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Empower students with flipped, cooperative learning

Average: 5 (3 votes)

The changing nature of society and hence the need to adapt teaching and learning to fit, is what led me to combining flipped and cooperative learning.

I am always lurking on the internet to find out about new and innovative things to try out. Some of these things I quickly dismiss but flipped learning got me excited. I was already using some cooperative learning strategies in class to increase learner engagement and collaboration but flipped learning has given me more opportunities to focus on these kinds of activities and to extend them beyond the classroom. For anyone unfamiliar with either of these approaches, I highly recommend checking them out, however,for the purposes of this post, here are two definitions to give you a quick overview.

According to the Flipped Learning Network, “Flipped Learning is a pedagogical approach in which direct instruction moves from the group learning space to the individual learning space,and the resulting group space is transformed into a dynamic, interactive learning environment where the educator guides students as they apply concepts and engage creatively in the subject matter.” Flipped Learning Network

Cooperative learning is an educational approach which aims to organize classroom activities into academic and social learning experiences. There is much more to cooperative learning than merely arranging students into groups, and it has been described as "structuring positive interdependence. Students must work in groups to complete tasks collectively toward academic goals. Unlike individual learning, which can be competitive in nature, students learning cooperatively can capitalize on one another's resources and skills (asking one another for information, evaluating one another's ideas, monitoring one another's work, etc.) Wikipedia

By flipping learning and integrating cooperative learning, my role in the classroom is now more of a facilitator and guide and the students are the protagonists. I encourage them to be responsible, active, curious, compassionate and tolerant. Flipping learning encourages students to be more responsible for their own learning as they are no longer spoon fed information in class, they are responsible for accessing and engaging with the direct instruction (video, podcast, text…) and resolving any doubts.

For example: Students watch a video about future plans/arrangements/timetables in English in their virtual space, for example Google Classroom, before the deadline set by the teacher After/while watching the video as many times as the student deems necessary they complete a quiz in Google Forms to check understanding. After completing the quiz, they check their answers and the feedback left by their teacher to explain any incorrect answers. They have access to further study material in the feedback in the form of a link. They make a note of anything they don’t understand, to bring to class. Here we can see how students play an active role in their own learning. This active role continues in the group space (classroom) when students work cooperatively. Each member has a responsibility within the group (secretary, spokesperson, editor, timekeeper, facilitator…) and each group has a joint responsibility for achieving their common goals.

The follow up to the “lesson” in the individual space above might be to do some practice exercises in groups in class. The common goal is that everyone understands and has the correct answer. All members exercise their responsibilities to achieve the desired outcome. To achieve a common goal, students need to collaborate. In the above task, to ensure all group members have the correct answer and understand, students need to discuss and negotiate. Equally, a more creative task requires students to make decisions collaboratively.

A follow up task to the practice exercises may be to create a study poster on future plans and arrangements. Again students need to plan and organise their work together and distribute tasks. Taking the direct instruction out of the classroom means that there is more time in class to dedicate to activities like this and the higher order thinking skills such as creating.

Some of the activities we have done in the group space to develop higher order thinking skills since flipping learning are:

Making instructional videos to explain something/teach classmates how to do something

Making study aids for classmates (study posters, quizzes in Google Forms)

Role-playing / improvisation activities

Making e-books

Digital storytelling

Making podcasts

As well as being responsible and collaborating, when students work cooperatively, they need to show respect, compassion and tolerance towards their peers. This is one of our criteria for assessment. Students are encouraged to listen to ideas but also question them respectfully, discussing and analysing assumptions, beliefs and values…putting into practice critical thinking skills. They are also encouraged to identify, analyse and resolve problems together logically.

Flipping learning has provided opportunities to develop digital literacy in both the individual and the group space. My students have a virtual space where all their resources and assignments for the direct instruction are stored. I use Google Classroom for this purpose as it is relatively easy for students to use. They can also communicate with their teacher and classmates here via the public and private messaging system. Apart from using the comments function for questions and feedback, we use it to have class discussions about topics of interest. It is the students themselves who choose the topics and begin these discussions (another opportunity to put those critical thinking skills into practice!) From global warming to Messi, we have had some really insightful discussions... In the group space we have used Google Drive for collaborative activities (Docs for collaborative writing, Forms for making quizzes, Slides for group presentations…) and lots of other apps such as Kahoot and Quizlet for practice activities and Voki, Storyboard That, Book Creator for more creative activities.

In short, integrating flipped learning and cooperative learning has put the focus on to my students. Learning is more active, more collaborative, more creative, and students are (on the way to being) more responsible, more autonomous and more respectful.