IATEFL 2016 Re-placing rather than replacing the teacher (Sarah/Robyn)

As part of the mission around what has the impact, Sarah of Pearson is very keen to partner with any practitioners who are raising attainment outcomes so that she can learn from this and help more teachers make more impact.

One such project was done in partnership with Robyn and she is going to tell us about her flipped classroom.

Robyn started by asking us if we were ‘flippers’ some claimed ‘half flipper’, Robyn started that way too apparently! She plans to tell us why she flipped, some simple strategies she uses and the benefits she has noticed.

She saw an article in the Stanford Daily about this concept and how great it was, and Robyn thought it sounded good. Robyn’s job is to make sure her students can succeed at university. If professors there are using this approach, then they need to be able to use English in this kind of setting, if they are to succeed. After her learners leave her, they become just learners not second language learners, they will have to do the same amount of learning etc as everyone else.

Professors were recording lectures, students watched them at home for homework, then in class they worked on interactive activities e.g. comprehension based, working on projects, problem-solving etc. So students need to be able to actively participate, talk to native speakers, apply what’s being taught rather than just memorise stuff.

Robyn realised that she had to stop panicking, calm down, drink a lot of wine and… realise that she didn’t need to do what all the other professors were doing, she needed strategies that worked for her in the context of teaching students English to succeed in the L1 setting at university. So the flipping strategies needed to be adapted for second language learning, be easy to use but maintain the basic principles of flipping.

  • Homework becomes classwork and vice-versa
  • Flip Bloom’s Taxonomy
  • Re-place myself not replace myself i.e. change role.

One important thing about flipped learning is that you have the exact same amount of class time.

Robyn looked at traditional Bloom’s Taxonomy – in class she was teaching the lower level remembering/knowledge, understanding/comprehension and then sent them home to practice, which required the higher level skills. Now, she sends them home to do the lower level work and the higher level skills are brought into class. So homework should be easier for students rather than harder.

She had 5 issues: materials, transferability to other classes and end goals, technology, student participation/buy in and content creation.

She questioned what materials to use. Could she flip with her textbooks/current content? Could she get students to apply what she was teaching to other disciplines or settings? She wondered if she could manage the technology she needed or could she flip without technology. She wondered about Asian students, would she able to put them into this setting where they had to be very interactive.

Robyn started flipping slowly – an activity at a time. She wanted to keep her materials as the content is sound and included what was needed. The basic comprehension material is available to students all the time, in the book. Students like the book. So she kept her books: that was her first strategy. Rather than teaching students the persuasive essay in class, do basic comprehension work at home and then in class actually work on the writing. She found students get much better grades for higher caliber work. They can apply what they have learnt while Robyn circulates and helps them work on it. Much easier to grade a second or third draft.

She tried using authentic materials and materials from other classes (student selected) in reading classes to teach skills like skimming or scanning. They practice on their own with the textbook and then in class they bring anything that they are interested in (from another class etc) and work on a skill like annotating which she could help them work on it. So that they became better able to annotate the material rather than just highlight All The Words!

With regards to technology, she was worried because she knew that ELT doesn’t lecture like other disciplines. So what should go on videos? And what about settings where students don’t have access to technology? She explored other alternatives. Video isn’t necessary. She has used reading material, powerpoint (can also be printed), previously recorded materials (by others) e.g. Jennifer ESL for grammar, publisher or campus systems (e.g. Macmillan Campus). In her Grammar class, she kept the book and paired it with Jennifer ESL video. Students read a couple things in the book, do a bit of practice, watch the video and then in the class they do something more engaging that makes them use the structure/language focus in question.

In order to get students to buy in to this approach, she had to overcome her nerves with regards to an article written by a high school student who wrote about a flipped chemistry class and he and his friends decided they weren’t going to like it and weren’t going to participate. Robyn decided not to tell them it’s a flipped classroom. They expect some homework anyway so what difference does it make what it is? She gives the example of her listening class – she didn’t have to worry as much about cultural differences etc as it is a level playing field. Ss listen to the audio outside class as many times as they want – once or many – so they come to class starting from the same place. She doesn’t have to worry about time management either.

In terms of filling classroom time, she needed quality material but it turned out not to be such a problem as there is lots of extra material in the course books that she never had time to use because of time constraints when doing everything in class. So the approach to textbook use changed. Instead of the freer practice being squidged in at the end, it becomes the main thing e.g. with question formation, they learn how outside the classroom and then have a guest speaker who presents something about which they can ask questions.

She finds her class time is much better managed. So e.g. with listening instead of playing the recording multiple times in class so that the better students get bored and the weaker can catch up, they do the listening in their own time. Much better use of time as well to have more difficult activities happening in class rather than for homework. She moved from ‘sage on the stage’ to ‘guide on the side’.


I will leave you with another kind of Flipper:

Taken from Pixabay

Taken from Pixabay

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s