A guest blog post from Jen Devaney, Mathsflip Project Manager
“Flipped” or “blended” learning is a simple idea where teachers present pupils with knowledge before they arrive in lessons (e.g. sharing a video the night before that explains a new mathematical concept such as ordering fractions). This frees up the teacher’s time to focus on classroom activities with more impact, such as giving more personalised support to pupils who are struggling, answering questions, holding discussions, challenging misconceptions or allowing pupils to apply their knowledge and delve deeper into the material.
It isn’t just video
At Shireland Collegiate Academy, where for years we have harnessed the power of technology to improve learning, we have used a Flipped methodology since approximately 2011 to extend and deepen understanding. However, early on we realised that Flipped Learning wasn’t just about curating video content for pupils to watch before a lesson and could have far more impact if teachers moved beyond this. Firstly, it need not just involve teachers creating videos for their pupils to watch. It can be far more broad and creative than this. Teachers can use a wide variety of sourced resources to share with pupils ranging from PowerPoints, websites, animations, games and songs to support pupils’ learning at home.
Assessment before the lesson is key
Secondly, there are other vital components to the approach. Flipped Learning completed at home can be far more powerful if pupils also complete an assessment task to show their understanding of what they have just learned before arriving in school. This allows teachers to look at responses before the lesson and therefore more effectively differentiate and target pupils within the class; essentially AfL before the lesson starts. This enables pupils to spend less time on low order thinking and move much more quickly onto those higher order thinking aspects which could be scaffolded and facilitated much more effectively by the teacher in the class.
We were so convinced of the positive impact of this approach that we wondered if we could support others to do the same. So we wrote a bid to the Education Endowment Foundation for a two year Efficacy Project to see if this could translate to other key stages and hey presto, MathsFlip was born!
We are now half way through the study and have been supporting school improvement in 24 local primaries to accelerate student achievement by implementing a Flipped Learning methodology in mathematics in Year 5 and 6. This has involved helping schools to set up the online learning environment for flipped learning, providing training and resources on how to get the most out of the flipped learning approach. It has also involved supporting teachers to use widely available resources and activities and sharing/developing some of its staff’s own materials. There are usually activities for pupils to complete and feedback available ahead of the lesson, allowing the teacher to enter the class with a good understanding of the pupils’ areas of strength and weakness.
Shift in emphasis
Immediately they can provide targeted support to those who need it or offer challenge where appropriate. This results in a shift in emphasis that allows lessons to focus around problem solving and application of skills rather than the sharing of knowledge to passive children. Resources such as those published by Rising Stars, particularly Picture Maths, Brain Academy and Problem Solving and Reasoning have been really effective at supporting teachers to offer pupils a challenging and engaging context to apply their learning at home and have been vital to the approach. Children have loved the visual nature of the Picture Maths cartoons and have really engaged with and enjoyed getting stuck into problems. Teachers also love this resource as it is readily differentiated and can stretch more able pupils, easy to use and makes links between different areas of maths whilst supporting the aims of the new curriculum.
Of course the face to face contact is still there, but it is used in the most effective way possible, not to impart knowledge to the children but to add value to the content, to interrogate the students’ understanding and facilitate them to deepen their learning. Early on some teachers were worried about this adding to their already heavy workload; something else they would have to plan and prepare for. But in actual fact all we are doing is delivering the same lesson and the same aspects but just the first parts get delivered outside of the classroom beforehand via a flipped task online. It allows more time in the actual lesson itself for teachers to move learning on for pupils to those higher order thinking skills; more time to deal with misconceptions that they identified from the responses of the flipped task and more time for teachers to address those more difficult concepts at a deeper level than before.
As we look to move on to Year 2 of the project, teachers and headteachers have told us of the many successes seen so far. For example, one school speaks excitedly of a pupil who previously lacked confidence in mathematics. As a result, he was reluctant to contribute and often misbehaved to hide his misconceptions. Since being part of the Mathsflip project, they have witnessed a transformation. Accessing content before the lesson means that he feels more confident with the content in advance and now takes an active part in lessons. This means that on occasions when he doesn’t understand a concept, he now has the confidence to ask for support and no longer feels the need to misbehave. They have seen him blossom from a previously disruptive pupil to a confident mathematician who supports others. Another school speaks with wonder about an SEN pupil who was previously silent and froze in class discussions, who has had such an increase in confidence that she now films herself teaching her mum the information she has learned through flipped learning and uploads this to the class site for all in the class to see.
It isn’t just lower ability pupils who are benefiting from this methodology. One school who already had a high % of success in SATs last year has said that on practice papers their Level 5s are up 25%, from 50% to 75%, which with little difference in the abilities of the two cohorts, they fully attribute to their adoption of the Flipped Learning approach.
As one teacher put it, ‘I’ve been a maths leader for 10 years but I am learning so much and I am really reflecting on my teaching and changing what I do because of the Mathsflip project. I feel that flipped learning has had a really positive impact enabling pupils to progress more quickly during the lesson. The children have a more secure understanding of different aspects of maths and I have found that they retain the knowledge for longer than before the project.’
I’ll leave you with the words of a Year 6 pupil from cohort 1 of the project: ‘Miss, homework is my favourite subject now. I just love Flipped Learning. Today we had a practise SATS. It was so brilliant I felt so much more confident. This project has made me love maths!’
, Computing and ICT
, Mathematical Vocabulary eBook
, Maths for the More Able
, More able
, Picture Maths
, Rising Stars Mathematics