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Flipping the learning in schools

Across the world educators are getting excited about 'flipping' their classrooms. They are using online video technology for students to access new learning at home. This frees space in lessons for other approaches. Despite the term 'flipped learning' being in widespread use, it looks less like a movement and more different groups inspired to do different things.

This week we launched our own research into the area, which we have produced in partnership with NFER. We invited speakers from different flipped learning projects to join us and explain the work they have been doing under the banner.

Kirsty Tonks and Jen Devaney from Shireland Collegiate Academy presented their work on the 'MathsFlip' project funded by the Education Endowment Foundation. This trial used digital resources at home for children to engage with comprehension of a topic before a lesson. In some cases this is video, but sometimes other resources are used. Although they use the approach throughout the school, the research looks at the approach from the secondary school being used in neighbouring primaries.

The trial involved just over 1,000 pupils and 55 teachers, who were trained in a flipped learning approach. Resources from across the web were curated by the project team, and provided to primary schools to engage pupils in content before lessons. They also provided resources for families to engage with maths at home. This can empower families to support the learning in an area in which they are often unsure of the new methods used in modern classrooms.

They saw a change in culture, including pupils reporting increased confidence and coming to lessons engaged with content and with questions to ask. Results on attainment are still to come, but students and teachers have so far reported benefiting from the approach.

Teacher of the year winner Colin Hegarty shared his approach to teaching maths that has resulted in the creation of the HegartyMaths site. His video resources have been used by many schools for flipped maths teaching, including some involved in our own research. The forthcoming version of the site provides exercises providing data to teachers on how well students are doing.

Colin talked about the power this kind of analytics can bring. It can save teachers time in marking, but also allow them to use that time analysing how and why students have struggled with particular concepts. On his @HegartyMaths twitter account Colin is sharing some of the misconceptions and approaches students are revealing by using the platform.

All our guests showed some powerful approaches under the banner of flipped learning. I had expected there to be more difference in the approaches than there was, but there were some key similarities that stood out. All the approaches were about encouraging a deep engagement with content. They also included an emphasis on assessment, not as a summative judgement but as an immediate tool for adapting approaches to learning and teaching.

They all faced some of the same challenges and opportunities, many of which we have captured in our research report and practitioner guide.

They also shared a core value; that technology should be used to remove barriers to learning or progressing, to open up the learning process through feedback and to adapt content to the context of individual students.

Thanks to everyone who joined us for the event, and the resulting discussion. They raised many interesting points not covered here but that have got me thinking, as I am sure they have others. Thanks to the guest speakers, and to Suzanne Straw and Jennie Harland from NFER for joining us to share our joint research.


Oliver Quinlan

Oliver Quinlan

Oliver Quinlan

Head of Impact and Research, Raspberry Pi Foundation

Oliver was a programme manager for Nesta’s digital education projects. He is now Head of Impact and Research at the Raspberry Pi Foundation.

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