A highly important component of education: student engagement

One of the particular elements of effective teaching is student engagement. Their engagement rate is critical and directly related to the way they learn. Students who hit the highest engagement rates will be better at reflecting, anticipating, evaluating, making connections between ideas, questioning and having a critical mind.

The first thing to acknowledge is that students are more likely to be engaged if they can find support by educators.
How can you support your students ? By creating an inviting learning environment, being present for them, demanding high results and challenging the way they think and reflect on the world. A lot of new education technologies and tactics are developing related to those affirmations such as blended learning, edtech, elearning, interaction platforms and the flipped classroom model.

What is a flipped classroom and how is it related to student engagement ?

Originally, the concept of “flipped classroom” corresponds to notions such as hybrid course design, course podcasting, active learning and, of course, student engagement. The value of a flipped class is in the turning of class time into a workshop where students can ask about lecture content, test and evaluate their skills, apply their knowledge and interact with one another in hands-on activities.

Flipped classrooms uses two concepts from the traditional way of teaching and reverse them. What was “class content” before is now what was previously “homework”. Those assigned activities are then taking place inside the classroom. In a few words, the teacher instructs the lesson at home via a video, a podcast, a book or a website.

During class time, the teacher has more a role of “learning coach” than a role a teacher, strictly speaking. Face-to-face time is now reserved for both individual questions or help and cooperative activities to clarify the notions and to contextualise knowledge by applying, analysing, planning and creating solutions. Students work in class and receive the support they need and a deeper understanding of the concepts, applications and connections to content happens.

Flipping a classroom englobes many concepts, from interactive engagement to peer teaching and Web-based questions that students have to answer before class. The teacher can use all those tactics and feedbacks to inform and improve his/her teaching.

What exactly are the advantages of a flipped classroom ?

Within a flipped classroom, students really own their learning and are actors of their own education via all the preparative work. It also allows them to be more interactive during the face-to-face class time whereas in a traditional classroom, students often try to write and integrate what is being said at the instant the instructor says it. They cannot stop to reflect upon what is being said, and they may miss important points because they are trying to transcribe the teacher’s words.

Another perk is that it allows students to find their own pace to learn. It is more flexible than traditional teaching because they are engaging with electronic resources. Thanks to those resources, more time can be allowed in the classroom for a real discussion and problem-solving activities. Those discussions and debates can now be initiated by the students instead of by the teacher only.
It can be affirmed that a “flipped classroom” model intensifies not only the learning experience but also student engagement, empowerment and development. It makes them more independent but it also promotes group collaboration and communication.

What are the challenges that can come from flipping a classroom ?

On the student side, they cannot just passively receive material in class anymore. It is possible that they would be discouraged and disappointed by this model in the beginning because they will have to gather information outside of the classroom by listening to podcasts, reading or watching recorded lectures.

For the teachers, the main disadvantage is that it will take time. They will need to redesign their curriculum to integrate pre-class (at-home) activities into their face-to-face classes in a way that incorporates learning pedagogies. The way all those new resources are integrated is what matters most to succeed in the flipped model.

Be careful, the flipped classroom is an easy model to get wrong. Even if the idea is unequivocal, an effective flip requires preparation. Recording lectures asks for effort and time, which can mean additional work and may require new skills for the instructor to learn. But is is definitely worth it as you could read before. The flip will shift priorities in a particularly interesting way, from merely covering material to working toward mastery of it.

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