Another dot in the blogosphere?

More dimensions of flipped learning

Posted on: September 30, 2014

Yesterday I shared the reasons for my three dimensions of flipped learning.

I have thought of two more possible dimensions.

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The fourth dimension of flipped learning could be learner-initiated evaluation.

If one of the desired outcomes of flipping is a more independent and self-directed learner, then the ability to assess and evaluate one’s self should be something to nurture.

To oversimplify, assessment is the measurement of knowledge, skills, or even attitudes. A number or letter indicate how well a student has done often in comparison with others. This is typical of summative assessment. Even the most beneficial form of assessment — formative assessment — is often conducted as part of the processes leading to summative assessment.

Evaluation, on the other hand, might be considered the value one places in a grade or a score. For example, student A might have a score of 95 while student B has a score of 50. If the previous assessment of A and B resulted in scores of 90 and 30 respectively, an assessor of mastery would label A more successful than B. However, an evaluator could place more worth in the 20-point increase by B.

Both assessment and evaluation have their place, but conventional teaching places heavy emphasis on summative assessments and scores. One problem with mishandled assessment is that students learn to tie self worth or ability to them.

Another is that assessment processes tend to be teacher-centric in that they begin and end with the teacher. The teacher sets the task, tests for it, provides feedback and/or remediation, and the cycle starts again. There is nothing wrong with this if it is not the only or main strategy.

For a balanced learning, students should be given opportunities to reflect, evaluate themselves, and critique others. Their self worth should not be tied only to a teacher’s opinion or the score on a piece of paper.

It is time to flip evaluation and put that power and responsibility back in the hands of learners. If learners do not know and/or are not comfortable doing this, then the instructor needs to show them how.

The fifth dimension of flipping could be just-in-time learning.

Conventional instruction as just-in-case and front loading. Students or employees are taught things without context or in advance of knowing why.

Students or trainees are given large amounts of disparate information just in case they need it later for a test or work. But this sort of learning, while potentially challenging, is rarely meaningful because it does not make sense at the time it is received.

One way to flip learning in the fifth dimension is to show real-world relevance first with a problem or issue from life or work (bring context to the class or training venue).

Another is to embed learning in the real world via internships, apprenticeships, or community service (learning in context). The need to internalize new information, practise a new skill, or adopt a new value system makes more sense that way.

Whatever the larger strategy, the learners understand the need for learning something first. The instructor guides learners along by providing just-in-time information by teaching, directing, coaching, mentoring, connecting, etc.

On reflection, I have generated these five dimensions by practising all of them. I tried various forms of the flipped classroom and found most to be ineffective as they did not focus enough on the learner. I found a strategy that worked because it focused on learners-as-teachers and learners-as-content creators.

As I facilitated learning by using these 3D strategies in my courses and workshops, I evaluated the robustness of the model as practised by my learners and me. I tested my own understanding of this emerging set of operating principles by trying to write something coherent in two blog entries.

I wrote this in advance of a talk I led among a group of educators and this has not only made me reflect some more but also made me look for just-in-time resources to justify my model.

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