Unit planning with blended and flipped in mind

Sections:

  1. Activity

Introduction

Learning objectives

By the end of this lesson, you should:

  • Understand how the roles and responsibilities of a teacher shift in a blended and/or flipped learning environment.

  • Understand the roles and responsibilities of students in a blended and/or flipped learning environment.

  • Understand what you need to consider when planning a unit of work.

You will also have the opportunity to start to craft your own unit plan, incorporating blended and/or flipped learning.

We know from Unit 1 that blended learning involves a combination of face-to-face learning (in the traditional sense) and online learning, and a flipped classroom involves the reversal of the traditional learning delivery method.

Having an understanding of blended and flipped learning is just the start. As educators, we need to reflect on our own students, subjects, expertise, resources, schools, and education regions to decide how and when we can include these approaches.

Every teacher has a range of skills in their ‘teacher toolkit’. We work throughout our career to hone the skills we already have while improving our toolkit by developing new skills to suit the needs of the individual learners we work with. Blended and flipped learning are not new concepts to many of us but they are skills which, once mastered, can have a profoundly positive impact on student outcomes.

With the 2020 global pandemic affecting all aspects of life, education has been significantly impacted by the closure of many physical schools. This has led to some teachers and students being exposed to blended learning without the preparation needed to make it effective.

In this unit, we will explore the changing roles and responsibilities of teachers and students, and how teachers can plan to successfully adopt these approaches, as and when appropriate.

Shifting roles and responsibilities

In a traditional classroom, the teacher could be considered the keeper of the knowledge. Over the past twenty or so years, there has been a shift in the role of the teacher from ‘sage on the stage to guide on the side’ (Alison King, 1999).

The ‘sage on the stage’ analogy focuses on a teacher-centered approach to education where the teacher is at the front of the room delivering content to students. Blended and flipped learning do not require teacher-centered education to be removed from the classroom, instead that teachers move away from this as a primary source of delivery. In a flipped or blended classroom, the ‘sage’ has the freedom to step aside and act more as a guide or facilitator.

As teachers develop the confidence and skills to guide their students, we are shifting from one-way to two-way transfer of information and knowledge.

Watch the Ben's Mindsets video on this website to find out more about this concept.

The changing roles

With any shift, there will be a learning process as educators adjust their mindset, pedagogy, and perception of their role. In this shift, there is also a learning process that students have to go through as their roles change from being passive receivers of information to active creators of knowledge. Both of these learning processes need to be acknowledged, planned for, and reviewed if the use of blended and/or flipped learning is to be successful.

Explore the shift in roles for teachers and students when a blended and/or a flipped learning model is applied.

The changing role of the teacher

Traditionally, teachers …

In a blended/flipped environment, teachers …

  • Maintain full control of what goes on in their classrooms.

  • Dictate the pace of learning for all students.

  • Act as the only expert in the class.

  • Lecture students.

  • Hold all knowledge.

  • Direct thinking.

  • Provide the resources to be used.

  • Determine how outcomes can be presented.

  • Manage one activity in class at a time.

  • Evaluate students.

  • Relinquish a degree of control.

  • Are available as one expert with whom students interact.

  • Give additional responsibility to students.

  • Engage in effective questioning.

  • Use a range of approaches.

  • Plan and cater for diversity.

  • Model, mentor, coach, guide and facilitate learning.

  • Set high expectations for all students.

  • Plan for multiple activities to be occurring in one classroom.

The changing role of the student

Traditionally, students

In a blended/flipped environment, students …

  • Receive content.

  • Are inert and inactive.

  • Passively make notes.

  • Rote learn and memorize facts.

  • Are expected to listen.

  • Do as instructed by the teacher.

  • Have little freedom to make decisions.

  • Sit at a desk.

  • Rely on textbooks and resources provided by the teacher.

  • Are required to take responsibility.

  • Are encouraged to access resources beyond those provided.

  • Collaborate and work in teams.

  • Develop critical thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making skills.

  • Select the most appropriate way to convey understanding.

  • Have the opportunity to individualize aspects of their learning (e.g. time, place, pace).

Further reading

To find out more, read the following article.

Planning a unit of work

Starting point

If you search online, you will find there are many pre-prepared units of work that teachers can access for use in their own classroom.

These can provide a good starting point for inexperienced teachers or those teaching outside their area of expertise, but experience tells us that these plans don’t usually reflect:

  • the ‘personality’ of the teacher;

  • the values of a specific class;

  • diversity in culture, ability, resource availability, and expectations;

  • the relationship between the teacher and the students.

Therefore, it is essential that we plan our own units of work, either individually or collaboratively.

Reflecting

Reflecting on past planning is an essential part of our improvement journey as teachers.

Consider the following questions when assessing the quality of an existing unit plan:

  1. Does the unit align with the intended standards and learning objectives?

  2. Does the unit include a range of learning and teaching strategies to meet the needs of all learners in the cohort?

  3. Are the activities appropriately sequenced (lower order to higher order, etc.)?

  4. Do the assessment opportunities test the skills and understanding identified in the objectives?

These questions are a good starting point when planning to use a blended or flipped learning model.

Starting small

The idea of developing a unit plan that includes blended and flipped learning may be daunting for some teachers. As with most learning journeys, taking the first step can be the hardest. You may choose to consider simply how you could incorporate technology into a single activity or lesson.

Here are two simple examples of activities that include flipped and blended learning:

Example 1: Teaching new content

  1. Record yourself delivering new content—this may be a video of you physically teaching in a classroom or a voiceover on a slide presentation.

  2. Share the recording with students, setting them the task of viewing and reflecting on its content outside class time. Start the next lesson with an engagement checking activity (e.g. entry ticket or short formative quiz).

  3. Make time for an open discussion or question and answer session on the recording you shared.

  4. Set an activity that requires students to put their understanding of the new content into practice.

Example 2: Scientific experiment

  1. Use an online video repository (such as YouTube) to find a recording of a ‘safe’ scientific experiment you want students to complete in class.

  2. Set watching the experiment as an out-of-class task.

  3. Start the next lesson by arranging students into groups.

  4. Ask each group to collect the equipment they need to undertake the experiment they watched.

  5. Circulate among the groups guiding them to set up the equipment appropriately.

  6. Support students to complete the experiment.

  7. Set an activity that requires students to input their data into a shared online document then to individually use the collective data to draw conclusions.

Additional examples can be found below:

Example 3: Spanish A simple example from Penny Christensen of a blended lesson learning plan from a Spanish class.

Example 4: Mathematics A more complex example from Catlin Tucker of a blended learning lesson plan for mathematics.

Further reading

To find out more, read the following articles.

Considering flipped learning

For the purposes of unit planning, educators can choose whether or not to see flipped learning as an element of a blended learning environment.

No matter what your background is, how much experience you may have, or how confident you may be regarding blended and flipped learning, you can take steps to enhance the experience of your students through planning for their use.

There is a huge amount to consider when developing a unit plan that includes a shift in usual classroom practice and the existing culture, including:

  • the objectives you are trying to achieve the needs of your students

  • the priorities of the relevant education authority, examination system, school, and faculty

  • the time available to both plan and deliver

  • the curriculum how significant the change would be the resources that are available;

  • equity issues

The sky is the limit

A significant proportion of the work associated with planning a unit with blended and flipped learning in mind takes place before the plan is written. Developing the vision of what you want to achieve in your specific learning environment is the perfect picture to have in mind when crafting your plan.

All teachers have constraints they have to work within but don’t let these stop you from 'blue sky thinking' or 'thinking outside the box'. Don’t set limits on your ideas; instead, try to conceptualize your problems differently or find innovative ways around the constraints. Not every issue will be overcome, but you may find ways around some of the ‘roadblocks’ you expected to encounter.

Activity

Now it is your turn to have a go!

Baring in mind all that you have learned so far consider these questions before creating your unit plan:

  • Which subject, class and lesson/unit are you going to work on?

  • Will you start planning from scratch or edit a plan that you have already created?

  • Are you going to work on blended learning, flipped learning or both?

  • What opportunities can you identify to include blended and/or flipped learning in this unit?

  • Which of these opportunities are you going to work on?

  • What additional training or research do you have to do prior to crafting this unit?

  • What do you need to teach your students before they can effectively engage in blended and/or flipped learning activities?

  • What resources do you and your students need versus what resources do you and your students have?

  • Where can I access resources and ideas so I don’t ‘reinvent the wheel’?

  • How will you close this gap?

  • How can you reduce equity issues?

You can record your answers using the word document template below.

Before you move on...

When starting to create your plan, keep the following key thoughts in mind:

  • What am I trying to achieve?

  • How do the learning activities move students toward the learning objectives?

  • Am I catering to the diverse needs of my students?

  • Does what I am putting on paper translate to my specific learning environment?

  • Will this plan improve student outcomes?