Teacher Learning Cast (TLC) #5: Flipped Learning

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Piry Herrera
Benjamin L. Stewart
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Flipped Learning Interview with Ken Bauer

Ken is a full time professor in the Computing Science Department at the Tecnológico de Monterrey Guadalajara Campus where he has been a member of the faculty since 1999. He also is Chair of the Board for the Flipped Learning Network since 2016.

Four Pillars of F-L-I-P

  1. Flexible Environment
  2. Learning Culture
  3. Intentional Content
  4. Professional Educator

Five Ways to Flip the Classroom That Aren't "Personalized"

I continue my argument (see here, here, and here) against using the term "personalized instruction".  This post was inspired by Franklin´s 5 Ways to Personalize Instruction.
1.  Getting to know your students vs. get to know your students.

An instructor never truly gets to know her students.  Instead of thinking dichotomously, consider the act of getting to know someone in terms of degree.  Finding ways to flip a classroom is all about getting to know one's students; flipping the classroom is not an all-or-nothing endeavor, but one viewed in terms of degree
2.  Applying an evidence-based instruction approach underpins the flipped classroom experience.

By using plenty of formative assessment, engagement between instructor and student provides the basis for instruction that serves the needs, interests, and learning preferences (as opposed to learning styles) of each student.  Evidence based on observation frames how much instruction is didactic or facilitative.  Thus, in a flipped classroom environment, one is likely to see instruction potentially emerge from any individual, any place, and at any time.
3. Adapting and adopting leads to flow.

In a flipped classroom, the instructor and students adapt and adopt to content, technologies, and to each other as learning outcomes and learning objectives align.
4. Utilizing performance tasks bridges learning outcomes to learning objectives.

A performance task that maintains an authentic goal, student roles, audience, situation, purpose, and standard of outcomes is best served when it precedes instruction.  In a flipped classroom, technologies afford learners greater opportunities to participate in performance tasks that are more authentic (serve a common good).
5. Technologies should facilitate, not frustrate.

Information and communication technologies (ICTs) should be purposeful and quickly adoptable for teachers and students.  However, sometimes, less is more.

A simple analogy: Google Play's Listen Now takes my play history and makes recommendations (but does not personalize my listening experience).  Sometimes these recommendations are useful while other times they are not.  Most of the time I simply search for tunes (adapt) or just stick to my current playlist (adopt).  So, I do not have to use all of the options from Google Play to get the most out of my own personal listening experience. Notice how personal listening experience is not the same as a "personalized listening experience".

ICTs (in whatever form) should help the instructor and learner become more autonomous (i.e.,  becoming more interdependent) by engaging in content and with other individuals.


Not any of the five points listed above have anything to do with "personalized instruction".  Take point #2 as an example.  In order to personalize instruction, there would need to be one form of instruction for each student that would somehow be within the control of the instructor (teacher).  "Personalized instruction" is impossible, but personalized learning is totally possible (and expected) since this shifts an external locus of control to an internal locus of control (from the learner's perspective).  Thus, Instructors help learners better understand their personal learning networks by helping them become more autonomous.

When it comes to instruction, teachers have an obligation to help learners make decisions about the content, processes, products, and environments that relate to learning outcomes - otherwise known as differentiated instruction.  Differentiating instruction involves the students throughout the educative experience by allowing them some degree of choice.  Empowering students by improving the decision-making processes is the foundation for 1) getting to know students better, 2) providing evidence-based instruction, 3) adapting and adopting flow, 4) aligning performance tasks (assessments) to learning objectives (curriculum), and 5) recognizing that sometimes less is more when it comes to ICTs as human behavior is complex.


A Flipped Learning Design For Foreign Language Learners


This semester I am teaching a third-semester composition class for English language teachers in training and the following three classes for university professors: Content and English Language Learning I (CELL I), Content and English Language Learning II (CELL II), and Academic Writing.  This is how I am flipping the learning design in terms of structure, readiness levels, and critical thinking.


Course content for all four courses are hosted publicly in Microsoft OneNote: Composition,  CELL I, CELL II, and Academic Writing.  The reason for using OneNote - as opposed to Moodle or any other learning or content management system - is because of its ease of use.  I can easily add and manipulate content using any device (Macbook Air, iPad, and iPhone), anytime from anywhere, and share this information either privately or publicly as well.  Sharing content and the learning experience publicly has particular relevance this semester as I am making a special effort to provide opportunities for learners to share their own learning experiences with those outside their given class.  As their instructor, I too am able to share openly what I am doing and reflect on my own teaching practice by creating affordances for collaboration and cooperation.

In addition to using OneNote, Microsoft Word Online is used in Composition and Academic Writing so that text revisions can be shared amongst the learners and me.  Links to learners' Word online document are included in OneNote so that everyone can not only see each others approach to the writing process and but also see how I provide feedback to everyone and how subsequent changes are then made.

Since OneNote serves mainly as a content management system, Facebook complements the learning experience by providing both synchronous and asynchronous forms of communication.  For example, the Composition facebook page, CELL facebook page, and Academic Writing facebook page allow learners to engage in the content mainly outside of class, but also face-to-face when such interactions promote course objectives.  More immediate content is shared in facebook (publicly) which can either come from the content in OneNote, or when it is new content, may be added simultaneously to OneNote.  Thus, content in OneNote is structured more chronologically or thematically while facebook is structured more to emphasize certain content or to engage learners around certain content through discussions and critical thinking.

In Composition, CELL I, and CELL II, e-portfolios are used for housing specific products learners complete in class.   Learners become recognized for how they demonstrate their understandings, knowledge, skill sets, and dispositions through the presentation of artifacts that positions themselves as professionals.  An e-portfolio becomes part of an online identity that illustrates where the professional has been, where the professional is currently, and what the professional wishes to become.

In summation, OneNote and Word is the "playground" the "laboratory", the "sandbox", etc. where initial learning occurs, primarily via private communications between learner-instructor and possibly learner-learner.  Facebook extends the learning experience more publicly by opening up the conversation more fluidly with others potentially beyond the classroom.  Finally, e-portfolios is the end result, the final objective of the learning process as everything within the learning structure leads to this final destination.

Readiness Levels

The mixed abilities classroom is the norm and not the exception.  Invariably, learners will enter the learning design at different levels of content knowledge and different levels of linguistic prowess.  So the structure mentioned above is designed to account for this reality.

All four courses above have a face-to-face component: Composition and Academic Writing are both face to face while CELL I and CELL II are blended learning courses.  But the approach to flipping the classroom for each of the courses is similar.

Making content available publicly online for learners taking a face-to-face class takes into consideration the readiness levels from two main perspectives.  First, content made available before a face-to-face session affords the learner to interact with content much in the same way most view the flipped classroom when lectures are recorded and accessible outside of the classroom.  And second, content can be added or accessed to online spaces after learners meet face to face when such information warrants it.  For instance, followup tutorials might help fill in the gaps created during live classes, additional links to different kinds of content might result, and internal instruments like learner surveys might shed light on how learners perceive the overall educative experience.  More than likely, some combination of pre-/post-loading and accessing of content to an online environment will emerge depending on individual readiness levels that are revealed as personal learning preferences.  Understanding how and why students are accessing content is a constant goal of mine in order to better assess if the structure of the learning design is serving a purpose.

Critical Thinking

The structure of how content is arranged and understanding how learners are accessing course content based on readiness levels underpin how critical thinking emerges.  Learners access content by listening and reading and create by speaking and writing.  Critical thinking emerges by giving them certain freedoms in how and why they access content and where they end up creating their own content for specific purposes.  Critical thinking is creating content associated with the what, how, why, where, with whom etc. that goes beyond simply meeting course objectives.  Learners who become more aware of the what, how, why, etc. of their content creations are better positioned to solve and set problems, resolve cognitive conflict, make associations or connections between the abstract and concrete, and form logical arguments, to name a few.  At the end of the day, the way that I structure my learning design is based on the readiness levels of my learners which together with structure provide an overarching purpose to think critically given changing situations.  A flipped learning experience in my view has always been a more nuanced approach to content accessibility and learner interactions where interdependence grows through thoughtful instructor interventions primarily on an as-needed basis.

As intentional as all of this sounds, there is a larger incidental aspect to this entire learning design that would be best left for another post.  But these are a few thoughts that I have regarding the flipped classroom, and am always interested in learning how others approach similar learning designs under different contexts.

Intentional vs. Purposeful Learning

Taking OpenFlip Spring 2016 (#openflip) provided an opportunity to reflect and share my ideas about intentionality and its roles in education. Last night I watched a Netflix documentary about Tony Robbins, I Am Not Your Guru. This morning I listen to Self-Confidence Matters: "I Determine School (Student) Success", specifically towards the end of the podcast where Baruti Kafele speaks briefly about intentionality. Having done all three continues to solidify my thoughts around how the idea of intentionality is being used in the field of education.

One of the four pillars of the flipped classroom addresses the idea of intentional content by stating,
Flipped Learning Educators continually think about how they can use the Flipped Learning model to help students develop conceptual understanding, as well as procedural fluency. They determine what they need to teach and what materials students should explore on their own. Educators use Intentional Content to maximize classroom time in order to adopt methods of student-centered, active learning strategies, depending on grade level and subject matter.
One of the best things that I got out of taking OpenFlip Spring 2016 was the realization that basing the flipped classroom mindset on intentional content 1) places too much emphasis on content and not enough on the realities (complexity) of learning and 2) ignores the role of incidental learning as a necessary counterpoint to intentional learning. Content (whether intentional or incidental) is only a potential enabler to intentional and incidental learning that both co-exist in any dynamic, purposeful, educative experience.

Regardless as to how you view Tony Robbins, the documentary illustrates how intentional and incidental learning come together for a purpose. There is a clear purpose for each of the six days that Robbins dedicates to his followers, and his plans for each day are well-thought out and can change based on what had previously transpired. So his events are clearly purposeful, with a lot of aspects to the experience being intentional (e.g., content, physical environment, and social relationships). But during the event, much of what he does cannot be anticipated. Many testimonials (I.e., experiences, understandings, perspectives, etc.) shared by the attendees are unexpected (i.e., incidental). This provides the backdrop into making those experiences, understandings, perspectives, etc. revealing for not only the audience member but also for other audience members by linking the testimonial back to the goals for that particular day or event (i.e., intentional). Coupling incidental occurrences with intentional occurrences is what good teaching is all about. Educators can anticipate student mistakes, but there are still many more that are unanticipated. Knowing what to do about unanticipated learning that can occur in the (flipped) classroom is key.

Kafele's point about students walking into an "intentional" classroom is noteworthy, but he appears to be contrasting this kind of classroom with an "arbitrary" classroom experience.

I would use a slightly different vocabulary, since I view "arbitrary" not synonymous with "incidental".
Students need to enter into a purposeful classroom each day - there needs to be a reason for coming to class. Within a purposeful learning context, students and teachers co-adopt and co-adapt by understanding the intentional and incidental learning that can emerge, which should ultimately transform learners based on curricular and individual goals. There is nothing arbitrary about this process.
A flipped classroom mindset needs to embrace the complexity of intentional and incidental learning from ideational, material, and social perspectives so that decisions about content, process, and product can form a more educative experience for each learner.

An "Argument" for the Traditional Lecture

An "Argument" for the Traditional Lecture
Gross-Loh (2016) argues (kind of) in Should Colleges Really Eliminate the College Lecture? for the traditional lecture and greater training to professors for improving public speaking skills. I have gone through the piece and have tried to outline parts of the argument that seem incoherent, along with some perspective as well.

Traditional Lecture as an Endangered Species

The first line of reasoning the author makes is as follows:
  • R1: A lack of training exists among university professors to give good traditional lectures.
  • R2: Although there is a focus on training professors to improve teaching skills, such training focuses more on flipping the classroom (and related technologies) than on the traditional lecture.
  • C: This, in part, is why "the lecture...is endangered" (para. 2).
This line of cloudy reasoning is a formal fallacy. First, saying that there is the wrong kind of teacher training which focuses on flipping the classroom does not mean there is a lack of training in the right kind of training needed to give traditional lectures in the classroom. Flipped classroom training certainly could focus on producing traditional lectures that are effective and providing these as recordings to students asynchronously. There is nothing in the piece about what kind of lectures are being recorded and how traditional (or non-traditional) these forms of lectures are within a flipped classroom approach. So, to jump to the conclusion that the lecture is "endangered" seems a stretch. Gross-Loh does go however into some level of detail about the lack of training in public speaking among professors, but because it unnecessarily contrasts the notion of a flipped classroom, it certainly seems probable that a traditional lecture (that meets the author's standards) could be recorded, produced, and made available to learners outside of the classroom experience. If the author feels that a worthwhile traditional lecture has to be delivered face to face, then this is a different argument entirely...one not being made in this piece.

Getting the Question Right

Later in the article, the question is posed: "...is it the college lecture itself that’s the problem—or the lecturer" (para. 5)?

In problem solving, often it is about getting the problem established that becomes the intellectual exercise. Similarly, sometimes getting the question right is more important than ever being able to truly answer it. What additional insight can be made when separating the performance (i.e., the lecture) from the person (i.e., the professor)? The question in the article can be separated into two empty notions: 1) There is no problem with the professor, but the lectures are a big problem. or 2) There is no problem with the lectures, but the professor is a big problem. I do not see the need to entertain this question.

Training Means Performing Means Learning

The author states,
...although proponents of the movement to move away from the lecture cite data on its ineffectiveness, the debate has failed to take into account the fact that academics are rarely, if ever, formally trained in public speaking.
Another fallacy of sorts...Even if training automatically enables the professor to become a good public speaker, being a good public speaker does not necessarily mean an educative experience for the learners. Public speaking does not always equate to comprehensible input. This is the underlining premise that I cannot subscribe to. Learning has more to do with what the students do than what the teachers do.

The author goes on to say,
The lecture was a highlight of my own education,” Molly Worthen, a University of North Carolina (para.14).
Here, the author provides evidence of linking the traditional lecture with active learning, which seems out of place within the overall thesis of the article. In fact, this is where I asked myself, what is the main thesis of this piece? Is it that professors lack public speaking skills? Is it that professors lack the training to implement dynamic lectures that mix the traditional lecture with active learning? Should a flipped classroom approach be part of this training or not?

Flipping is Elitist

There is a lot to the concept of a ‘flipped classroom,’ but it is also very much an elite-institution idea,” says Hacsi, referring to a model in which students view lectures outside of class and focus on homework elements inside of it (para. 17).
So here the argument is that expecting students to work outside of the classroom is "elitist" because many students have to work their way through college. Thus, only the privileged few (society's greatest) who can afford to go to school and not work could ever have enough time to devote to assignments required outside of class.

As far as I know (and correct me if I am wrong), students are still required to complete course assignments outside of class. So given this assumption, if anyone fails to see how a flipped classroom provides an equitable educative experience to many (both to credit and noncredit-seeking students alike) - the polar opposite of an elitist viewpoint - then more research needs to be conducted before one chooses to write about it in any intelligible way.

This post leaves me confused as to what the overall thesis actually is. Removing any mention of the flipped classroom, I am unable to disagree with many points if presented separately. But the way the ideas are organized as a whole leaves me confused as to what the author is really getting at.

I present my views in hopes someone can shed light on the overall mean of the original post and/or my interpretation of it.

Flipped Classroom: Intentional vs. Incidental Learning

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oFN1ETGNJAE]

After watching OpenFlip Spring 2016 Week Three (noon edition) (#openflip, #flipclass), I quickly began feeling lost at the notion of "intentional content" and it´s relevance in the flipped classroom.  I actually did not disagree with anything mentioned in the video, except when the term intentional content was mentioned, which would lead to a "what are we talking about" moment.  The group discussion quickly forced me to revisit what others said about the third pillar of the flipped classroom (internet search), and then try to relate it to what Ken and others were discussing today...and I think I have it.  Just for the record, my discussion about intentional learning vs. incidental learning was recorded yesterday, before having listened to today's talk. Now, let´s unpack the term, intentional content.

Several definitions around the notion of intentional content seem possible.

  1. Predetermined (or prepackaged) content available outside of class that serves as input that enables learners to take subsequent syllabus-aligned action.
  2. Predetermined (or prepackaged) content available outside of class that serves as input that enables learners to take subsequent non-syllabus-aligned action.
  3. Predetermined (or prepackaged) content available in class that serves as input that enables learners to take subsequent syllabus-aligned action.
  4. Predetermined (or prepackaged) content available in class that serves as input that enables learners to take subsequent non-syllabus aligned action.
  5. Student-created content made available outside of class that is a result of syllabus-aligned action.
  6. Student-created content made available inside of class that is a result of syllabus-aligned action.
  7. Student-created content made available outside of class that is a result of non-syllabus-aligned action.
  8. Student-created content made available inside of class that is a result of non-syllabus-aligned action.
At first glance, one might argue that intentional content is only that which is found outside the classroom.  But in practice, I do not think it is a stretch to image predetermined content beginning the learning process outside of class, then to a certain degree subsequently being part of an educative experience in class. Even in the case of student-created content, if the teacher permits such content to be produced, then there is still a level of intentionality to the process.  Thus, the eight definitions above are all possible when considering what is intentional content, intentional on the part of the educator and not the curriculum.  For this reason, the third pillar (intentional content), seems arbitrary.

In my wiki, I modified the third pillar to my own third facet of the flipped classroom: intentional and incidental learning.

In the eight definitions above, definitions 1, 3, 5, and 6 relate more to intentional learning while definitions 2, 4, 7, and 8 relate more to incidental learning.  Additionally, definitions 1-4 could also include incidental or emergent content as well (as opposed to predetermined content) which brings another level of complexity to the mix - a complexity that I think is also very relevant to the flipped classroom. 

Changing from intentional content to intentional/incidental learning puts more focus on learning by doing and is more pertinent to the idea of flipped the classroom.  Content as input is secondary since 1) the degree to which it enables action highly depends on the individual learner and the particular context and 2) the enabled action really depends on whether an educator can bring both intentional and incidental learning together to meet both curricular and individual goals; when it comes to content creation, the action (intentional/incidental learning) is typically more relevant than any preconceived notion of student-created content.  If student-created content is equally or more important than the learning process, I would question whether or not this falls within the four facets (or pillars) of a flipped classroom.

Have I Flipped?

I read Flipping Professional Development/Professional Learning, and thought how does flipping a classroom relate to flipping professional learning (in education).

On Nov. 18, 2013, I left a comment on how I currently feel about the "flipped classroom", and am equally hesitant in using the term to describe professional development/learning.
I truly enjoy Flipping Professional Development because I think it provides a great avenue for learning.
Hernandez goes on to associate flipped professional development (FPD) with the following questions: Do the participants have what they need to make it successful? Will they have time to do things on their own? Are they savvy enough?  Since FPD has not been defined explicitly, I find myself still trying to connect the dots:  what does it mean to view professional development as being "successful"?  And what's the point in deciding whether one is "savvy enough"?  Professional learning is not dichotomous, so best to frame questions that reveal the process in terms of degree.
Be Prepared for any and everything...When I am planning I [am] always [thinking] with the end in mind.
Perhaps just a hyperbole, but I think we all would agree that it is impossible to plan for everything.  Professional learning is emergent, dynamic, and unpredictable.  Preparation may be a part of it, but a lot has to do with being able to adapt to an ever-changing situation or context.  Instructional leaders need to be able to adjust to constantly changing (learning) environments, and accept (and embrace) incidental learning where ends (i.e., goals and objectives) emerge unexpectedly.
What do I want my participants to walk away with?
Where are they going? In fact, your "participants", educators, should not be going anywhere.  Professional learning should be an extension to current teaching practice.  Instead of isolated events (i.e., conferences, workshops, and in-services), interaction among educators should be an open, ongoing trajectory towards building relationships by cultivating a personal learning network.
The three components that I use when planning are explore, flip, and apply.
Ok, I'm still not sure about what's being "flipped", but let's explore.  Hernandez seems to mean that educators search online for tools, determine which are effective in the classroom, and then figure out how to use them.  I guess my question is, When and how is all of this supposed to happen?

Does this happen at a conference, workshop, or in-service?  Does this happen in absence of any classroom context?  Are teachers expected to plan how to use a new tool without first sharing with others how other tools have already been used (successfully or otherwise)?  I'm not sure how to interpret explore, flip, and apply.

Professional learning is constant.  We learn while we are teaching, we learn when we share an idea or experience with a colleague, we learn when we read a book, we learn when we fail ... Have I flipped?  Does anything I say have anything to do with "flipping professional development"?