Peer Instruction – Flipping the idea of flipped classrooms on its head

So in my last post, I mentioned the “simple” explanation for a flipped classroom, the lecture is done through video and the applications are done in class. After listening to a podcast on Peer Instruction on Ed Reach, I have realized just how simple my explanation was.

According to Dr. Julie Schell, their featured guest, peer instruction is also a form of a flipped classroom. Though it might not require students to watch videos at home, or do homework or projects in class, the students are required to pre-learn some material before class and be ready to discuss it during class. According to the interview, Peer Instruction requires the following six steps:

1. Brief Presentation – Dr. Schell does not think that lecture has to be completely omitted from a flipped classroom environment, and instead, thinks it has its place.

2. Pose a question that requires application. – Dr. Schell recommends that this question be meaningful so that the students care about it.

3. Students “vote” or respond to the question.

4. Students pair off with another student in the class who has an opposing opinion, and convince the other person of his point of view.

5. Go back together and talk about it as a group.

6. Closure – Dr. Schell emphasizes the importance of this so that the learning is continued after the activity. This can be a post-presentation created by students, but again, the question and topic need to be meaningful enough for the students to want to follow-up.

After looking at this format, it does seem like it fits the bill for the flipped classroom, and is simply another method of in-class application of material. Dr. Schell also expressed the importance of making sure the methods fit the material. This makes perfect sense to me. After all, teaching methods, regardless of what they are, are tools for helping students learn. If the method is not appropriate to the material, then it is probably not the best method to choose. Dr. Schell stressed this, and I agree, incorporating diverse teaching methods keeps the classroom interesting and forces students to learn in different ways. I certainly felt this podcast was helpful to me, and highly recommend listening to it.

Click here to listen to the podcast referenced above.

After listening to this podcast, I am unsure that I would give just a traditional audio podcast to my students. I found myself getting easily distracted with only just listening when at home, and I feel like just giving a podcast will create barriers for visual learners. As I am planning to teach elementary school, however, I might to use one as a way build listening skills. Or I might use one as part of a treasure hunt.


Teachers learn too!

Each day that we have class, I find myself continually inspired by what we discuss and read. This week we read the article, “The Nuts and Bolts of 21st Century Teaching”. Suffice it to say, the author Shelley Wright truly amazed me; not simply because she decided to change her teaching approach for a particular assignment, but because of how she let herself be challenged to try something new and in doing so found an amazing new teaching strategy.

Ms. Wright decided to take a new approach to teaching her students about the Holocaust. Rather than teach them through lecture like she had previously done, she decided to give them a hands-on, inquiry learning experience and had her students research and curate an exhibit on the Holocaust. Instead of giving instructions on steps to take, Ms. Wright simply gave a timeline of where she wanted her students to be, and then let them take the lead. She helped them come up with the focus by having them write ideas on sticky notes and then had her class group the ideas together into like topics. This gave them a starting point to break into groups for researching, but the rest was up to her students.

When they got stuck, she intervened very little and instead guided them to find the answer. And when they needed inspiration to get them over the transition from researching to composition, she showed them a video to inspire them. I found the following statement from the article very poignant, “Inquiry learning is not a familiar experience for them. Instead, by grade 10, my students have learned that if they wait long enough, they will be rescued. Not anymore.” I actually found this to be the crux of her entire lesson and one of the most important skills she taught them – that no one is going to hold their hand through life.

Some of the technology she used in her class were applications we have looked at like Delicious and Google Docs. She showed easy applications of these programs in her classroom. I particularly liked that she introduced them naturally and in a way that fit with what the needs of the assignment were. This was very fitting to her goal of making the assignment something that was relevant and timely for her students.

Though the story of her students working their way through this assignment was inspiring on its own, what got me most was her story. Through this journey, Ms. Wright found herself more engaged and excited about this project because her students were. She had started a brand new project unsure of where it would lead, and ended up learning alongside her students. To me, that is at the heart of teaching, and that is most inspiring about this whole story. I ended up following Ms. Wright on Twitter (@wrightsroom), and in her feed found a tweet with two very amazing videos that gave me chills. Here is the link.

I am going to keep this article in mind so that when I am a teacher I can be reminded to take chances in trying new approaches with my students.