Climbing the ladder: Bloom-ing great, flipping fantastic.
Full text article with appendices here.
It is apparent that there are individual differences as to what motivates and does not motivate a learner (Jones, Valdez, Nowakowski, & Rasmussen, 1994). The empirical support for active learning, generally defined as any instructional method that engages students in the learning process, is extensive (Bonwell & Eison, 1991). Further, there are increasing indications that learners’ expectations of technology, and, as a result, of learning, are not being met (BECTA, 2008). Following on from the research, the current essay considered an implementation of a ‘flipped’ lesson where students were primed with knowledge prior to the session. Flipped learning is a form of blended learning that encompasses any use of technology to leverage the learning in a classroom. An ‘outstanding’ lesson is designed in light of current research on effective and engaging classroom interventions. This session is evaluated in respect of the impact it has on the learners. A discussion on student engagement and the effective use, and sometime abuse, of technology and e-learning concludes that teachers have a responsibility to use the most appropriate tools and not be lead to believe that technology can substitute for outstanding planning, preparation and pedagogical awareness.
In recent years, learner-centered pedagogy has received considerable attention. A learner-centered approach to teaching incorporates teaching strategies that focus on the needs, preferences, and interests of the learner. This approach is desirable because it helps learners to become actively engaged in the learning process, take responsibility for their learning, and enhances their skills to learn how to learn (Keengwe, Onchwari & Onchwari, 2009).
Active learning is grounded on the constructivist theory that emphasises hands-on, activity-based teaching and learning during which students develop their own frames of thought (Keengwe et al., 2009). The empirical support for active learning, generally defined as any instructional method that engages students in the learning process, is extensive (Bonwell & Eison, 1991). Many educators have claimed that assessment-related activities used in the classroom convey important information about what is valued there, and hence have an influence on students’ achievement goals (Ames, 1992; Harlen & Crick, 2003).
Research related to the potential impact of the Flipped Model is focused on the effects of preparing learners with direct instruction outside of the classroom, prior to receiving in-class instruction. A large body of research on the effects of priming on memory indicates that when learners are exposed to particular stimuli their memory of that stimulus is improved due to their previous experience (Bodie et al., 2006). By providing students with direct instruction outside of the classroom, they are in essence ‘primed’ for the active learning tasks.
This essay will consider the impact of learning styles and how one needs to support all learners in a class. From this it will move on to design an ‘outstanding’ lesson using e-learning through a ‘flipped classroom’ as well as a range of assessment for learning tools within the session. Finally, the session will be evaluated and reflected on in respect of the tools that have been used and how appropriate they are in a contemporary A Level psychology classroom.
Context of Planning
Using e-Learning Effectively: The inverted classroom
Of those teachers who are not running scared from the whole Internet [r]evolution there are many resources which can give a further dimension to their delivery. Students are becoming ever more familiar with the Internet and how to use it to the best effect. As classroom practitioners we should take a hold of this enthusiasm and capitalise on it.
There is a growing body of research that suggest “[that] knowledge is actively constructed by the learner, not passively received from the environment.” (Dougiamas and Taylor, 2003). As classroom practitioners with an awareness of psychological research we should be developing interventions and teaching strategies that monopolise on this and engage students in their learning journeys.
Levels of access to, and use of, technology are high among young learners – especially out of school. However, their experience of technology in formal education generally differs from that at home and there are increasing indications that learners’ expectations of technology, and, as a result, of learning, are not being met (BECTA, 2008). We are not engaging our learners using the most appropriate tools to extend their learning outside of the classroom. The concept of the ‘flipped’ or ‘inverted’ classroom attempts to address this issue by using technology that our learners’ use and embedding this both into classroom practice, as well as preparatory activities.
Flipped learning is a form of blended learning that encompasses any use of technology to leverage the learning in a classroom, so a teacher can spend more time interacting with students instead of lecturing. This method provides an opportunity for teachers to provide more personal feedback and assistance to students, but also to receive feedback from their students about the activities that they are undertaking and what they don’t yet understand (Wiley and Gardner, 2013).
The ‘flipped classroom’ instructional model was developed by Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams in 2007 to provide instruction to secondary students who were missing class and therefore missing instruction. Using videos to support students’ learning has attracted the attention of a large number of researchers (Young and Asensio, 2002) and a key concept within the idea of flipped learning is the use of new technologies to support learning; or as some would label: blended learning (Garrison and Kanuka, 2004).
Student perceptions of flipped learning were considered by Johnson (2013) who stated that a teacher no longer needs to provide a synchronous lesson to his or her students. The flipped classroom offers those educators looking to reinvent their practice a way to move from being the “sage on the stage” to the “guide on the side”. There are many examples of the use of a flipped classroom in contemporary classrooms (Pierce & Fox, 2012; Findlay-Thompson & Saint, 2014; Warter-Perez & Dong, 2012).
Following on from this research, the current essay considered an implementation of a ‘flipped’ lesson where students were primed with knowledge prior to the session. This came in the form of a reading task, a short video clip hosted on youtube and a multiple-choice quiz to allow students immediate feedback on their progress on the task (Connor-Green, 2000).
Do I need to know my learners’ style?
It is apparent that there are individual differences as to what motivates and does not motivate a learner (Jones, Valdez, Nowakowski, & Rasmussen, 1994). Such differences may be a result of previous experiences of education, personality and preferred learning styles (Hillier, 2005). For example some students do not work well in the morning but work well in the afternoon. Some learners have a marked preference for the visual or auditory mode, some respond better than others to praise than others, some have longer attention spans than others; in short, each student has a personal and unique learning style
Twenge (2013) writes that students are significantly different from previous generations being:
“… [students] are overconfident, have high expectations, report higher narcissism, are lower in creativity, are less interested in civic issues, and are less inclined to read long passages of text. They are highly confident of their abilities and received higher grades in high school despite doing fewer hours of homework than previous generations.” (pg. 66)
If this is the case then as teachers we need to be prepared to review the strategies that we use to teach and develop techniques to help them be successful. Twenge recommends that teachers of today’s generation should:
- Combat students believing their entitled to higher grades departments should ensure that course syllabi should be explicit about expectations for each grade boundary;
- Give frequent feedback using realistic assessments of performance and make use of peer assessment;
- Use class time for activities and collaborative learning and not using standard ‘lectures’ for long durations;
Dunlosky (2013) in a recent monograph considered the relative benefits of a variety of learning strategies that students utilise and reflected on the impact they have on both learning and retention of content. They reviewed 10 techniques and considered their impact on retention of information across a variety of students – regardless of learning styles. This suggested that student learning style did not have the large impact that ‘common knowledge’ would suggest.
Further to this Pashler (2008) reviewed a range of evidence and research looking into learning styles as part of a Psychological Science in the Public Interest article. This concluded that there is no adequate evidence base to justify incorporating learning-styles assessments into general educational practice. Therefore, limited education resources would better be devoted to adopting other educational practices that have a strong evidence base, of which there are an increasing number.
Given the lack of methodologically sound studies of learning styles (Pashler, 2008), it would be an error to conclude that all possible versions of learning styles have been tested however there is a growing literature that suggests that there are more influential variables such as environment, engagement and prior achievement that mediate success in a classroom.
It is right to be careful when using any technique, be that learning styles or other educational methods to support learning, that do not have any evidential evidence to support their use (Pashler, 2008). As psychologists we spend our days teaching students to evaluate theories and research and become savvy consumers of literature presented to them (Sternberg, 1999). It seems that many teachers cannot do this in the day-to-day teaching practice and often accept the old ‘learning styles’ without any question, rolling out VAK tests each year to guide students to ‘identify’ their style.
As teachers we could actually be limiting our students’ chances of finding their preferred techniques by blinkering them through the use of learning styles. Consequently, sessions should utalise a wide range of activities.
Within this essay I am going to reflect on the process designing a session around solid empirical research and the impact this had on both the session and the learners within the session. Further to this I will consider the use of e-learning, in the form of a flipped classroom, as a further tool that can be utalised to engage learners between sessions to create a truly ‘blended classroom’ experience.
The session will need to engage all the students in the room by using a variety of techniques, teaching strategies and questioning (Yang, 2005). There will need to be a fast pace to the session but there will be several periods that allow consolidation of learner knowledge and give them the ability to reflect on the session and construct their knowledge (Harlen and James, 1997).
The Session: An outstanding lesson.
The session that has been designed in respect to this essay was based on the idea of flipped learning, as identified above, and aims to engage all learners by meeting the needs of all learning styles, allowing both individual work and group discussion, written tasks as well as kinesthetic tasks.
The lesson-plan for the session (appendix 3) and class resources (appendix 4-6) were developed to use a range of activities, be fast paced, but allow consolidation time within the session. To set the context of the session, the lesson is the third one within the learning approach and the aims of the session were to:
- Must be able to describe (AO1) what operant conditioning is and how it was discovered.
- Must be able to identify (AO1) elements of operant conditioning.
- Should be able to apply (AO2) operant conditioning to new situations to explain behaviours.
Students completed a flipped task prior to the session (appendix 1) that involved a reading task, watching a short clip on operant conditioning, and completing an online quiz. The class resources and extension work was placed on the class flipped blog (appendix 2) for use following the session. Therefore, embedding the technology into the session, both prior to, and following the session with the aim of creating a ‘blended’ learning environment.
Questioning & Assessment within the Session
Questioning strategies, both orally and on activity sheets, have a measured impact on student learning of information and concepts (Wilen, 1987). Especially at A Level, teachers are often faced with teaching the content to heterogeneous groups of students who have a wide variety of academic backgrounds and knowledge (Porter et al., 2006). Differentiation and planning for such a wide range of learners is more of an issue to consider in psychology as a result of the wide range of skills needed to successfully complete the course. Psychology demands learners aware of scientific concepts and philosophies, statistical methods, research literacy, as well as specific psychological terminology (Hayes, 1996).
In the context of this assignment one area to be considered is the skillset that the teacher provides the learners with. Teaching is not just about giving the students knowledge but also providing the learner with signposts to help develop their studentship skills and become a better learner in general (Dunlosky et al., 2013). A recent monograph has considered the relative benefits of a variety of learning strategies that students utilise and reflected on the impact they have on both learning and retention of content. A table of the findings can be found in Table 1 that illustrates the relative utility of ten different strategies that students use.
Within the session that is being developed several of the high and moderate utility techniques will be embedded into the session to provide a supportive framework of activities to allow students to construct and build on their prior knowledge either from past lessons or the flipped lesson. Constructivism is more a philosophy not a strategy (Cakir, 2008) but elements of this are most definitely embedded into this session. Constructivist theory is becoming a more powerful cognitive theory in the current literature as ownership of learning is passed from the teacher to the student (Dougiamas, 1998, 2003) and this session builds on this concept.
Elaborative interrogation simply encourages the learner to consider their response to an answer and could be seen as a form of metacognition; requiring the learner to think about their thinking (Dunlosky et al., 2013). This can be achieved through the careful design of worksheets (see appendix 6) and oral questioning strategies in the classroom by simply asking ‘why?’ when a student responds. This allows the teacher to identify the thought process the student is following. It could be possible that a student has rote-learned responses that are incorrect. An example taken from class:
Considering a question: does getting a chocolate bar following a good behaviour is a positive reinforcement or negative reinforcement.
Teacher: “Is this a positive or a negative reinforcement?”
Student: “… positive [?]”
Teacher: “Thank you.”
Leaving the discussion here would leave the teacher believing that the student had grasped the concept of operant conditioning and could apply the theory correctly. However, this may not be the case. Let us now apply elaborative interrogation.
Teacher: “Why have you concluded that it is a positive reinforcement?”
Student: “Because I like chocolate so it must be good.”
It is now evident that the student is not necessarily aware of the theory or how to apply it to a novel situation. Elaborative interrogation seems to be a powerful learning procedure that is generally useful during fact learning (Pressley et al., 1988) and it has been found that generating an elaboration led to better memory for main ideas (Seifert, 1993). Further to elaborative interrogation is important for a teacher to be aware of questioning techniques and use appropriate questioning words to stretch her students and explore questioning techniques such as PPPB (McGill, 2011) and how PPPB and elaborative interrogation can be combined.
Testing plays a critical role in fostering student learning (Connor-Greene, 2000) and there is more leverage to improve teaching through changing assessments than there is in changing anything else (Gibbs and Simpson, 2004). Brookhart attempted to answer the question ‘what is formative assessment?’ in a single sentence when she wrote, ‘formative classroom assessment gives teachers information for instructional decisions and gives pupils information for improvement’ (2007, p. 43). Assessment and feedback therefore becomes formative when learners are in these situations:
- engaged in a process that focuses on meta-cognitive strategies that can be generalised to performance more generally;
- supported in their efforts to think about their own thinking;
- understand the relationship between their previous performance, their current understanding and clearly defined success criteria;
- positioned as the agent improving and initiating their own learning. (Clark, 2010)
In the current landscape of A Level assessment we are seeing movement towards more applied questions in exams that are requiring students to demonstrate more than just rote learning. However, many teachers rely heavily on assessments that test memorisation of information and don’t challenge students’ higher thinking skills (Bol and Strage, 1996). While it is generally acknowledged that increased use of formative assessment (or assessment for learning) leads to higher quality learning, it is often claimed that the pressure in schools to improve the results achieved by students in externally-set tests and examinations precludes its use (Wiliam et al., 2004, p49).
Research has shown that repeated retrieval induced through assessment (and not repeated encoding during additional study) produces large positive effects on long-term retention (Karpicke et al., 2008). This would suggest that regular (within each session) assessments reviewing learning would allow students the necessary time to consolidate their knowledge at regular intervals within a session. In essence, measurement of student progress becomes a fluid and flowing process of AfL.
Within this session, AfL is embedded throughout from the activities and consolidation tasks to the use of AfL cards (figure 1) for whole class questioning that allows the teacher to measure class progress before moving between tasks and activities (Angelo, 1995). The AfL cards have the numbers 1-4, RAG rating cards (red, amber and green) and a ‘?’ card that allows the teacher to quickly gauge whole class understanding or reflection on a topic or question. These are embedded into the lesson and used throughout as an alternative to individual student questioning.
Making sure it never ends …
Stretching and providing extension activities for all learners is a key theme that is embedded into any outstanding lesson, allowing students to move away from a restrictive activity and develop further awareness of an area or improve their skills. There is no doubt that Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives
for the cognitive domain (Bloom, Englehart, Furst, Hill, & Krathwohl, 1956) has had a considerable impact on educational thought and practice all over the world. If the taxonomy is embedded into the curriculum in the first weeks then students can use their meta-cognitive skills and consider with greater skill what a question is demanding of them.
The psychology that informed Bloom’s taxonomy was a blend of behaviorism, which was the dominant scientific psychology of the day, and a common sense view, which has come to be called ‘folk psychology”. From behaviorism came the choice to define educational objectives in behavioral terms and to base the hierarchy of levels “on the idea that a particular simple behavior may become integrated with other equally simple behaviors to form a more complex behavior” (Bloom, 1956, p. 18).
The ‘Thinking Ladder’ extension activity from Charlotte Russell at Resourcd.com is always available to learners throughout a session (see appendix & figure 2). Built on the ideas of Bloom’s Taxonomy (the new domain taxonomy with create at the top, Krathwohl (2002)) students can select a task from each of the six stages when a classroom task is complete to extend their knowledge, understanding and develop their higher level skills.
Further to this, within the session, each consolidation task (see appendix & powerpoint) has embedded within it tasks which can be completed to extend the learners knowledge and signposts to extension work that is on the flipped site for learners to complete outside of the class.
Evaluation: An outstanding lesson?
Angelo (1995) who suggests that classroom learning improves when (a) students are personally invested and actively engaged, (b) they receive prompt and comprehensible feedback, and (c) they work cooperatively with their classmates and teachers. The session discussed above attempts to meet all three of these measures. Students are actively engaged before they enter the classroom through the use of a flipped lesson. They know what they will be learning about, and bring an awareness of what the session is going to contain allowing them to interact with the starter activities immediately. Feedback is prompt and regular from the embedding of consolidation tasks throughout allowing individual feedback from each activity, to the use of the AfL cards (figure 1) for whole class feedback and reflection. Finally, the students are able to work cooperatively, supporting each other from the initial starter based on the flipped session to group work and discussion throughout.
The very act of being engaged adds to the foundation of skills and dispositions that are essential to gaining an awareness of a topic, both in knowledge and skills therefore any strategy given to the teacher returning should incorporate active and collaborative learning activities (Kuh, 2003). Shulman’s ‘Table of Learning’ taxonomy makes the assertion that learning begins with student engagement, which in turn leads to knowledge and understanding. When the learner has gained this knowledge and understanding they become capable of performance. At this point reflection on ones awareness leads to higher-order thinking and awareness of your understanding (Shulman, 2002). Therefore, without engagement, active learning, or investment in ones learning the student will not progress and achieve.
Findings from previous studies (e.g., Brookhart & Bronowicz, 2003) suggest that students’ academic self-efficacy may need to be considered when investigating the impact of classroom practices on achievement goals. Self-efficacy relates to the student’s individual judgment of their ability to perform on a particular type of task (Bandura, 1986). According to Bandura’s social cognitive theory, performances in previous tasks influence self-efficacy judgments for tasks of the same type. If students have experienced success in earlier assessment tasks, they are more likely to feel capable to succeed in future tasks of the same type of assessment (Schunk, 1996). Therefore, it is vital that learners feel that they are able to master each skill or task before moving onto the next one. Through embedding consolidation tasks and ‘breathing time’ into sessions this allows students to reflect on their knowledge or abilities, refine these and ask for support or signposts where needed.
Outstanding teaching techniques are based on the goal of “students becoming the agents of their own learning rather than the object of instruction” (Hamdan, McKnight, McKnight, & Artfstrom, 2013b, p. 4), and these techniques are designed to get at the deepest levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy (Anderson & Krathwohl, 2001). In a recent literature review, Hamdan et al. (2013b) recognised that teachers achieved increased student engagement, critical thinking, and better attitudes toward learning when active learning techniques, such as flipped learning were applied. The extension activities provided through the use of the ‘learning ladder’ allow students to reflect on their own learning, become aware of what they are learning and apply meta-cognition to their learning.
Through implementing the ‘learning ladder’ and making students aware of the intrinsic elements of learning and Bloom’s taxonomy this aids their awareness of how and what they are learning. This is then embedded within the lessons on every activity where the learners are able to apply these meta-cognitive skills to consider how they are approaching the question or activity.
As part of the ongoing professional development cycle the session discussed was observed and evaluated within the Ofsted framework against the seven criteria that a college is judged upon (Ofsted, 2012). The session was graded outstanding and met all seven of the common inspection framework criteria.
When planning effective lessons, it is important to consider the view that teaching is instinctive rather than learned and there are few particular patterns of behaviour that are more effective than others for all learners allowing the teacher to differentiate and stretch all (Weinstein, 1988). When planning one should support and scaffold their delivery rather than enforce explicit strategies on their learners (Good, 1983).
Students are not just empty receptacles waiting to be filled with important facts, new and interesting concepts and practical ‘tidbits’ of information (as Bain (2004) suggests) but actively learning and inquisitive. The teacher, facilitator or whatever label is ‘in vogue’ at the time, plays an enormous role in learning through delivery and course design. The one element that seems to pervade all discussions of exceptional teaching is enthusiasm for a subject (Buskist et al., 2002) and this must be shown consistently, both overtly in discussion and through creating exciting and engaging lessons for learners.
“…students feel greater rapport when educators engage in conversations about topics beyond course-related material, refer to students by name, and take time to listen to suggestions.” (Faranda and Clarke, 2004, p.279)
In education we work in a complex domain where there are infinite factors at work. This has been shown by research on achievement and retention in further education that identifies an array of factors that are involved (Martinez, 2000). The ‘outstanding’ is one who uses the most appropriate tools to not only scaffold student learning, but their engagement in the subject also. Scaffolding is then best understood as involving mutual adjustment and appropriation of ideas (Goos, Galbraith & Renshaw, 2002).
Teachers should experiment with new and exciting tools and aim to engage their learners using new technology to support teaching but not get in the way of progress. The use of technology in a flipped classroom is there to support learning, as technology should be a tool not a learning outcome. Technology can be engaging for some learners, but it is important to recognise that students are more motivated by opportunities to progress; they are motivated by opportunities to ask and answer their own questions; and they are motivated by opportunities to learn together with like-minded peers (Tucker, 2012).
The teacher’s responsibility is to foster this and use the most appropriate tools to achieve this, be it a using technology or pen. It seems almost certain that instructional videos, interactive Internet sites, flipped learning and yet-to-be-dreamed-up online tools will continue to multiply. But who will control these tools and whether they will fulfill their potential remains to be seen.
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