We’ve tried flipping lessons and we thought it didn’t work. There’s a bunch of research in favour of the idea, but also lots against it.

Essentially, as I understand it, a ‘flipped lesson’ is one where the students do the preparation by learning low order concepts (like basic knowledge) at home and come to the class ready and raring to discuss the higher order concepts (explaining, linking, ranking, coming to conclusions etc). Research suggests that students should do the difficult learning in school and the simple stuff can be done at home- in other words flipped from the traditional approach where a teacher might lecture in class and then set an essay to be done for homework.

The problem is that there is also plenty of research that in school settings rather than in universities ‘flipped learning’ may not work so well. In my school asking students to do regular homework is a challenge, and it doesn’t take many students who’ve not done their preparation to make the subsequent class go less well. Another problem is that for many students the ‘low order’ concepts are not really distinguishable from the higher order ones- lots of the knowledge for example requires explanation and support to understand.

However we have been trialling over the years in social subjects a variation on the ‘flipped lesson’ which we thinkĀ  might have made a really significant difference to our exam results. Students were given lectures and knowledge questions in class, but what they did at home was the revision exercise- in this case planning for an essay. We then did the weekly essay homework in class. The students were allowed to use their revision plan sheet when they wrote their essay, but nothing else. This gave them a significant incentive to do their homework. This flipped approach to homework was done in one topic in both History and Geography Higher classes here- and the results in those papers were significantly higher than in the other papers where we didn’t do this.

Might this mean that flipping can work after all? Or is it more the sheer regularity of practice? What do people think?

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