Thursday, April 21, 2016

Perceptions of International High School Students Regarding Flipped Classroom Strategies in the Humanities Classroom

That was the title of my Master's thesis, a 41-page undertaking which I put the final touches on, and sent off earlier today.

This project represents the culmination of almost three years of studies, and I really cannot think of a better way to have ended my Master's program.

I had been interested in learning more about flipped classroom strategies for a couple years, and this project gave me a reason to commit, and invest both time and energy into using them in my own classroom.

I should explain up front that flipped classroom strategies refer to the shifting of content and information from inside the classroom to outside the classroom, instead favoring higher-level thinking activities (discussions, debates, simulations, workshops, etc) during class-time.  Thus, the sort of application and discovery tasks traditionally assigned as homework become the "meat" of time in class, while the lecture and information acquisition that previously dominated class-time instead become homework.  I chose to do this primarily through the use of short lecture videos, in order to shift historical content outside of my classroom as much as possible.

My Humanities class served as the testing ground for this study, and the students were very helpful in providing their feedback.  I spoke to each student in the class briefly about the use of flipped strategies, and conducted in-depth interviews with six students.

Students were almost universally positive about the use of lecture videos.
Here are some of the reasons why:
1) The videos allowed for a greater degree of flexibility than classroom lecture.  Students appreciated the ability to choose when to take in content rather than having that dictated by the teacher in class.
2) Having access to lectures in video form meant that students could re-watch if they needed to.  For instance, most students re-watched the lecture videos I had posted about the time leading up to the Civil War while working on their Document Based Question (DBQ) essay on the causes of the Civil War.
3) 90% of the class cited the transcripts that I posted along with the videos as being very helpful.  Students in need of English language support said that it helped them to understand the videos more clearly than they would have understood a classroom lecture.  Other students said that the transcript helped when they needed to re-visit the video, to find a particular section to re-watch.
4) Most of the students felt that the videos were the right length, each clocking in at somewhere between 2 minutes and 5 and a half minutes.
5) Several students expressed appreciation for the fact that the videos helped them to better understand discussions and activities we did in class.
6) Students never felt that lecture or details were the point of my class--there was always a bigger picture we were aiming for.

All this being said, there are still bugs to be worked out: I would like to find more resources to offer students, so that lecture videos are not their only option, and I would like to help students feel comfortable accessing further background information on their own (and even, have a desire to access further background information on their own).  I would also like to make my videos less dry and more creative and engaging than a talking head.

Still, the feedback I collected was affirming that this tool has tremendous potential in my classroom, and I hope that my positive experience with flipped strategies will encourage colleagues and other readers to consider how they might use flipped strategies in their own classrooms as well.

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