November 3, 2022
“I haven’t lectured in my class since 2007.” I said this many times over the years, and now I am back to lecturing — sorta! It all started with a conversation with Dr. Helane Marshall this summer as she shared with me her SOFLA model of online instruction (Synchronized Online Flipped Learning Approach). Her cycle of learning includes eight steps and the one that has got me back to “lecturing” is step 6: Preview and Discovery. In that step, she takes about five minutes during her online classes to give students a preview of the evening’s flipped lesson. I know that some educators don’t like the term “lecture” as it has a connotation of a power relationship between the teacher and the student. Probably a better term is “direct instruction.” But regardless of what it is called, this “preview” time has three purposes:
- To sell students on actually doing the prework. Clearly, one of the drawbacks of the flipped model is that it relies on students doing the pre-work (flipped lesson). And if we give students a short preview of the lesson, Dr. Marshall found that more students will complete the assignment. The “preview” segment of the class should be used to sell the student on the importance of what they will view (video) or read (text). So far (two weeks into the semester), I am finding that when I do the preview activity, I get more compliance.
- To decrease the cognitive load on students so that they will have at least some basic background knowledge when they interact with the flipped lesson. Probably this second point is more important because students often have difficulty accessing some content alone. If I can give them a few cognitive hooks so that when they interact with the flipped lesson, they will increase their comprehension.
- To increase social interaction during the flipped lesson. I also use the lecture time to prompt how students might interact with each other in the flipped lesson. Perusall is a social learning tool that allows students to interact with each other about a particular piece of content. Using this tool, students can comment on each other’s comments in the reading or the video. This increases both compliance and comprehension of the flipped lesson.
As of right now, here is the process I use to determine what the preview will look like:
- I pull up the assigned prework and read or watch it again. (I created some of the videos I am assigning more than two years ago. It has been really good to remember what I said and how I said it).
- I identify the most important or confusing part of the video. This will be the topic of the mini-lecture.
- I set an alarm for ten minutes before the bell (we have 85 min blocks with our students). In the last ten minutes of class, I have two main goals, first the preview and then a time for students to reflect in a shared google doc. Ten minutes seems to be the sweet spot for both of these activities.
So as it turns out, I have been missing a big piece of flipped learning by not lecturing. It seems counterintuitive, but taking just a few minutes to do a preview with your students is having large benefits.
I say all of this, and I also need to acknowledge that I don’t exactly flip my classroom. I have moved away from a straight flip, and I now teach via Mastery Learning, but with a flipped twist. In the mastery model, my students move through the curriculum at a flexible pace. Students are roughly on the “same page” each day. So doing a preview might seem problematic because not all students will do the same flipped lesson each night. So I have been doing the “preview” that aligns with where the vast majority of students should be on any given day. This adds a level of complexity to this step, but I am still seeing the same benefits. For those students who are behind, it gives them some cognitive hooks for the flipped lesson they may interact with in a couple of days. So far, it is working well, but I also know that most students are almost on the same page at this early junction in the year. I will see how this goes in the weeks to come.
If you are interested in how to implement a Mastery Learning classroom, I encourage you to pick up a copy of my new book: The Mastery Learning Handbook. The book provides step-by-step instructions on how to set up and implement mastery/competency-based learning in your classroom.
You may also be interested in reading more articles written by Jon Bergmann for Intrepid Ed News.