This post was written following a presentation given at Clickview Australia’s first Flipped Learning Round Table on October 7 2016.

The post will likely also appear on the Clickview blog. 

Introduction

At Parramatta Marist High School, we have undertaken a significant program of pedagogy change over the past decade. While the focus for our junior students has predominantly been Project Based Learning (PBL), we have moved towards models of Problem Based Learning (PrBL) and Flipped Learning for our senior students. In 2013, we undertook a whole-school shift to Flipped Learning for our Year 12 HSC students. Every lesson in every subject throughout the HSC is flipped. This was a significant undertaking and one that taught us numerous lessons as we refined our practice. 2016 saw us introduce a hybridised Flipped/Problem Based Learning approach for our Year 11 Preliminary HSC students. This model aimed to address some of the limitations of our One Day One Problem approach, modelled on that pioneered at Republic Polytechnic, Singapore allowing students to go deeper with the content when solving the problem. Parramatta Marist High has seen some significant improvements in one measure of academic success, the HSC examination, over the past 10 years of implementing a variety of pedagogy changes. While it is very difficult to attribute the improvement we can see to one particular school-based intervention, we can make some generalisations regarding the impact of some of these changes. Finally, our school formed a partnership with Erasmus University, Rotterdam and four of our teachers have commenced doctoral studies under Prof. Henk G Schmidt, a world authority in pedagogy, particularly in PBL. One of the focus areas for our research has been to construct and determine the reliability and validity of an instrument to measure student perception of the Flipped Classroom.

our-journey
The progression of pedagogy implementation at Parramatta Marist High

 

Scaling the Flipped Classroom as a Whole-School HSC Approach

We introduced a whole-school Flipped Classroom approach for our HSC students in 2013 in order to buy back class time for our students to engage in inquiry and to apply their content to better prepare them for the rigours of the HSC examination. Our students were also calling for a change as they had experienced three years of student-centred pedagogies. Surveys indicated that they were not engaged by the very teacher-centred traditional approach most HSC teachers had adopted in order to meet the content demands of the HSC. This shift was a challenge, as we needed to develop a model that promoted consistency across and within subjects whilst also respecting the professionalism of our teachers, allowing them to determine how the approach was adopted in their classes. Below are some reflections of what we felt are some of our key learnings from four years of scaling the HSC.

 

The importance of applying content prior to the lesson

 In our first year of implementation, in order to determine whether students had engaged with the pre-learning material, students were generally required to ask questions or to make generic notes. While this was a suitable accountability measure to ensure that students had engaged with the content, we found that their comprehension was still rather limited. We have now moved to a model where students generally answer questions based on the pre-learning material. While these questions are generally framed at the lower end of Bloom’s taxonomy, they still ensure that students are actively engaged in their learning and that deeper thinking is taking place. Student responses are generally collected electronically, affording the teacher the opportunity to read them prior to class and providing opportunities for the teacher to modify the focus of the lesson and to plan for differentiation.

structure-fo-the-flipped-classroom-at-pmh
The structure of the whole-school HSC Flipped Classroom at Parramatta Marist High

Short videos

Our original shift towards a scaled Flipped Classroom model was conducted hastily and did not allows us time to plan our video resource creation as carefully as we would have liked. Many of our original video resources were designed around whole syllabus dot points, or around all of the content addressed in a specific lesson. As such, the majority of our videos were over 15 minutes long. Student engagement surveys were used to determine student perceptions of the videos and the length was a factor that students identified was impacting on their engagement. This was supported by the work from Phillip Guo et.al who investigated video watching habits of MOOC participants. We determined that, within our context, videos should really not be any longer than six minutes long. This led us to produce videos that were focused on maintaining their brevity and which were based more around single concepts and ideas, rather than broader topic overviews.

guo-et-al
Median watching time vs Video Length – From Philip Guo et al. 2014

 

Curating or creating videos

With a scaled approach to Flipped Learning, incorporating all teachers, and with such a quick transition period in the first year, we did not stipulate that teachers were required to construct their own video content. However, this is something we have subsequently encouraged, though we also feel that it is unnecessary for teachers to compose all of their own resources. In a digital age where we see educators sharing their practice and resources more freely, I think it would be a retrograde step to expect teachers to work in isolation. The advice we give to our teachers is that if you can’t improve upon the video that you have found online, then why would we use our limited time to recreate something.

 

Mixed-media resources

Some have tried to suggest that a lesson cannot be considered ‘flipped’ if video media is not involved in the delivery of content for the homework students complete prior to the lesson. I would argue that this is a very narrow understanding of this approach. It is clear that subjects like mathematics, which are generally process oriented, might lend themselves to instruction through the medium of video. However, other subjects such as English and History, I would argue, are better serviced with a mixed-media approach to presenting homework. These disciplines, among others, are based on engagement with and interpretation of the written word. Video media is a great supplement to such texts and can lead students to a deeper understanding of the concepts addressed. I think this is a more realistic approach to Flipped Learning and one that acknowledges the nuances of different disciples.

 

Application time in class

One of our earliest mistakes with scaling the Flipped Classroom was the use of class time. Out teachers lacked the confidence in the flipped process in ensuring our students arrived to our classes with a foundational understanding of the content. As a result, many of our teachers were using a majority of class time to re-teach content already covered during the homework. This became apparent when we surveyed our students. There was a general sense of frustration at being required to sit through a very teacher-centred exposition of content already covered. We used this data to realign our practices and to promote the suggestion that no more than 20% of class time be used to recap content and that the majority of class time.

use-of-class-time
The aim for the division of time in a flipped lesson

Hybridised Flipped/Problem Based Learning Model

In 2010, following the introduction of Project Based Learning in the junior years, we introduced a school-wide Problem Based Learning approach for Year 11 Preliminary HSC students. In this model, students were challenged with a problem to solve at the beginning of the day and then worked collaboratively to solve the problem throughout the day, presenting their solution for critique at the conclusion of the day. This approach was based on the One Day One Problem model introduced at Republic Polytechnic, Singapore.

What we found after a number of years of implementation was that students struggled to go deep with the content with this structure, as we were not adequately activating their prior knowledge. Students were exposed to important content and concepts prior to engaging with the problem itself, but we struggled to find the time to go deep enough with this content to prepare students thoroughly for the problem.

We also found that the presentations at the end of the one-day of problem solving session were often rushed and lacking in thoughtful preparation and rehearsal. We wanted to provide students with the time to think more critically about their presentation prior to the presentation.

In order to address these concerns, in 2016, we remodelled the structure of our One Day One Problem approach to introduce a Flipped Learning component and to provide reflection time for students prior to their presentation. Within a two-week cycle of learning students will meet as a class for four specific sessions which are outlined below and which are represented in the diagram.

Session 1 -100 minute lesson – Content Flip

  • Students introduced to new content via a flipped lesson.
  • Lesson time spent clarifying misunderstandings and applying the content.

Session 2 – 200 minute lesson – Problem Release and Problem Solving

  • Students are introduced to a challenging problem
  • Students spend 200 minutes working collaboratively to solve the problem.
  • Homework is for students to work collaboratively outside of school hours synchronously and asynchronously.

Session 3 – 100 minute lesson – Defence Presentation

  • Students spend around an hour presenting their solution to the problem and critiquing one another’s presentations.
  • Teachers then had an opportunity to provide explicit feedback and to present an exemplar solution to the problem.

Session 4 – 50 minute lesson – Test and Application

  • Students then work collaboratively on HSC style questions at higher levels of Bloom’s taxonomy, refining their understanding of the concepts and content addressed through the problem.
hybridised-flippedprbl-model
Hybridised Flipped/Problem Based Model initiated at Parramatta Marist High in 2016

We’ve found that this approach has allowed students to engage with the problem more quickly and to access the problem at deeper levels than we had found before. We also found that the quality of student presentations improved as our students were able to spend significant time reflecting on their solution and rehearsing their presentations.

 

Improving HSC Results: One Measure of School Improvement

One measure of school effectiveness is performance in the Higher School Certificate examination. While this is only one of many methods to determine student achievement, it is one that is easily tracked over time.

Since the introduction of the Flipped Classroom at Parramatta Marist High in 2013, we have seen a significant improvement in student HSC performance. In the HSC students are placed into achievement bands based upon their overall performance in each subject. These bands are represented below.

Band 6

≤ 90%
Band 5 80% – 89%
Band 4 70% – 79%
Band 3 60% – 69%
Band 2 50% – 59%
Band 1 > 50%

Since the introduction of the Flipped Classroom in 2013, we have seen the percentage of students achieving in the top two bands combined (Band 5 and 6) steadily increase from 48% in 2012 (prior to the Flipped Classroom’s introduction) to 63% in 2015.

Year 2012

Prior to Flipped Classroom

2013

First Flipped Classroom Cohort

2014

Second Flipped Classroom Cohort

2015

Third Flipped Classroom Cohort

% Band 5 & 6 Combined 48% 55% 62% 63%

Performance in the lower bands is perhaps more pleasing. In 2012 17 precent of courses achieved were the lowest three bands (Bands 1, 2 an 3). Between 2013 and 2015, we saw this percentage decrease to 5%, with no students receiving results in Bands 1 or 2.

Year 2012

Prior to Flipped Classroom

2013

First Flipped Classroom Cohort

2014

Second Flipped Classroom Cohort

2015

Third Flipped Classroom Cohort

% Band 1,2 & 3 Combined 21% 15% 9% 5%

While it is very difficult to attribute such improvements to any particular intervention or strategy, our feeling is that the introduction and refinement of the Flipped Classroom has had a significant impact on these results.

 

Flipped Classroom: Developing an Instrument to Measure Student Perceptions

As a part of Parramatta Marist High’s PhD program through Erasmus University, Rotterdam, under the supervision of PhD Promotor, Prof. Henk. G. Schmidt, I have been undertaking research into student perceptions of the Flipped Classroom. This research has taken the form of an attempt to develop an instrument to measure student perceptions of this pedagogical approach, as no such instrument currently exists.

A study of the literature and our own experiences with the Flipped Classroom led to the development of a 48-item survey instrument that sought to measure 9 distinct aspects or ‘domains’ of this approach. The survey was administered to 136 senior students and we were able to determine the reliability of the survey instrument using test-retest reliability coefficient and Cronbach’s Alpha coefficient. Moreover, student responses were strongly supportive of the Flipped Classroom. Students generally enjoyed learning in this model and they felt that this approach helped them to learn when compared to more traditional approaches. A paper entitled ‘Student Perceptions of the Flipped Classroom: Reliability and Validity of an Instrument’ has been written and is in the process of being peer-reviewed.

The next phase of the research is to administer the survey to a greater number of students from more diverse populations. This will then allow us to determine the validity of the instrument through structural equation modelling and factor analyses. In turn, this will help to determine that the questions measure what they were designed to measure and it will help us to further explore the relationships between question items within domains as well as the relationships between the domains themselves. From this, a more comprehensive understanding of student perception of the Flipped Classroom can be achieved.

Conclusion

Since the Flipped Classroom was introduced at Parramatta Marist in 2013, we have seen some significant changes. Our experience has led to a refining of our Flipped Classroom structure to design a model that fosters best practice while providing teachers with flexibility to use their professional judgment in regards to its implementation. The Hybridised/Flipped Classroom model we developed has afforded us more time to ensure our students can engage with the problems at a deeper level as well as ensuring a higher standard of collaborative problem-solution presentations. The introduction of the Flipped Classroom has also had a positive impact on our HSC results with both results improving both in the higher bands as well as the lower bands. Our research into student perceptions of the Flipped Classroom has also confirmed that students acknowledge the benefits of the Flipped Classroom and they feel that this approach prepares them very well for the rigours of the HSC examination.

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