Ben Rouse is a secondary maths teacher and head of faculty in a boy’s comprehensive in Surrey in the UK. The school is in a fairly affluent area and all students have access to the Internet at home.
Ben has been teaching for 9 years and recently started experimenting with the flipped classroom. He began with his older students but has recently been flipping the classrooms of his younger students. We spoke to him to find out more.
When did you first hear about the flipped classroom and why did you decide to adopt it as a teaching approach?
I’d begun making instructional videos for my class and had always wanted to explore the idea of homework as a preparation for upcoming lessons rather than just consolidation of previous. I discovered the flipped classroom via Twitter and the idea seemed to fit with the videos I was creating for my classes to change the focus of work outside the classroom.
I’ve been flipping my Year 10 class (14-15 year olds) for just over a year and focusing on specific topics rather than a wholesale approach to teaching.
Why did you make the decision to try a flipped approach with younger students?
My decision to try out the approach with younger students in my Year 7 class (11-12 year olds) was driven by the fact that I wanted to find a new way to teach constructions, i.e. the creating of shapes and perpendicular lines using a pair of compasses based on mathematical properties.
The traditional way to teach constructions means your class follows your instructions step by step. This doesn't allow for differentiation, in fact this approach normally results in students being reprimanded for getting ahead of the class!
How did you present the resources for your students?
I created a page on my wikispace for my Year 7 class which included a series of videos to introduce the new subject, listed the topics and set out the video-based homework tasks.
What issues did you encounter flipping your class with younger students?
One of the surprising things was that students weren’t as familiar with using the Internet as I’d expected. This is why the wiki was so important, it was much easier for them to navigate within one website rather than move between different sites.
Another interesting issue was that younger students appeared to be much more anxious to get it right. I received a lot more emails from students and some came to see me at lunchtime as well. They asked lots of questions compared to older students.
Finally, I found that the students preferred to see the process demonstrated on the board while setting homework.
What were the results of flipping your class with younger students?
Some of the students made progress beyond my expectations. They spent extra time reviewing the videos and practicing the skills prior to our lesson and this meant they could focus on more challenging problems in class.
In addition, more students were able to help each other and extend the progress of the class.
Finally, I had more free time in class. This meant I could work with a small group of students who had struggled, go through the skills step-by-step, and accelerate their rate of progress so they left the lesson on track.
I’ve got three tips for teachers:
- Make accessing the videos and other materials easy and plan to have to repeat the instructions for some students on another occasion. I have created playlists in YouTube and embedded these in my wikispace page for my class. A link to the video playlists on a VLE page would be an alternative.
- Inform parents you are planning for a homework to involve videos on YouTube, they can be suspicious but generally supportive when it is explained. Ideally you may want to do your first flip just after a parent’s evening
- Don’t assume any technical competence from your students.