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Flipped learning for a world turned upside down

Flipped learning for a world turned upside down

The global coronavirus pandemic has forced educators to become more flexible, not only in the context of public schools but also in ESL academies. This new era has paved the way for a new trend in educational practice - the flipped classroom.   Having been successfully embraced by American and European institutes, flipped learning was recognized as one of the most important developments in higher education for the year 2015. However, a key advantage of flipped learning is that it lends itself to remote delivery due to the flexibility that comes with the independent characteristics of its implementation. With current suggestions from health experts being to remain as socially distant as possible, the need to combine synchronous and asynchronous learning has become essential to minimize the chances of infection in crowded places such as language classrooms.

By Julie Bampasiotou

Flipped classrooms combine the idea of blended learning and other flexible pedagogical methods, making them both accessible and, most importantly, engaging for students. More precisely, teachers can present and explain content with the aid of technology, either in person or from a distance. Instead of using classroom time to introduce new topics of discussion, teachers assign videos, podcasts or even articles to read before the traditional class takes place. Then, during the lesson, teachers may explain parts of the new topic which students might have misunderstood and then students share their thoughts with each other or engage in conversational practice. Furthermore, with their teacher’s encouragement they can further continue their discussions via forums or chats and even demonstrate their knowledge through on-line tests and projects. Due to increased exposure to the topic that comes with this structure, students are able to gain greater insight into the class content. This type of lesson organization can be applied effectively in higher education since it promotes high-level thinking skills. However, a thought- provoking question is, how can flipped learning be effectively deployed by foreign language teachers?

 

Flipped learning gives a unique opportunity for students to gain a better understanding of a topic before their first exposure to it in the classroom. Using podcasts, videos, presentations and quizzes, new content can be introduced both visually and auditorily.

 

While ESL teachers develop the course, they can take into consideration the following aspects.

Flipped learning gives a unique opportunity for students to gain a better understanding of a topic before their first exposure to it in the classroom. Using podcasts, videos, presentations and quizzes, new content can be introduced both visually and auditorily. It is essential that prior to summative assessment, key aspects of knowledge are clearly and explicitly presented to learners during the input phase. These vital pieces of information, which can be identified through diagnostic evaluation early in the course, should act as reference points for educators before they start planning a lesson. In summary, teachers must develop materials tailored to student wants and needs. In addition, these activities build students critical thinking skills and answer their questions directly. At the end of every introductory lesson, a short evaluation takes place in the form of a quiz, true or false questions, and other useful activities which promote student understanding. Also, the results from these activities can offer vital information to educators about a student’s state of understanding. However, to collect valuable data, teachers should explain to students that this process should be approached seriously on their part. Preparation at home is as crucial as the presentation stage in the classroom.  Learners must engage with asynchronous learning activities independently without their teacher’s assistance for them to benefit fully from flipped learning.

A flipped course should be designed around mechanisms that promote student understanding in concordance with their existing ability. Advanced students can deal with Ted talks, Journals, and articles (like those from BBC news) to expand their knowledge using authentic materials. For most students, this process can be a driving force to develop high order thinking skills which can later be taken advantage of in their own application of language.  This online pre-teaching approach facilitates students to focus on essential areas, teaches them necessary vocabulary and familiarizes them with new grammatical points before classroom-based instruction. Having given them the right amount of input, students are equipped with crucial knowledge which enables them to be productive and participative language learners in the classroom.

This said, it is necessary to outline possible challenges that both teachers and students can encounter in the implementation of a flipped model of earning.

Following widespread social distancing and the subsequent need for extensive online teaching, Greek teachers have more comfortable using technology as part of their practice. However, the process of developing suitable, high-quality materials can be rather time-consuming. Educators have to take into consideration factors such as genre, age, level of English and how to effectively structure this material. On top of this, there is the risk that unappealing materials may inhibit learning and demotivate students. Likewise, teachers can gradually lose their interest in flipped learning and eventually abandon it because of this potentially painstaking process. Hence, the solution can be found in already existing material which accompany the language books from most publishers. Often including interactive content and useful links for further reading, instructors can assign videos alongside this textbook content, whilst also making sure they have given an adequate number of tasks for a particular group of students. By following this process of blending pre-existing tasks with media content, teachers can save time and effort while simultaneously ensuring that students are supported in their learning.

In my view, flipped classrooms are here to stay. It is a promising new trend in Greek education for the coming years - even the Ministry of Education has encouraged the use of flipped learning in contexts where educators are unable to meet with their classes in person. Undeniably this change of approach does have implications for the role of teachers in their students’ language development, moving more from instructor to facilitator of the learning process. This new way of learning will promote active participation and autonomy, both necessary skills for students’ lifelong learning.

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