The UK National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) has revealed the benefits and challenges of flipped classroom learning for mathematics. Through a small study, the researchers found that the approach helped students take responsibility for their learning while teachers reported positive and faster learning outcomes compared to the implementation of a traditional learning model.
Study authors Suzanne Straw, Oliver Quinlan, Jennie Harland and Matthew Walker conducted a qualitative study in which nine schools in England and Scotland participated. The experiment took place in Secondary 1-3 classes of Mathematics in which teachers used Khan Academy in a flipped learning implementation. For comparison purposes, classes of the same age group were taught the same course using the traditional learning approach.
According to the authors, the flipped classroom approach ensured that students came into class prepared and with a basic knowledge of topics which in turn helped students engage more in the learning process, improved their knowledge and understanding of math concepts and helped them pinpoint what they’re good at and what they had trouble understanding.
One of the most valuable findings was that students managed to nurture their independent learning skill and improve their mathematics performance.
During the actual experiment, learners had to study new concepts at home rather than in the class with the teacher leading the instruction. In class, students focused on learning activities based on the concepts previously learned at home. Teacher and students applied mathematical concepts through activities and math exercises and teachers assumed a facilitator role rather than solely demonstrating and instructing.
The authors said that in practice, implementing the flipped classroom approach comes with a set of challenges including lack of access to technology and the right digital resources, difficulty in finding the most appropriate learning material to support student learning, and student inability or refusal to do the preliminary study assignment at home.
The authors also noted that learners and teachers are used to the traditional learning approach in which concepts are introduced by the teacher through face-to-face demonstration and practice takes place at home.
Reporting on the benefits of flipped classroom learning, a teacher said according to NFER’s study:
“I think flipped learning is brilliant. I think it is fantastic that they (students) come in at a better starting point.”
Similarly, another teacher highlighted that this approach lets students have a fair share of participation and support in class because they all start with the same knowledge:
“They’ve got the chance to spend as long as they like on it whereas, in class, they don’t really get that chance because someone will get it in two minutes but they maybe need 15, it can really set them back. Whereas if they all get chance to do it at home, one person took two minutes, one took 15, it doesn’t matter because they’ve all come to class and they are ready to move on from that point together…”
A different teacher noted that the flipped classroom helped her class progress through the material faster. It also helped students achieve more than they would normally do in a traditional classroom setting.
The study concludes with tips on how schools and teachers can implement flipped learning and how to tackle the most common challenges associated with its implementation.
NFER is an organization that through research and assessments helps improve education at local and national level in the UK.