I’ve always been a fan of asking students for anonymous feedback on my teaching. They have some really valuable insights and suggestions for improving our classroom. Last week I was reminded just how important it is to ask students for their opinion.
I’ve wanted to flip my year 9 class all year, but for a whole number of reasons I didn’t do it until a few weeks ago. Leading up to the topic of equations, I realised it was time to stop making excuses and flip this class. A few things led to this realisation:
- Equations is a topic that really splits students. Some take a while to really grasp the basic concept of inverse operations, while for others the whole topic just ‘clicks’ and they fly through it.
- I’d just taught equations to year 10, so some of the resources and videos could be reused.
- I was going to be off school for a few days, meaning that on top of the one lesson a week where they’re taught by a science teacher (because of clashes in my timetable) they would also have a casual for a fair few lessons. By making videos, I was comfortable with the way that the concepts were being explained to them.
- I hate waiting for students to copy down notes and examples, and I hate seeing students either rushed through the work before they understand it or being bored because we’re moving too slowly. I want everyone working at their own pace.
I made up a booklet and explained to my students how our class would run for the next few weeks.
- The exercises in the booklet all needed to be completed by a set date. How they allocated their time was up to them. I suggested watching videos at home or during their independent learning time each morning so that time in class could be spent asking their classmates and I questions.
- Everywhere they saw this symbol it meant there was a video for them to watch explaining the concept and working through some examples.
Because I was away for so many of their lessons I wasn’t at all happy with their introduction to flipped learning. I felt like I’d given them all the resources for the topic and then abandoned them, rather then being there each lesson to answer questions, check that they were on track and generally support them.
The heart of flipped learning wasn’t there.
I also realised that I’d included too many questions for each concept, so students were getting bogged down. I honestly felt like I’d failed and I was prepared to revert to traditional teaching to give them a break before introducing flipped learning properly next term.
During the last lesson on equations a few students asked me whether we would be using the videos and booklets again for our next topic. I said I wasn’t sure, telling them that how we’d done things wasn’t what I’d had in mind, and asked them what they thought. Those few students were so unexpectedly positive! I decided to send out form to get anonymous feedback from the whole class – not just the extroverts. Even after those few positive comments, I was still sure that most of the class had hated it.
Because I haven’t introduced the term “flipped learning” to them, we referred to “booklets” but really we meant the whole new system of doing things. These are some of their responses:
The moral of the story:
It’s so important to ask for feedback from the people who matter most: our students.
I thought I’d done a terrible job. Turns out that while we all agreed that there was definitely room for improvement, students overwhelmingly preferred the new way of doing things.