When you imagine the most inspirational kind of classroom, what does it look like? In Dead Poets Society are they highlighting a handout? Did The History Boys spend their days filling in worksheets, watching the clock?
A classroom becomes inspiring when it is alive with discussion, when a teacher instead becomes a moderator for debate, as students collectively interact with the ideas on the course.
Discussion around history, politics, poetry and more can even help with the realisation of your students own identity, during these important teenage years. Making time for this deeper kind of engagement is wholly possible, even within a standardised curriculum. Flipped learning requires that students are introduced to material before class, with classroom time then being used to refine their understanding and opinions via discussion with their peers. This is compared to ‘traditional learning’, where students do all original learning with their teacher, and then reflect and evaluate on this after class.
Flipped learning has always existed to some degree. Reading a book, or completing a homework task, might fit inside this idea of introducing ideas beforeclass. But advances in technology in the education sector mean than students can fully come to terms with the content of the course in their own time, leaving valuable class time to become a place for thinking outside the box. Flipped learning requires that students be present, both mentally and physically, to reap the rewards. But the cognitive engagement such classes facilitate, will be sure to give them an edge over others hailing from a more passive learning environment. It’s also a great way to prepare GCSE and A Level students who might be aiming for university, where flipped learning is more the norm.
You can make this happen, without students feeling like you have doubled their workload. In fact you can transition your classroom from a traditional to flipped learning environment, without any noticeable increase in their set homework. Use a wide range of learning tools for their education outside of class. Recommend youtube series and documentaries relevant to the curriculum. Find some sources for audio learning and podcasts, which attaches learning to other activities, such as walking or drawing. Anything that can get them thinking about themes and ideas.
What may be more difficult to begin with will be some students approach in class. If they are used to a teacher speaking for 80% of the time, it is going to be an adjustment to suddenly find themselves in a student led, active environment. Start slowly, guide the conversations, don’t be afraid to sit in silence until someone speaks up. They will quickly realise you are not there to hold their hand through this curriculum and will adapt. It is important to keep a steady of suggested resources available from traditional and non-traditional educational tools, to immerse students in ideas constantly outside of the classroom. In a few weeks, they will be glad to get to class to engage in intellectual discussion. And as you transition from lecturer to facilitator, don’t forget to feel proud of students as they become active learners, excited by their own capacity for new ideas.