Sunday, July 6, 2014

End of School Reflections Part 1: Flipped Learning

When I first sat down to write this blog post, I thought it would just be one entry. I started brainstorming, sketched out my ideas, and typed...and typed...and typed. Staring at multiple pages of text I thought, "Why would anyone else want to read this?" But also, "I really need to write this for my own professional growth!" Finally, it hit me: A series of posts instead of just one. Perfect. Here it begins with Part 1:

I have been out of school for about a month now, and I'm starting to feel reflective about last year, as well as excited to start planning for next year. When I first thought back to last year, I remembered all of the things that didn't go so well: students I never felt like I was able to connect with, projects that we started and never finished, new tools that I used for the first few months and then simply forgot about as the school year progressed. Then I sat down to look over my planbook from last year and made a list of all the new things I had experimented with in the classroom. This is when I realized that I did grow as a teacher last year and my students learned some amazing stuff.  Not everything we did was perfect, but there are certainly aspects of each initiative I'm hoping to keep, refine, and try again.

Changes to Flipped Learning
I had flipped my classroom for a little over two years prior to this past school year, but I still feel like I'm tinkering with a model that works best for my students. This year, I decided to "explore, flip, apply" by starting with a hook, question, or curious event, and then delivering the content to my students when they were ready and wondering - via video.  Sometimes the hook was an investigation, such as the nitrogen lab in which students tested soil samples from around town (their choice) and then used the N cycle to explain the data. Sometimes the hook was a video clip, like when I played a segment of "Osmosis Jones" before starting the cell unit to ask, "What do cells do?" Or having the students watch a clip from "Avatar" before learning about biomes and biodiversity. Or filming myself and my fellow Chemistry teacher down at the local pool to introduce the importance of scientific units and dimensional analysis.

Result: I think these hooks were somewhat engaging for students, but I need to continue to search for various formats of hooks that dig more deeply into student thinking. What I think was especially powerful was when I was able to take the data from an investigation the students had just completed the day before, incorporate it into a video for the students to watch that night, and then discuss it the next day.

I need to keep providing skeletal notes outlines for my Biology students longer into the year. They are supposed to take notes while they watch content videos, but so few have actually practiced this skill prior to my class. I need to link the notes outlines more closely with the learning targets for the unit.

My classes were polar opposites in the their acceptance of flipped learning this year. A couple of the classes were great about asking questions, watching videos, and participating in non-traditional classroom activities. A couple of other classes complained ALL THE TIME and constantly asked, "Why can't you just tell us the answer? Won't you just lecture today?" After talking to other teachers about these particular classes, it sounded like their attitudes toward learning weren't limited to the Biology classroom.  Looking back, I'm happy that they were challenged to think deeply and differently in Biology class, but while the school year was in progress, their complaints were very stressful.

Actions for Next Year:

  • Spend more time at the beginning of the year practicing note-taking with my students. Give them guided, target-based outlines all year.
  • Find resources for more engaging hooks, appropriate for each unit.
  • Generate other resources students can use for content instead of or in addition to a video. This could be iBooks or other websites.
  • Embed formative questions in the videos (not afterwards) to give students mental checkpoints in their learning.
Tomorrow's Reflection: Project-Based Learning

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