3–4 students were in danger of not passing. As an extra support for them, she recorded videos of her lectures for them to study in itslearning. “I got really positive response from the students, but for me the most important was that all students passed,” she says.
Anne Cathrine’s first videos were of her solving calculations on paper, which she videoed with a webcam. But she now uses the free version of Screencast-O-Matic for recording screen video. Today, she has videos of all the topics in the courses she teaches, but they aren’t all self-made.
“There are so many good videos readily available on the internet, so I don’t have to make everything myself,” she says. “I find quality videos on, for example, YouTube or khanacademy.org, and simply insert them into itslearning.”
Efficient, but demanding
Anne Cathrine finds itslearning a helpful tool for tracking who’s been watching the videos. After one vacation, for example, she discovered that only 2 out of 17 students had logged on to itslearning to see the videos – so she decided to let her students watch the videos in class.
So, is the flipped classroom better than traditional classroom models?
“Whereas classroom teaching requires the entire class’ attention, a video can be watched again and again. But it won’t make life easier of the teacher because it’s more demanding to guide students through assignments in class then it is to teach.”
Still, some argue that the unmotivated students aren’t disciplined enough to watch videos at home in their own time and so it’s better that the teacher makes sure they get the theory in class. Anne Cathrine disagrees. In order for everyone to understand them, she makes the videos as basic as possible.
“Some students benefit little from classroom teaching, and I don’t think students that don’t bother seeing the videos at home would have done other homework anyway. With flipped classroom they can at least return to itslearning to see the videos at school.”
But if the videos are basic, how are the brightest students stimulated?
“I often use level differentiated groups in which students at the same level work together and test themselves against each other,” she explains. “Another advantage is that the brightest students don’t have to listen to me going through simple things for the entire class – they can simply fast forward and spend their time on more advanced assignments.”
Listen to Anne Cathrine explain about approach to flipped classroom: