Independent learning in the flipped classroom

When developing a new concept school in Bali, maths teacher Stephen Powell-Peterson wanted to introduce a functional flipped classroom, allowing students to learn independently. Here he explains the benefits of flipped learning and how it has been successfully implemented

The constant emphasis of the core subjects, and demands to strive for ever higher standards, puts pressure on teachers to deliver an in-depth, structured and pre-planned learning environment.

However, it is interesting to see that within this rigid learning structure, students become less and less responsible for their own learning; losing the opportunity to develop those vital skills that they will need later in life. The school curriculum hasn’t changed by any significant level for many years, just the delivery.

But if the world around us changes and we do not, how are our students going to be prepared for the jobs of the future? Too much teacher-centred instruction can not only be boring for students, but it also doesn’t allow them to express themselves, and direct their own learning.

Autonomous learning

When creating the school for Bali, we had a good set of ingredients; face-to-face teaching, textbooks and assessment questions, but the missing piece of the jigsaw was an online resource that enabled the independent learning to happen effectively and simply. The reason I am so passionate about this aspect of students’ lives is because it is based on engaging higher-order cognitive strategies for problem-solving and group work – all skills that today’s industry requires of its employees. It also enables time for individual guidance by the teacher, the humanity needed in every place of education.

By introducing an immediately effective flipped classroom aspect of learning delivery, I feel teachers are better placed to help their students develop the skills they’ll need in their future careers. This is the brunch of content they appreciate, giving them the freedom to autonomously explore while having confidence in their direction and necessary outcome. After all, students love not being beholden to teachers!

The flipped classroom

In search of learning video records that the students could watch and learn from, I was aware of the breadth of content on the internet, however, it was going to take me a long time to research every video available for each learning objective to ensure it was not only factual but that it covered the right aspects of learning required.

After much research, I came across a resource which offers highly engaging three- to five-minute video ‘pods’ demonstrating all the learning objectives across all curriculum areas, with related questions. It fitted perfectly with my desire for the last independent piece of the learning jigsaw: a very affordable resource that would be ideal for the flipped classroom model for school work, homework and revision.

It directs students along their own learning pathway, providing more learning ‘pods’ if they aren’t answering questions correctly or moving them on to the next level if they are.

Taking complex concepts such as molars in chemistry as an example, once the students have watched the videos in or outside the classroom, it’s so much easier for them to grasp the concept on their own rather than just sitting and listening to a teacher or reading from a book.

Sometimes they may have had a lesson on this in class and use the resource to consolidate their learning as homework or watch the video ‘pods’ before a lesson so they can come to class with a level of understanding and in turn, engage more comfortably with the classroom activities.

It’s not all about technology

There is no doubt that they thrive on this independent model of learning, but they want to absorb it how they choose through a combination of learning tools: technology, text books or hands-on learning experiences.

What this way of teaching offers is another dimension of learning that until students have it, they don’t realise how good it is.

Revision

Whether it is the revision of a particular learning concept as homework or before exams, such online, self-directed learning is ideal. The teacher can easily create learning or revision playlists, providing the students with invaluable, rich independent learning content. But it is when they leave the classroom and manage their own learning that you start to see them devote a lot more time than you could have reasonably asked for.

My legacy for students and teachers in the independent schools I have worked at across the world has been this use of the classroom model working incredibly well. With the growing epidemic of poor and unverified information on the internet, schools require high-quality effective learning content to save teachers’ time, improve student knowledge and provide them with the skills they’ll need for their future careers.

Stephen Powell-Peterson uses GCSEPod as part of his teaching to enable a flipped classroom.