Implementing flipped learning

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The concept of flipped learning has emerged as a means of using technology, not only to supplement traditional education, but to qualitatively transform the way that we conduct education. The Flipped Learning Network defines flipped learning specifically as,

„… a pedagogical approach in which direct instruction moves from the group learning space to the individual learning space, and the resulting group space is transformed into a dynamic, interactive learning environment where the educator guides students as they apply concepts and engage creatively in the subject matter.“

As helpful as this definition is for pointing out some of the elements of flipped learning, it is somewhat confusing in its reference to flipped learning as a pedagogical approach. In fact, what emerged from the FLiP project, is that flipped learning cannot be described as a pedagogical approach, but rather a way to organise instruction and learning activities to provide instructors with flexibility to implement a range of pedagogical strategies.

By shifting direct instruction from the shared learning space, i.e. usually a classroom, to the learners’ private spaces, i.e. wherever learners work individually, instructors are afforded greater latitude to engage learners in activities that build on a range of proven effective pedagogical approaches, such as collaborative learning, problem-based learning, integrative learning and any number of hybrids that instructors might formulate. And indeed, the instructors and schools that were involved in the FLiP project demonstrated clearly that this is what happens when flipped learning is implemented; learning in the shared space becomes more learner-centered and instructors use the flexibility afforded by flipping to focus on individual learners’ needs.

Rather than describing flipped learning as a specific approach or strategy, the FLiP project revealed that it is better described in terms of the principles and values that make it possible for instructors to flip their learning environments. How these principles and values inform the flipping process is influenced by the environment in which the instructor is working, including social conditions and norms, organisational culture, and regulative frameworks. Because of this, it is very difficult to point to specific examples that definitively demonstrate what flipped learning is. More useful, is to look at flipped learning as a goal-oriented initiative that affords any number of pathways towards a set of well defined outcomes. Among the shared anticipated outcomes of flipped learning that emerged in the FLiP project were:

 

Outcome

Description

Learner-centered environment ·      Learners take control of their own learning through the use of recorded direct instruction and increased freedom within the shared learning environment.

·      Instructors’ attention is directed toward individual learners and their needs rather than the group as a whole.

 

Heterogeny of pedogogical approaches

 

·      Instructors incorporate a range of pedagogical approaches to meet individual learners’ needs.

 

Effective use of learning technologies

 

·      Learning technologies are incorporated in instructional activities in shared and private spaces based on learners’ preferences or needs.

 

Flexible time management ·      Shared space is fluid allowing learners and instructors to organise time to meet individual needs.

 

Formative assessment

 

·      Instructors are more aware of individual learners’ needs and, thus, better able to steer them toward suitable learning pathways.

 

From the FLiP project we have learned that flipped learning centres around the strategic use of technology to allow instructors to make the most effective use of the time that they have with their learners. When addressing broad social contexts, such as was done in the FLiP project, any definition more rigid than this runs the risk of constricting the potential that a flipped learning approach has to affect change in learning environments. The many cases that were included in the FLiP project demonstrate that in flipped learning implementations, the nature of the expected outcome and the pathway towards it can differ significantly from one context to another, depending on social and organisational context, school level, learners needs or anticipated learning outcomes. This affords considerable flexibility in how flipped learning is implemented in schools.

When a decision has been made to implement flipped learning in a learning environment, there are few predeterminable criteria that can be applied to all possible contexts. The success or failure of implementing flipped learning is instead determined according to the goals set by the instructors and organisations involved. A reasonable implementation strategy needs to be formulated in accordance with social and organisational contexts. Measurable goals must be defined, along with evaluation criteria, that clearly demonstrate how implementation is adequately addressing needs of learners, instructors, organisations, and surrounding communities.