Saturday, 1 June 2013

Leading Flipped Learning

I'm not sure if I've mentioned this before, but I am Head of Middle Years Maths at my school. Flipped learning was something I wanted to try and most of the other teachers in my department were on board. In the beginning I was creating all the unit plans and videos which the other teachers were using, however some have started working with me on unit plans and videos in Year 7 and 8 which has been fantastic.

I have noticed a big improvement in my classrooms but it has not been smooth sailing for all teachers. In fact one teacher came to me at the end of the week to say her class was revolting against flipped learning! I offered to go and talk to them, to explain why we have started using flipped learning and answer any questions they might have. I had this issue earlier in the term with another class and the discussion I had with the class went really well, so I was expecting pretty much the same thing to occur. Boy, was I wrong!

A quick background on this class: They are an all boy class, 25 students, 14-15 years old. The class is mixed ability, however in the school there is one "advanced" maths class so none of the "top" maths students are in this class. The teacher is new to the school, however an experienced teacher. She has had difficulty with them behaviour-wise and found them challenging to teach, especially in a "traditional, lecture-style" classroom.

This was probably one of the toughest groups I have tried to talk to about flipped learning. Here are a few of the issues (which I don't necessarily have a solution to) and some of my observations about the class:

1. The class was very badly behaved at the start of the year, and they have been given the impression that they are doing flipped learning as the teacher feels she can't teach them from the front as they don't listen. I presume they have been given this impression from their teacher, so I tried to clear that up - letting them know the reasons why we've implemented the flipped classroom.

2. There is a small but very vocal group of boys who are completely against flipped learning and who won't seem to consider the reasons given for using the method. They monopolised the questions being asked set the tone for the class which is unfortunate. Some of the responses I got were 

"why do we have to do this? None of our other subjects do" and 
"last year we were taught from the front and we were able to learn that way" 

When explaining the reasons I just kept getting met with "But we don't want to do it" from the same 4-5 students over and over.

I think a main issue here is that (and I could be wrong) this class is not having ANY class discussion time anymore, and also there not being any importance placed on the "summarise"and "question" aspect of the WSQ. So they are not seeing the benefit of attempting to understand or write things in their own words prior to the lesson.

3. Some of the boys said they didn't think they were responsible enough to work on their own or in small groups. I called them out on this, and said that I thought they were just making excuses, as at 14-15 years old I would expect a lot more responsibility and maturity. This is something I think needs to be brought up with their Head of Year as the working culture of the class isn't great and is, I'm sure, similar in other subjects.

4. It came out that some students felt the teacher was unapproachable and they didn't feel comfortable asking her questions. I commend the teacher for the way she handled this and actually think this was an important issue for the class and her to discuss openly. She admitted that at times she was unhappy with the class's behaviour and (lack of) respect towards her, and apologised for projecting this onto the class. She stressed that she was there to help them and want them to achieve their best, and could they all agree to start fresh? It was a very open, raw conversation and I have nothing but the highest respect for her, and also for the boy who very politely opened up this discussion. 

In short I think that behaviour issues from the start of the year have lead to a negative classroom culture. This tied in with the huge change in teaching method have been disruptive for the class, and I think they believe that flipped learning has caused the negative culture even though it existed before it was brought in. I also think (and this may sound like I'm trying to make excuses so I apologise for that!) the vocal minority are the typical passive and somewhat lazy students who don't like the fact that they are now responsible for their own learning!

That said, it is our job as the teacher to change classroom culture, and clearly something needs to change in this class. I have left the option of returning to a traditional classroom up to the teacher if she feels it will help improve things. The difficult thing is I do think she believes flipped learning is best for them, and I know it is working well with one of her other classes. 

Perhaps speaking to some of the vocal boys one-on-one would work better, instead of in a whole class situation, or maybe even with their parents present. 

Some sort of positive behaviour routine would be helpful as well. I have just started using ClassDojo with a similar Year 8 class which so far they are responding to which I will recommend to the teacher.

This incident left me reflecting on my own leadership of the teachers in my department. It is very possible that I have not communicated the principles behind flipped learning clearly enough to them, or spent enough time with the team prior to implementing it. I have left them to structure their classrooms as they would like, which has worked for some but others probably need more guidance. 

Some things I would advise or do differently if I was starting over:

1. Ensure there is the time to work with the team well in advance of flipped learning. Make sure there are common goals as to what happens both in and out of the class room. Agree rewards and sanctions. 

For example if a student doesn't watch the video on time I allow them to watch it in the lesson. However if this happens twice in a row they are given a "strike" which is in line with our school behaviour policy. I didn't want to give the students a strike right away as I didn't want to turn them off flipped learning, however this isn't something that has happened across all classes. Some teachers don't let the students watch the videos in class at all which means that during class time they don't know what to do, causing more issues than it is worth in my opinion!

2. Give teachers the option of implementation. Only those that are fully bought in should use it, as the classroom sessions will not be great otherwise! I was asked by the "higher ups" to make sure all Year 9 classes were flipping which I wish I had fought against in hindsight.

3. Ideally everyone would make their own video lessons for their own classrooms. Maybe some will think this is over doing it but I do think there is something to the students hearing their own teacher's voices on the videos. Also a lot of my students seem to have an appreciation of the amount of work I've been putting into the flipped lessons, whereas some other classes (like this one I was dealing with) have the impression that their teacher now doesn't have to do any work. 

All in all it was a tiring end to a tiring week but after thinking about it this weekend I've thought a lot about myself as a leader and how I can improve in future. 

If anyone else out there has any recommendations for leading a team of teachers to flip I welcome your comments and suggestions! 

No comments:

Post a Comment