Flipped Learning, a brief grounding in the research literature

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written by Steven Kolber

Flipped Learning, a brief grounding of the research literature

I was recently challenged to show the effectiveness of flipped learning through research by a member of leadership at my school. What follows is a brief summary of the research that I had at hand that situates a reader generally within the literature and opens some avenues for further exploration. It also gives a good overview of the general direction of flipped learning research with many recommendations of where further research needs to be aimed to produce a greater understanding of the methodology. Keep in mind this is simply an excerpt of my current understanding, as a full-time teacher, not currently participating in any part-time study. I am pursuing research into flipped learning, purely as a hobby rather than any structured academic study. For a broader overview of flipped learning in regards to adding to the research base, I would recommend this blog by Robert Talbert: http://rtalbert.org/what-does-the-research-say/

With that in mind, I hope that teachers interested in the concept of flipped learning, educational technology or using instructional video in their classroom would find this an interesting starting place and jumping-off point for further investigation of these ideas in their own practice. Or in a pinch, use this to justify the interest and emerging nature of flipped learning and some of its positive findings in regard to learning outcomes for students.

Firstly, as meta-analyses are all the rage at the moment, let us begin with these two-literature review/meta-analysis style articles that give us a good aerial view of the research and a good grounding in some of the already completed research.

The Flipped Classroom: A Survey of the Research

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This document provides a good summary of the research circa 2013, it sets out some of the pedagogical practices and ideas that underpin the practice and allow it to be used. It is an approachable and easy to read piece that defines key words and ideas well and establishes some of the intellectual lineages of flipped learning. It is especially valuable for people with a limited understanding of flipped learning in the way that it outlines key ideas that most teachers and educational practitioners will find familiar and easy to engage with. It focuses mostly on qualitative information (numbers) and is therefore easy for a person wired in this way to engage with quickly and without requiring much of an analysis of complex results.

A critical review of flipped classroom challenges in K-12 education: possible solutions and recommendations for future research

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A very recent paper (2017) that comments on the paucity of K-12 flipped learning research and discusses some of the issues that are presented by this pedagogy for teacher workload and other key factors. Appendix 1 provides a summary of a number of studies and their results, whilst Appendix 2 provides a brief summary of the ways that class time was being used in each of these studies. This is useful in the way that it can be used to understand the myriad ways that flipped learning can be used to transform the classroom environment and the activities that take place there. It must be noted, however, that a number of the studies cited do not very closely align with flipped learning as it is generally defined or best practice. As a result, some of the studies show less than favourable results due to a number of reasons, which I will refer back to in a future piece of writing. It also gives a good overview of the way that different uses of this methodology can be applied and as a shortcut around where it would be best to begin a practice of flipped learning for an individual or school aimed in a positive direction. In summary, the paper shows that without looking too closely at what is or isn’t flipped learning, all studies that purported to be flipped learning showed positive results or no significant loss or gain (stayed comparable). Looking more closely, those studies that made use of video in the individual space and used group discussion or some other form of active learning in the class space showed improvements in student’s learning outcomes. These two simple factors being present could be used as a rough proxy for best practice and something to be expanded upon in further research. The two aforementioned appendices also show that deviating beyond the accepted knowledge of best practice in regards to flipped learning does not show a positive result for student outcomes.

The Impact of the Flipped Classroom on Mathematics Concept Learning in High School

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This paper is a more recent (2016) study that took a small scale (82 participants) approach and used the traditional lecture vs flipped learning approach. Notably, this paper used genuine high school students, aged 14-15 years, a group that many practitioners tend to presume will not complete the pre-class work of watching videos. This study showed that this was not true but rather showed that the FL participant group outperformed the control group and were highly satisfied and positive towards the methodology. Notably, the study showed that the ‘low achievers’, as recognised via pre-test results, had greater success than the control group who received conventional teaching. It is suggested that this is due to these students with higher learning needs receiving more attention from teachers and greater time for the deeper discussion and engagement with mathematical problems.

The flipped classroom and cooperative learning: Evidence from a randomised experiment

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A recent study (2016) that comparing the flipped learning classroom with lecture-based lessons. It found a 12% increase in test scores when comparing these two methodologies, in favour of the flipped learning classroom. The study drew its participants from undergraduate students and used a simplistic multiple-choice style test form of testing. The sample size (235 students) is significant and indicates support for flipped learning, but also more specifically the types of active, collaborative pedagogies that it allows to take precedence over traditional lecture style teaching.

Optimizing Learning From Examples Using Animated Pedagogical Agents

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A laboratory-based, experimental based study (2003) that looks specifically at the levels of knowledge retention by undergraduate students based on the learning/teaching resource involved in the delivery of the content. The content was presented through three forms: text only, text and audio, or text and ‘animated agent’ (a small cartoon character who gestures and refers to key elements of the text). I interpret this study firstly in the sense that a teacher, known to the student will always be more effective than the noted ‘animated agent’, as well as more knowledgeable. More simply, however, this study posits that learning through video is simply more effective than more traditional and conventional means. Extending this concept further, this seems to indicate that even without flipped learning being applied, but simply replacing learning resources from text or worksheet towards instructional video would show an improvement in knowledge retention just as was shown in this study.

Learning from Examples: Instructional Principles from the Worked Examples Research

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This study (2000) is a very exhaustive summary of cognitive load theory which I believe holds many connections and associations with flipped learning. I believe it also suggests a number of practices and understandings that should become mainstream within the practice of producing instructional video and flipped learning. Rather than go over some of the complex interaction between the pedagogy of flipped learning and Cognitive Load Theory (CLT), I would suggest you look over this short summary of how these ideas and those raised by the previous research study are applicable in this video I made on the topic here:

Overall, I hope this limited overview of some of the recent research on flipped learning has shown you some of the ways that different ideas are being applied under the umbrella of flipped learning. As well as giving you some things to provide to interested individuals to begin their own learning journeys into flipped learning and its applications in a variety of contexts. If you are interested in any of these ideas please let me know, or if there is anything that you believe here is improperly covered I would love to hear about it. You can email me on kolber.steven.s@edumail.vic.gov.au

You can also meet me at the Digital Classroom Conference in Melbourne 30/31 August 2019 - hope to see you there…..https://nationaleducationsummit.com.au/melbourne-digital-classroom

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