Is flipped classroom an effective method for higher retention and focus?

ABHILASHA PANDEY | Teacher, Kendriya Vidyalaya, INS Shivaji, Pune.

Abhilasha Pandey is an educationist and a teacher for the past 14 years. She has been working with Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan (KVS) since 2014. Currently, Abhilasha is posted at KV, INS Shivaji, Lonavala, Pune.

An avid reader, Abhilasha is interested in educational psychology, pedagogy and neuroscientifi­c research pertaining to teaching- learning.

Attentiveness of a student in classroom setting is a nebulous concept & dependent on multiple factors, which are - subject content, teaching methodology, conceptual development level, peer group, etc.; most of which can effectively be managed by the teacher; except student’s individual; or to be more precise, biological limitations.

A 2016 article by Neil A. Bradbury discusses that the attention span of most students is approximately 15 minutes. The retention of material delivered beyond this span declines remarkably.

Modern Neuroscientifi­c research provides two explanations for this. The fi­rst one is based on the concept of ‘Cognitive Overload’. Every time a new information is presented to our brain, multiple neurons become active and use huge amounts of energy, resulting in fatigue.

This goes on till the ‘overload’ leads to exhaustion, wherein the brain drops everything and we fail to remember anything at all. Next, this information is uncertainly encoded in our working memory, which itself can retain information for less than 10 minutes. Imagine a shallow water can, fi­lled with water and kept on a seesaw! Unless there is a consolidation followed by retrieval leading to reconsolidation, involving forming of synapses, the information remains imbalanced. Does this mean that the 40-minute classroom lecture paradigm has become obsolete and ineffective? Probably not. A teacher in the contemporary scenario is better equipped than ever. She has technology, networking and neuroscientifi­c research. These three tools can revive the lecture mode while ensuring that each of the 40/50 minutes of the classroom time is fully enthused with learning in terms of comprehension & retention. How? Before going into that, let us discuss the relevance of classroom lectures in a scenario where videos, audios, animations and rich content are easily accessible to students online. This is apt enough to introduce the topic, build a fundamental understanding of concepts and allows the child to study at his/her own pace. And it is de­finitely not 40 minutes long.

Though research today abounds with techniques, I shall focus on fi­rst of three: Flipped classroom, Blended Learning and Interleaving. Flipped classroom not merely changes the location of stage, allowing the teacher to be available to the student when and where the child is comfortable to learn; but it frees up time. Time is the most precious element for a teacher rushing to complete a syllabus while simultaneously ensuring learning outcomes for the learners.

The Act I of flipped classroom is conducted at home. With the help of a pre-recorded lecture of 15-20 minutes, the teacher can introduce the subject content to students at his or her home. How is it advantageous?

1. The content is brief and precise.

2. It begins and ends within speci­fic attention span of students.

3. Unlike a live lecture, student has an option of going back on content which (s)he has missed or not understood. The pace of lectures is controlled by the learner and hence concepts can be revisited to ensure maximum comprehension.

4. A familiar face and audio input can help build a connection at a level that supersedes a stranger delivering lecture in video tutorials. Research supports that students learn better from teachers they like.

5. Questions that remain unasked or unanswered due to limitations of time or hesitation may be noted down by students and can be cleared in the classroom.

The Act II is in the classroom. The primary advantage here is of time. Freed of introductory lecture, teachers can easily use available time to help learners work through their doubts and queries. While collective doubts can be dealt via interactive lecture mode, the individual doubts can be cleared via peer interaction or by the teachers themselves.

The distinctive advantage are –

For slow learners:

In a classroom, for every question asked, there are only 4-5 hands raised to answer. Even if the question is “Is it clear?”. Teachers cannot afford to wait for the ‘end of lesson test’ to assess learning outcome for each learner. Freed of confi­nes of stage, teachers are able to move around the classroom, identify individual learning gaps, fill in gaps and plan teaching methodologies accordingly.

For fast learners:

Available time can be utilised for reinforcing concepts by letting fast learners assist in bridging of conceptual gaps of their counterparts. HOTS (Higher Order Thinking Skills) questions which are given for homework can now be given during freed up class time to further enhance critical thinking and application skills. Further, as students struggle to master HOTS, teachers can witness and guide them.

So how is flipped classroom helpful? It combines the advantages of pace and accessibility of an online learning platform with the emotional and individualised connection of traditional classroom paradigm.

Settings are virtual but interactions are real. Aim of a teacher’s job is to do away with her role in teaching learning process, making the learning process independent for learner. Besides being a more effi­cient teaching technique, flipped classroom accelerates this process by helping the learner understand his/her pace, identify weaknesses and be responsible for his/her own learning. The role of teacher becomes restricted to helping students only where (s)he struggles.

As this process occurs in the classroom, supportive presence of teacher helps overcome fear of failure. A word of caution however, the goal is to make learners independent; hence the urge to rush with help should be curbed strictly by teachers. Struggles are integral part of learning process. Making mistakes helps one identify them and this identi­fication is a key step towards developing perfection.

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