Blended Educator

Blogging about blended learning

FlipCon Australia Workshops — May 16, 2015

FlipCon Australia Workshops


FlipCon is an annual Flipped Learning conferenced held in the United States. This year will be the 8th year it has been held, demonstrating the continued popularity of Flipped Learning.

This year, FlipCon is coming to Australia, being held at Saint Stephen’s College, Coomera in QLD. Flipped gurus Aaron Sams and Jon Bergmann are keynoting the event, which is pretty exciting.

The Senior Studies Coordinator from my school, Craig Brennan and I will be presenting two sessions at FlipCon to share how Parramatta Marist High implemented the Flipped Classroom in all courses in Stage 6 to improve our HSC results.

Our first session will look at the structures we built, the Professional Learning we provided to staff and the challenges we faced in implementing this new model of learning.

Our second session will focus on the our key learning about running quality Flipped Classrooms after three years of implementation in dozens of high school courses. We will also examine the research we have started to conduct into the efficacy of the model at our school.

Obviously both sessions will be run in true Flipped Classroom style, with pre-learning material and videos to watch, with time in the workshop to discuss, apply and challenge assumptions.

We’re both pretty excited to present and to meet and learn from other teachers who are doing similar things in their schools.

Below is our promo video for our sessions at FlipCon in October (a shameless act of self-promotion!)

HOT Paragraphs: A data-teams based whole-school literacy initiative — May 2, 2015

HOT Paragraphs: A data-teams based whole-school literacy initiative

Hot Paragraphs

If you like this post, you might like a new post I have written on using the DEC’s Literacy Continuum to inform our Data Wall. This is the newest version of our whole-school literacy initiative. Here is the link.

The Why…

Three years ago, after interpreting our NAPLAN literacy results, we decided to implement a whole-school literacy initiative to improve our students’ ability to write effectively and their use of language conventions. We hoped that a whole-school focus might help support the students in their ability to construct texts, and improve their use of grammar, spelling and punctuation.

The What…

While we could have adopted a writing program available on the market, we decided that we wanted to develop our own approach to writing, with a focus on paragraph writing. One of the main reasons for this was that we had noticed that the language ou students used when referring to the structure of their work was inconsistent. What one teacher called a topic sentence, another teacher called a thesis statement an another an opening remark. So we developed our own approach, which we termed Higher Order Thinking Paragraphs, or HOT Paragraphs.

We wrote a program and built resources for our teachers to support them as they implemented this approach in their classrooms. We provided time for them to use the resources we had provided to create their own subject-specific examples and to write subject-specific questions and modelled responses to those questions. All of this formed a part of the work we were doing in our Professional Learning Teams (PLTs). These a cross curricular teams of teachers that meet fortnightly for 100 minutes of professional learning.

The How…

For the last three years, HOT Paragraphs have been the Term 1 focus of our PLTs. Each fortnight, PLT members would bring to their PLT paragraphs completed by their students in class. We would examine these as a group and mark them based on a simplified rubric. We intentionally kept the rubric very simple. We wanted to ensure that the feedback was both informative but not overly time-consuming. The rubric focused on Topic and concluding Sentences, Supporting Sentences, Grammar and Punctuation and Spelling. While the rubric is not without its limitations and weaknesses, it does provide a basis for interpreting and measuring student work. Below is the current iteration of the rubric:

HOT Paragraphs Rubric

Data Teams…

What we did slightly differently this year, was to combine what we were already doing with our HOT Paragraphs in our PLTs with the use of the Data Teams process. This process seeks to measure student data over time, revising our goals for different groups of students in the classroom based on their performance. We decided that each teacher would focus on one particular class they taught for this program.

The Pretest…

Our first task was to have students write a paragraph without any explicit teaching of the HOT Paragraph structure. We hoped that this would provide us with a baseline for the data we were collecting, so we could see the impact of the HOT Paragraph interventions. This year, we marked these paragraphs prior to attending our PLTs, so we could discuss the specific needs of our students in more detail during the PLT session.

Strengths and Weaknesses…

We recorded our data in Google Sheets, so all teachers could reflect on each others’ data. We also created a graph for each student so we could visually see their progress throughout the HOT Paragraph focus. We then looked at the strengths and weaknesses for each band level of students. This was a useful process as it allowed us to recognise that not all students in our classrooms had the same needs and that our interventions needed to be differentiated. This allowed us to then determine which intervention strategies would be the most appropriate for us to implement with our classes in the following fortnight. Below is the Strengths and Weaknesses Google Sheet we used.

Strengths and weaknesses

SMART Goals… 

Based on our interpretation of the strengths and weaknesses, we set SMART goals for our students. We wanted to have something specific to aim towards for our classes so we would know whether our intervention was successful. Below is the Google Sheet we used to help us set our goals for our classes.

Smart Goals

The Intervention…

We used what we have learned about our students’ strengths and weaknesses to explicitly teach paragraph writing to our students, using the resources we had already created. Students were exposed to the lexicon we wanted them to use, gained an understanding of the elements required in a paragraph and were provided with practice questions.

The Cycle…

We continued this cycle for the remainder of the PLTs. Each session we charted our data, we examined our students’ work, looked for strengths and weakeness, set revised SMART goals and planned the next fortnight’s interventions. The discussions were incredibly fruitful and allowed us to spend quality time looking deeply at our students’ work.

Below is an example of one class’ Google Sheet, with their marks and percentages for each HOT Paragraph iteration.

Spreadsheet blurred


We have seen some success with the use of HOT Paragraphs. In the first two years, we saw growth in our Yr 7 and 9 cohorts in the NAPLAN examinations, predominantly in the language conventions: spelling, grammar and punctuation. We think that we can attribute much of this to the focus that the HOT Paragraphs places on these elements, as well as the fact that our teachers felt more comfortable addressing these elements with their students then perhaps they did with sentence or paragraph structure.

Teacher feedback also suggests that they found the process beneficial for their students and themselves. We surveyed our teachers after the PLT with 95% of teachers recognising that the process had a positive impact on student outcomes; a third of whom felt that the impact was significant. All teachers found the Data Teams process to be effective, with two third suggesting that they found the process very effective. Below are some quotes from our teachers on the positive take aways from this PLT focus:

‘Identifying the strengths and weaknesses of each student in the class and tailoring activities according to these individual and class needs.’

‘Saw an improvement in student writing samples. Able to collaborate with other staff and gain insight into strategies they were using.’

‘HOT paragraphs has given me an indication of how articulate some of my students are and other students who may need some more assistance. HOT paragraphs can be used as a diagnostic tool for each student and the lessons I prepare.’

‘The ability to personally collect real data, over a period of time made the process more meaningful. The repetitive nature over an extended period also allowed deeper thinking, measuring and analysis about HOT Paragraphs.’

‘HOT paragraphs are something that we continually need to be doing in your classroom. This is reinforced by the fact that once I started talking to the students about the HOT paragraphs and the marking rubric their application and understanding improved.’

We also saw generally positive growth in most class data sets. Although this is not a completely objective instrument for measuring the efficacy of the work we have done, I think it still provides us with some positive take aways. Below are some examples of individual student graphs.

example Graph 2 blurExample Graph 1 blur


Although this process certainly has its limitations and drawbacks, I think that over the past three years we have been met with some considerable success. HOT Paragraphs and the language we use to describe paragraph writing has now become a part of our school vernacular. As a result, HOT Paragraphs are no longer something that we ask our students to complete when it is a PLT focus. It has become the default approach to written responses for our school, helping to ensure that there is consistency among staff when we discuss our writing. I think that for us, HOT Paragraphs are here to stay.

Avoiding Frankenstein Projects — April 25, 2015

Avoiding Frankenstein Projects

I remember watching Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, directed by Kenneth Branagh when I was a teenager. I thought it was brilliant at the time and it inspired me to read a number of the Gothic classics. However, on later reflection Branagh’s passion project, despite the inclusion of Robert de Niro, didn’t do justice to Mary Shelley’s original.

I was thinking about this the other day when I was looking at some past student work from previous PBL projects we had created that were not as successful as they perhaps could have been. For some of these projects, I think it was because they were Frankenstein Projects.

What I mean by this is that the students’ End Product, was not so much a homogenous piece of work, but rather a mish-mash of individually created elements, often hastily ‘stiched together’ at the end of the project to form some “monster” or “ugly wretch”, rather than an internally consistent and artfully realised whole product.

I don’t mean to say that these Frankenstein Projects don’t demonstrate quality learning. Often they demonstrate incredibly deep learning and remarkable insight on behalf of the students involved in their composition. The problem is that these projects don’t demonstrate effective teamwork, which, if we are serious about Project Based Learning, should be a priority.

We know these end products when we see them. Often some elements are completed very well, and others are done poorly. Sometimes we realise that the group members have an in-depth understanding of the content they have researched and contributed to the final product, but limited understanding of the other parts that make up the whole. As teachers, we often see a disconnect between each element presented in the End Product, suggesting to us that our students do not understand how these parts are related. Towards the end of the project, we often hear students say things like “I’ve finished my section and don’t have anything else to do”. These are all indicators of what I would call Frankenstein Projects.

Somtimes it is our fault, we ceate projects that encourage students to break the project up between group members.

We often, without thinking, build projects that encourage students to break the project down into parts, to complete their own sections and to ‘stitch’ the End Product back together into their own PBL monster. We create projects that have clearly defined parts for students to complete, encouraging them to break the project into these elements to ‘share out’ within the group and reassemble at the end.

These Frankenstein Project often reminds me of the Indian tale of the 6 blind men and the elephant. In this story, 6 blind men, or men in the dark, are asked to feel and describe an object they have never seen, an elephant. Depending on where they have touched the animal, the men make an attempt to describe the elephant. None are incorrect in their description, but none have comprehended the complete picture either.

I’ve seen this numerous times. Our End Product is an iBook… we have 5 students in each group… so we ask for 5 chapters… Our End Product is an oral presentation… we have 4 students in each group… we provide 4 talking points… What did we really think would happen?

However, It is not always our fault, sometimes our students, often lacking confidence in their group’s ability to cooperate, actively look for ways to break the project up among themselves.

This was perhaps most evident to me a number of years ago when marking an English project. We had cleared classes and had asked our students to write a fiction book in a day. Students were in groups of 5 and one particular group had taken the decision to write a five chapter book, each writing their own chapter. Needless to say, the End Product was disjointed and lacked cohesion. More to the point, one character’s name changed halfway through the story and we ended the book in a different city from where the setting was staged!

So how do we avoid Frankenstein Projects? I think the more we are mindful of the potential for a project the be broken down into elements and reassembled at the end, the more likely it is that this can be avoided. Assuming we have done this, I think that project facilitation is the real key. Opportunities to discuss a group’s approach to a project or problem allows us, as the facilitator, to discourage students from attempting to create their own monster. We can ask the challenging questions and prod our students to encourage them to build a more homogenous End Product. We can also work with our classes to improve the way our groups work together on projects, encouraging collaboration and team work.

I think it is impossible to completely avoid Frankenstein Projects. If our students really want to divide the work up amongst themselves and piece it back together again at the end, they will manage to do so. The best we can do is to support positive team work approaches, build projects that don’t encourage students to pull the End Product apart and work closely with our students as they grapple with the demands of the task.

Hopefully then our students won’t be working alone, adrift on a piece of ice, as Mary Shelley’s titular character was at the end of her novel.

The 5 Essential As of the Flipped Classroom: 3 – Assessment — April 4, 2015

The 5 Essential As of the Flipped Classroom: 3 – Assessment

This is the third blog post in a five part series examinaing what I feel are the 5 Essenatial A’s of the Flipped Classroom.

5 essential As of Flipped Classroom

The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that the Flipped Classroom offers so many opportunities to assess students for learning. By shifting a proportion of the content delivery away from class time, the flipped classroom allows more opportunities to formatively assess student learning. When we have more opportunities to formatively assess, we are better able to diagnose common issues our students are having with both their understanding of the content and their ability to apply the content.

Pre-Lesson Work as Assessment

As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post about accountability, it is so important for students to not just watch videos for homework, but to also complete some form of at-home activity which the teacher can then view. In my classes, I use HSC style questions which my students complete in Google Docs which I have distributed via the add-on Doctopus.


Not only does this promote accountability among my students, but it is a fantastic diagnostic tool, to help me understand the strengths and weaknesses that my students have for that particular content area. This information allows me to determine the focus of each lesson, to group students for class activities and to determine which workshops I may offer for the lesson. Having access to the work my students complete at home has been an invaluable tool which has had a tremendous impact on the way I’ve worked with my students.

Beginning the Lesson with Assessment

Beginning lessons with a short quiz is a great way to start the learning in flipped lessons. Most of my lessons begin with a short quiz. These are usually only around ten questions long and focus on the core concepts and terminology that are the focus of that particular lesson. These quizzes have  allowed me to determine how much student have retained from the pre-lesson content they completed the previous night. There is a lot to be said for using apps like Socrative and Google Forms with Flubaroo to complete these quizzes. They are paperless, maintain records of assessment, can be retaken, and offer valuable analytics.


However, although I have and do use both of these apps, I often simply use a paper-based quiz with my students. I usually have the students mark each other’s quiz and then find the correct answers themselves before we have a short discussion about the mistakes or missed content that was common across the class. Commencement quizzes have become a staple for me in the flipped classroom, they are a terrific formative assessment tool for diagnosing common misconceptions and addressing these prior to applying the content during lesson time.

The Lesson as Assessment

With students completing more content acquisition at home, flipped classroom lessons can be far more focused on the application of the content. In my context, we use the flipped classroom as the pedagogical approach for our upper senior students. These students have experienced at least three years of Project and Problem Based Learning, which has significantly enhanced their ability and strengthened their desire to work collaboratively.


Collaboration, one of the 4 C’s of ‘Gold Standard PBL’, by Helen Soule, from the Buck Institute for Education

To take advantage of this, I spend as much time as possible having my students work collaboratively to apply the content they have acquired, through the completion of HSC style questions. I generally have students complete questions in small groups on large whiteboards, which are located on the walls around the room. Because my role has shifted away from being the content deliverer, my time is free to continually assess the work the students are completing. This has been a tremendous advantage as I have been able to recognise, very early, the common errors that my students are making in both the content and their expression. The opportunity to intervene when I notice issues in student work has been a fantastic benefit of working in the flipped classroom.


Opportunities for Deeper Feedback

Although working collaboratively is important, the HSC examination is an individual assessment, which requires students to respond under time constraints. I always ensure that my students have the opportunity to complete some individual written responses, usually involving a time constraint. Peer marking these responses is a great tool for formatively assessing student work as well as building the collective confidence of the class in understanding what constitutes quality work. Often I will take the student responses home to mark. This allows me to provide more specific and detailed feedback to each student and to map their progress as they grapple with the content. The student centred nature of the flipped classroom provides far more opportunities to formatively assess our students.

Exit Tickets for Assessment

I mentioned before that I use quizzes at the beginning of lessons. I often also like to end the lesson with a quiz, which becomes an ‘exit ticket’ for students to leave the class. Students will need to answer all questions correctly prior to leaving the class at the end of the lesson. Sometimes I will write a new quick for students to complete, based on the work they have completed that lesson. At other times, I will have them complete the same quiz that they began the lesson with. Occasionally, I’ll dig back into the past quizzes we have completed, other from the current topic or a previous topic. This reminds the students that all content is ultimately assessable and is also a useful tool to determine the content retention rates for the students. Quizzes as ‘exit tickets’ have become another useful assessment tool for use in the flipped classroom.

exit ticket

There is no doubting that formative assessment and continual feedback to students is an integral component of student success. For me, the implementation of the flipped classroom, with its clear student-centred focus, has provided for opportunities to provide the detailed ad timely feedback my students need to reach their potential.

In the next post in this series, I’ll be blogging about the fourth Essential ‘A’ for the Flipped Classroom: Application of Content.

The 5 Essential As of the Flipped Classroom: 2 – Access to the Teacher — March 28, 2015

The 5 Essential As of the Flipped Classroom: 2 – Access to the Teacher

5 essential As of Flipped Classroom

This is the second post of five blog posts on the 5 Essential A’s of the Flipped Classroom. Following on from the first ‘A’ of Accountability, I think the second essential characteristic of flipping is the ability to Access the teacher.

A number of educators have already made very good points about how the Flipped Classroom allows teacher to spend more time with individual students. A shift to a student-centred approach to teacher, where more content acquisition takes place outside of the classroom effectively allows all students more one-on-one access to the teacher during lesson time.

This excellent Edutopia article from flipping pioneers Aaron Sams and Jon Bergmann makes the point that the Flipped Classroom “gives teachers more time to interact with students one-to-one and in small groups”.

Bergmann, in this Edutopia article also discusses how flipping allows teacher to spend “lots of quality time with each child”, helping teachers to “know students better both cognitively and relationally”.


The Flipped Classroom undoubtably allows teachers to spend more time with individual students during class time. However, what I suggest is that the students benefits greatly from the ability to have access to the teacher outside of lesson times. This is the true essence of blended learning, where the learning is not limited to what happens in the classroom.

The ability to access the teacher, even only briefly, in the time between when the students access the pre-learning material and the time the students enter the lesson, can be exceedingly beneficial. The opportunity for students to clarify any issues that they are finding challenging, prior to commencing a lesson can be of  great benefit. This is of particular importance when students are engaging with centralised concepts that have an impact on other content areas. If a student has a pressing need to know, based around the concepts they have been engaged in at home and they are unable to address this with their teacher, this can have a significant impact on their comprehension of other content. Often, this can lead to considerable time spent, with one or more students, at the beginning of lessons reexamining concepts and content to ensure that all have access to the learning. Often, a few quick questions, asked by our students and answered by us, can make the difference between a productive lesson and a lesson where we are playing catch up with the content.

We have experimented with a number of ways to offer access to the teacher in our context and our teachers use whatever method they feel comfortable with. Our learning platform for the Flipped Classroom is iTunes U, as we have moved to a student supplied iPad environment. The latest update to iTunes U included a discussion forum feature which has allowed our teachers and students to clarify difficult concepts that arise in the pre-learning material. An added benefit of this is that as the forum is open to the public so often, we have found that other students are happy to answer their peer’s clarifying questions. Twitter too, is another method our teachers are using to ensure students have opportunities to ask questions. Some of our teachers have created subject specific hashtags or students to tweet to, allowing the teacher and other students to respond. A few of our teachers have also distributed Google Docs to their classes via Doctopus. If they add a question as a comment, the teacher, as the owner of the document automatically receives an email notification. Opportunities for teacher access need not be a complicated as this. As my classes are quite small this year, I am in regular email contact with my classes. The opportunity this provides for students to quickly clarify their concerns has been very beneficial for my students this year.


Allowing time for our students to have access to us beyond the four wall of our classrooms is definitely a balancing act. In our context our 100 minute lessons usually mean at least a day between each lesson, allowing more time to field student questions. However, allowing a window of opportunity, prior to each lesson for students to ask questions is something that should be achievable for most lessons. Having access to the teacher beyond the classroom can only benefit our students as they learn through flipping.

The third post in this series will examine the role of assessment in the Flipped Classroom.

Insights from Finland… — March 14, 2015

Insights from Finland…

A collaborative blog post written by Gavin Hays and myself.

Is our education system ‘Finnish’?

Recently, we were given the opportunity to travel to Finland to participate in the ‘Global Education Community’ conference facilitated by the Innokas Network within the University of Helsinki. The conference focus was to provide the opportunity to make global connections with teachers in Finland, China and the USA. Additionally, we were able to visit Saunalahti School, Mantymaki Elementary School and Helsingin Normaalilyseo High School to see the sense of community and personalised learning that is in alignment with the national objectives for Education in Finland. Finally, we were given a first hand insight into the reasons for the success of the Finnish Education System by Jari Lavonen (Head of the Department of Teacher Education) and Paula Mattila (Counselor of Education).

saunalahti koulu3

Diagram 1: Foyer of  Saunalahti School

Upon reflection and constant discussion we identified three key lessons to learn from the Finnish Education system that are driven by the ‘input’ model shown below in Diagram 2, which is the pillar of their education system.

Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 1.34.06 pm

Diagram 2: The differences between ‘outcome’ and ‘input’

The Finnish system focuses on a core curriculum developed by the government that is then interpreted and implemented by the districts and schools at a local level. Teachers are given the autonomy to craft their curriculum like an artist would craft a painting. Furthermore, assessment is mostly formative designed at diagnosing student deficiencies, to focus on the teaching and learning process rather the product.
Lesson 1
“Broad aims cannot be achieved without a high degree of teacher quality and professionalism”
Both Jari Lavonen and the principals of the schools we visited expressed constantly that one of the key factors why the Finnish system trumps all others is the huge investment that is made in developing high quality teachers. The key reasons include:
  • Recruiting the best of the best – a teacher is a highly desirable profession amongst Finnish people. The number of places for teaching nationally in Finland is regulated by the government, so there is never an oversupply of teachers. Around 800 places are offered for education students nationally. Over 8,000 applicants apply for these positions. Higher results in the high school exit examination are needed to enter teaching than for engineering or medicine and interestingly the salary for teachers is in alignment with the national average.
  • Teachers with expert knowledge – teachers are six year trained and complete a Masters Degree prior to commencing their teaching career. There are no alternative ways to receive a teaching credential. Diagram 3 shows the educational pathway for teachers who by the end of their training, will have completed three theses, a thesis in their undergraduate degree, a masters thesis and a thesis related to their pedagogical studies.

Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 1.36.43 pm

Diagram 3: Educational Pathway for Teachers


The high quality of teachers equates to a high level of professionalism and teacher effectiveness. This leads to a high level of trust from the administrative bodies and less of a need to focus on teacher accountability.
Lesson 2
“Decentralisation of the classroom, promoting local decisions on assessment and curriculum planning”
In recent years, Finland has made a significant shift in transferring the decision making and assessment to schools at the local level. This is in complete contrast to many other OECD countries who are favouring increased standardisation of curriculum, continual inspection and national testing. As a result, this shift has placed greater emphasis on teachers as professionals who are required to make important judgements on the length, breadth and depth of the curriculum that they teach, given the changing nature of their students. In each classroom that we visited, we witnessed teachers constantly formatively assessing students either by questions; online games, projects, rich tasks or online quizzes. This highlighted the shift in the role of the teacher as shown in Diagram 4, where the overarching aim of all teachers is to improve learning.
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Diagram 4: Shift in Educational Assessment
The decentralisation of the classroom is not an easy task to undertake. However, the Finnish education system is based on ‘educational equality’, where they aim to minimise the influence of the social and economic backgrounds of the schools. This is highlighted below by Diagram 5, which shows the ranking of OECD countries according to the variation of results within a school (Blue) and between schools (Orange). This graph demonstrates that Finnish schools are highly comprehensive; however, they have minimal variations between the schools. This shows that standardised testing of schools and subsequent rankings are not needed as schools and teachers are professionals focusing on the learning of all students.

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Diagram 5: Ranking of countries based on variations between and within schools
Lesson 3
‘Trusting the professionalism of teachers to ensure that the process of teaching and learning is valued.’
The excellent results achieved by Finland on the PISA assessment are remarkable and are a result of the autonomy and trust that teachers are given. As many countries move towards increased accountability of teachers through standards, inspections and appraisals, Finland have moved away from these trends.
Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 1.41.55 pm
Diagram 6: Assessment of Teachers
The above diagram shows the disparity between professionalism and bureaucracy. In Finland they place trust in their teachers to know their students through collaboration, networking and partnerships. In contrast, many other countries are allocating resources to generate increased competition, nation-wide testing of students and subsequent school rankings. Furthermore, they do not rely on test-based accountability. Their system relies on the expertise and professionalism of the teachers who are committed to educating all students.  As a result, the output of their system is trust and autonomy from quality teachers who undertake rigorous courses.
Consequently, in Finland, there are no ‘standards’ for teachers to demonstrate, no external appraisals of teachers, no inspections of classes and no national testing of students. This is in alignment with the values and aims of a Finnish school shown below in Diagram 7. The removal of check measures in teaching has promoted a goal-orientated and quality focused culture within schools who are in the position to promote innovation through the building of networks locally and global partnerships. Whether it is coding, robotics, project based learning or other innovations, all teachers have the professional knowledge, trust and autonomy to adapt the way they teach to cater for the needs of 21st Century learners in a global world.

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Diagram 7: Values and Aims of a Finnish School

To conclude, it is sometimes best to highlight what we did not see in the Finnish schools, rather than what we did see. We did not see:
  • bureaucracy
  • ad hoc ideas coming from politicians
  • standardisation, inspection and national testing
  • test based accountability
  • competition and rankings
  • investment just in technology
We definitely have a lot to learn; however, it is all doom and gloom for the Australian education system. There is a growing movement of schools taking ownership at a local level to interpret how we teach, rather than focusing just on what we teach. Schools are attempting to move away from teacher-centered learning environments, to student-centred collaborative environments supported by appropriate technology. However, our professionalism needs to meet the needs of the 21st century, especially in terms of the graduates coming from university. Teaching is a profession, not a job and we need professionals to ensure that we gain trust-based responsibility from all stakeholders to make appropriate decisions at what is ‘best practice’ in teaching and learning. This will ensure that there is equality in the education of Australian students, especially in comparison to other students around the world.
Kiitos Finland
Gavin Hays (@gavhays) and Kurt Challinor.
We would love to hear your thoughts on how our education system compares with Finland’s. Let us know what you think!

The 5 Essential As of the Flipped Classroom: 1 – Accountability — March 5, 2015

The 5 Essential As of the Flipped Classroom: 1 – Accountability

5 essential As of Flipped Classroom

After implementing PBL into our school in the junior years and then Problem Based Learning in Year 11, we were looking for a pedagogical approach to engage our Higher School Certificate students. We decided to roll out the Flipped Classroom approach.

After three years of teaching exclusively using this approach, and some very positive student results, I though I would like to share some of the insights I have gained from the experience.

After some reflection, I’ve come to think that there are 5 essential factors that can help to ensure the success of flipped learning: Accountability, Access to the Teacher, Assessment Strategies, Application of the Content and Active Collaboration. I was originally looking to write one blog post, but once I started, I realised that it would be better to talk to each of the 5 A’s of flipped learning in in their own post. So here is the first of 5 posts: Accountability.


One of the biggest challenges to the implementation of Flipped Learning in the high school setting is ensuring that students are accountable for completing the pre-lesson work at home. How are we able to determine which students have completed the readings and which students have watched our videos? How well have our students understood the work they have completed at home? If we can’t answer these questions before we enter the classroom for the lesson, then we can’t possibly hope to fully address the needs of our students.

Fortunately, technology can provide solutions for some of these concerns. The Rueda-Google-AppsGoogle suite has helped our teachers to ensure students are completing the pre-lesson work at home. Many of our teachers use Google Docs to have students complete summary notes and questions based on the material learned at home. Google Docs provides the teacher with access to the student work, prior to the lesson, allowing them time to assess student strengths and weaknesses and tailor the focus of the lesson to suit the needs of the students.

There are also some thezaptionre great online apps specifically geared towards ensuring students have watched the videos that have been provided for study. Zaption allows access to view analytics base on the students in the class. How many have the students watched the videos? How often did they pause and rewind?


Educanon allows for the teacher to periodically embed questions into videos and provides performance data based on the questions. These two tools offer teachers some excellent opportunities to determine student understanding prior to the lesson.

The benefits of flipping are made redundant when students are entering into the classroom without having completed the prior learning activities. This is a particular concern when students are engaging with the content in groups. The inability for a group member to contribute to their team can become a source of frustration for other class members. In our experience, the irritation expressed by the other team members can and does act as a form of deterrent for students not completing their homework. The positive peer pressure from other students to make sure they can contribute to the group’s work can help ensure that all students complete their work. What we have found is that the need to have completed the work prior to the lesson in order to fully participate usually results in very high rates of homework completion. I think what we really need to remember when we approach the flipped classroom is that there will always be times when some students don’t complete their pre-lesson homework. Just because one of our students misses the pre-learning work, does not mean that they can’t participate in the lesson, it just means their learning will not be as effective. Some kind of extrinsic motivation will always be required to ensure that students are not missing homework regularly. I am often asked what the best thing to do is when students don’t complete their homework. The question I usually respond with is “what do you do now when your student’s don’t get their homework done?”

I think there are some very simple soluIMG_2148tions for this tricky issue with the flipped classroom and technology plays a very important role in ensuring student accountability. However, what works within my context may not be he best solution for others. Ultimately, I think if we can ensure most of our students are accountable, most of the time, then we can be assured of the success of the flipped approach to teaching and learning.

In my next post, I will be talking about the success of flipped learning is impacted on by the access the students have to their teacher, beyond the four walls of the classroom.