Flipping: A Learning and Teaching Shift

2014_Christina_CavageChristina Cavage

Have you been flipping?  Have you found more Flexibility (the F in Flip) with offering some instruction outside of the classroom?  In this month’s newsletter I’d like to focus on the L in FLIP—Learning Culture, as well as give you a little preview of what I will be presenting at TESOL 2014!

Learning Culture

The learning culture represents the second pillar of the FLIPped model.  The learning culture in a flipped model requires a shift, a teaching and learning paradigm shift.  The focus moves away from the teacher “delivering” instruction, to the teacher truly facilitating instruction.  While this may not sound new to many of us in ESL, there are some critical features of this pillar.

First, teachers need to be aware of what they want to flip and how that content should be delivered so students can apply learning in the classroom environment.  When choosing what to flip, we saw last month that we need to consider cognitive load.  What are those concepts, skills that some students need more time to process?  Once we have selected something to flip, we need to decide how we want to deliver it to our students.  We want our students to be active learners.  I have found the more I have my students “do”, they more active they are.  For example, I recently gave a lesson on paraphrasing.  I wanted to teach my students a technique BEFORE we met face to face. So, I recorded a video where I demonstrated this technique.  After viewing, students were required to take a short quiz and complete an activity.  These were tasks that required them to be active in the learning process.  The next day in class, students were put into groups and they had to complete a paraphrase in a certain period of time.  I spent no class time explaining the technique.  This is a shift, a big shift for both the students and myself.  However, students received valuable class practice on a very difficult skill—paraphrasing.

Second, for students to take an active role in the learning process the task needs to be practical, yet measure the skill taught outside the classroom.  Looking at the paraphrasing example again, I had to make sure I created an in-class activity that measured their understanding of the concept, but also was reasonable for our class time, and achievable based on the learning that took place outside of the classroom.

Lastly, the content must be approachable and meaningful for the learners.  Students need to see the instruction that is done outside of the classroom is meaningful for what will be expected of them to do in the classroom.  So often I see teachers giving online tasks to students that have no connection to what happens in the classroom.  Tasks, like all tasks in language instruction, need to have meaning for our students, and they need to be able to see the connections.

These connections are exactly what I will be addressing at TESOL 2014.  On March 27, at 3:00 p.m., I will be presenting with Jennifer Lebedev (English with Jennifer) and Susan Gaer (author and educator) on Engaging Learners in the 21st Century: Improving Outcomes.  We will be exploring a wide variety of digital materials and the impact these materials are making on our students.  We will discuss the flexibility that tools allow us to have when effectively used.  Lastly, we will discuss how through the use of digital tools we can more accurately measure student learning outcomes.

The very next day (Friday, March 28), at 4:00 p.m., I will be presenting a session on The Flipped ESL Classroom:  What to Flip?  During this session I will share with attendees how I have made that shift—that Learning Culture shift.  You will get a chance to see some effective classroom lessons that I have found to work best in a flipped model, including my paraphrasing lesson!

Flipping, it’s about extending learning and creating more opportunities for learning.  Even on the days I feel tired and old and question why my old grammar chart won’t cut it anymore, I realize the shift has to happen.  Our students are changing; we also need to make a change—a learning culture change.