5. Flipped and Collaborative Learning


THE PHILOSOPHY


In 'Back in the early days'  I have touched a bit about my concerns of the most common classroom and what I had gone through during my class (practically during the first three years of my teaching experience): 

  1.  If the exercises and discussions are the keys for the students to better understand the subject, can we maximise this in the class?
  2.  Can we focus more on these activities (problem solving, discussions, reflection) in the class and let the students study the materials outside the class (before coming to the class)?

This was the idea to the concept of the Flipped Classroom or later appropriately called Flipped Learning.

This pedagogy style was first promoted by the Woodland Park High School chemistry teachers named Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams where, in 2007, they recorded their lectures and posted them online in order to accommodate students who missed their classes.

Since then, the community of educators adopting this method is growing and the effectiveness and the impact on the student’s learning are continued to be discussed scientifically.


The following movie explains briefly the concept of a flipped classroom.



Flipped Classroom or Flipped Learning?

Flipped learning is often misinterpreted as flipped classroom. While the latter can be interpreted to only ‘physical’ transformation, the former touches the core essence of the student’s experience in learning.


According to flippedlearning.org, the definition is

The flipped learning is a pedagogical approach in which direct instruction moves from the group learning space to individual learning space, and the resulting group space is transformed into a dynamic, interactive learning environment where the educator guides students as they apply the concepts and engage creatively in the subject matter.


The four pillars of F.L.I.P are

  1. Flexible Environment. It should allow students to learn anywhere and anytime. This also means that the infrastructures, either the content itself, the learning management system (on-line system) as well as the classroom must be suitable for both independent learning and collaborative learning.

  2. Learning Culture. By shifting to the learner-centred approach, the lecturer has to ensure that the students are now responsible for their own learning. By having the content studied outside the class by students, the lecturer facilitates collaborative activities in class to sharpen the knowledge of the students into greater depth.

  3. Intentional Content. The lecturer must design the contents for students, not only to develop the conceptual understanding, but also to keep them engage with the subjects. It must be ensured that the students ‘happily’ study the materials outside the class and they actively engage with collaborative problem solving activities in the class.

  4. Professional Educator. The lecturer must ensure that the flipped learning method must improve the student’s learning in a much more effective way compared to the traditional lecturer-centred approach. The lecturer must involve in a community where the pros and cons of the flipped learning method can be shared and discussed with colleagues in and outside the faculty and collaborates each other for continuous quality improvement. 


I created the following infographics to summarise the difference between the conventional lecturer-centred approach with the flipped learning approach.





MY FLIPPED AND COLLABORATIVE CLASS


I started to develop the interactive contents (animation whiteboard videos, HTML animation and iBooks) in 2015 for subject Mechanical Vibration (BMCM 3743). Since then with all the limitations, I begin implementing the flipped learning methods to my class. 

The flipped learning together with the collaborative learning approach were conveniently applied when the CLEAR (Collaborative Learning Room) was ready to be used. Intended for the student-centred activity room, the room is much more spacious than the usual classrooms we have in the faculty. It is equipped with eight glass boards around the walls, so that each group can scribble on the board during their problem solving and discussion activities.



In Semester I, session 2016/2017, I continue to apply the flipped learning and collaborative learning pedagogy for my taught subjects: Mechanical Vibration (BMCM 3743) and Numerical Method (BEKG 2452). I took the initiative to use the CLEAR room for the first time and the only lecturer who used the room for the collaborative learning in that semester. 

I have the interactive contents for the Mechanical Vibration subject (although it is not complete yet). For the second subject because this was the first time the subject was assigned to me, I had to rely only on the lecture notes.

On the first day of the class, I explained the concept behind the flipped learning approach to the students as mostly none of the students are aware of this pedagogy before. They may know the terminology of ‘student-centred learning’ and some lecturers adopt this method in the class as well, but the flipped learning is quite new to them, even to lecturers. 

For each topic, I explain and discuss with my students the context on why the topic is studied and where the application would be. This is important to be emphasised first to give the students a contextual situation. Learning can take place when the knowledge is obtained based on their observations or their experience (contextual learning). The defined context can also excite their motivation throughout the activities in the class.  

After discussing the context, I will explain the intro for the theory, usually for about 10-15 minutes or so, and the remaining activities in the class are the discussion in groups to solve the problems I have posed online. 

For the Learning Management System (LSM), I use Moodle (officially used by UTeM, called U-Learn) and also OpenLearning. I believe that a good online learning content is  where it is designed so that the students can learn by themselves, with less guidance from the lecturer. For this purpose, the instructions must be clear (good instructional design). This is where the interactive videos I develop fit in for the millennial students, explaining the theory and example of the problem solutions interactively, rather than only presenting them a static content to be read, which are rather boring and less engaging. 

The problem solving activities are also scaffolded to develop the right design thinking process for the students. I design the activities so that it starts with low and ends up with high critical thinking process to solve the problem. At the end of the activities, the students should master the fundamental concept of the corresponding topic and they should be able to link the theory and to solve the similar problems in engineering practice.

For every class I had experienced with the Flipped Learning concept, I had seen that most students were first difficult to ‘move’ into the discussion mode, because they still expected the class to be run with the conventional lecturer-centred approach where the lecturer delivers all explanations (the context, derivation of equations, example problems, etc).

I found also that throughout the class, some students were also coming with ‘still empty-head’ condition. No ‘study at home’ was done as expected in the flipped learning concept. In this situation, I let them study the materials first and let them have discussion with peers for about 15-20 minutes, before start solving the given problem I gave to them.

I have to stick with the principle that the students are responsible for their learning.

I was surprised to see that this technique, although it is not effective, does work. However, this requires that instruction in the materials are clear. And in this way, the interaction with lecturer is already started when the students do not hesitate to ask the concepts that they do not understand.

Here instead of answering directly the correct answer to the students, I posted them several questions, for examples:

  1. Why? 
  2. Could you explain to me how you could come up with that answer?
  3. If I increase this parameter so that the value becomes infinity, what do you think will happen?
  4. Yes, that is correct. Now in what frequency do you think will be the most dangerous situation? 

I like this inquiry process because this is where I interact directly with the student’s mind. 

With this process as well, I will ensure that the students obtain the final answer by mastering the conceptual knowledge and not by memorising or following the same procedures as in the similar example problems.

In the flipped class, this is the privilege time I have to improve the critical thinking of the students into higher level (refer to Bloom Taxonomy pyramid) which I can only have just in the small portion of time in the conventional teaching approach.