How Can Flipped Learning Be Used in the High School Classroom?

An article by Richard James Rogers (Award-Winning Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management and The Power of Praise: Empowering Students Through Positive Feedback).

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati.

The phrase ‘Flipped Learning’ means exactly what it implies: things are flipped.

For instance:

  • Homework is done prior to a topic introduction, rather than after it. Children are assigned some reading or research to do prior to a lesson and they then bring questions to class which can be used in follow-up activities.
  • Pace of learning is more student-controlled, rather than teacher-controlled

Flipped Learning was first conceived as a pedagogical technique in 2007 by Jonathan Bergman and Aaron Sams who set out to answer a big question: What is the best way to use face-to-face class time? The answer they came up with, in essence, was that students should be involved in some well-designed discovery tasks at home/outside the lesson prior to deeper exploration (in which the content they’ve learned is reinforced, related and extended) in the classroom.

One reason why Flipped Learning has gained extra traction in the past five years especially is that it has been demonstrated to enhance metacognition, if used periodically.

Putting theory into practice

Most teachers have a good understanding of what Flipped Learning is as a theoretical concept, but difficulties arise when the time comes to apply the theory to a real lesson.

Is it really just as simple as getting the kids to read-ahead?

In today’s blog post I aim to aim to answer that question (the short answer is no, by the way). I will also describe some practical, actionable ways in which Flipped Learning can be utilized across subject areas.

One little warning I’d like to make about Flipped Learning before I start is that I do not believe that it should be used every single lesson – that would overload the students with too much independent study (especially if they are in lower secondary school or below). However, regular Flipped Learning (e.g. on a bi-weekly basis) can be a great way to facilitate deep learning in your subject (as opposed to just surface learning).

The 6 Steps of Flipped Learning

I cannot take the credit for creating or even describing the six steps you’re about to read – that goes to this excellent web page by Michigan State University. What I will do, however, is give my own spin on the steps as you read them. Enjoy!

  1. Plan your lesson – an obvious first step, but make sure you’ve thought about learning outcomes and the resources you will use. See this separate blog post of mine about the planning process.
  2. Record or supply a video – videos seem to be a kind of cornerstone of the Flipped Classroom/Learning model. In my opinion, it’s not always necessary to to actually make a video yourself – you may be able to find something perfect that’s been made already on sites like Vimeo and YouTube.
  3. Share the video with your students. Make it clear that the video will be discussed and utilized in class, so it might be a good idea to make a few notes on it.
  4. Change: Leave the video behind. We’re not watching that again. Now the students have to use what they’ve learned from the video in some kind of deep learning activity.
  5. Group the students and do some kind of activity that allows greater exploration. Ideas are given below.
  6. Regroup – get the students to present their individual group work to the whole class in some way. This could be a Google Slides presentation, a drama/acting session, an infographic, etc.

Once all of these steps are complete, reinforce the content with review tasks, revision and repetition.

Collaboration Activities suitable for the Flipped Classroom

Put the students into groups (before the pre-reading, videos, simulations or other prep work, if possible) and when the students come back to class get them to create something from the information they’ve already researched. This creative process will naturally involve further exploration. Consider these activities (and let the students choose what they would like to do, if possible):

  • Podcasting/recording an audio clip: Once the sound file has been created, the students can then send that to the teacher in any way that seems appropriate – via e-mail, Google Classroom, uploading to YouTube (which requires another process that the students will have to learn), etc. This blog post describes some steps students should take to create the audio file.

  • Groups create a short lesson that contains some kind of practical element: Interestingly, some research shows that one of the best ways to learn something is to teach the topic that you have to learn. So, quite simply, ask your groups of students to prepare a lesson which they must teach to the whole class. To spice things up, the students could build a model, demonstrate an experiment, pass objects around the class or do anything that stimulates touch, smell, and, maybe, taste.
  • Groups create a quiz: Quizzes can be a really fun way to test student knowledge, and when done via a group-creation project they can be much less stressful for students than traditional testing. Furthermore, there are a number of great, free multiple choice and graphic quiz creation tools available on the web, such as Kahoot!, Quizlet, Blooket, Quizizz and Wordwall. Perhaps each group could be given a different quiz app to use, or perhaps each group could choose two or more platforms to create several quizzes for the class to complete.
  • Groups create models from everyday materials: Get your students to build things. Materials like plastic bottles, bottlecaps, cardboard, coloured paper, plasticine/modelling clay, straws, shoeboxes, egg cartons and even old rope/string can all be used creatively by students to make models of the concepts they are studying. I’ve used this technique across my teaching in Science to get students to create everything from atomic models to figurines of predators and prey in Biology. Furthermore, this is a great way to reinforce ideas about sustainability, reducing single-use plastic and recycling.

These are just some ideas you may wish to consider (and they happen to be some of my favourite ones!). For a more comprehensive list of group activities you can use, with detailed descriptions, please see this blog post I wrote on the subject.

Other Activities Suitable for the Flipped Classroom

  • Class debate – this is perfect when there are polar opposites to discuss (e.g. ‘For’ and ‘Against’) or two different ways of solving a problem (e.g. factorisation or the quadratic formula in maths). Just make sure that every team member has a role to play in the debate. Get as many students talking as possible (this is so crucial in these post-pandemic years).
  • Peer instruction – Get groups to teach each other, especially when each group has explored something slightly different.
  • Get your students to implement some spatial learning activities, such as the ones listed here. These are great for getting your students moving and grooving!

Recommended further reading

Ojjeh, D. (2020) ‘How to implement flipped learning in 2021’, Royal Society of Chemistry. Available at https://edu.rsc.org/ideas/how-to-implement-flipped-learning-in-2021/4012120.article

Michigan State University. ‘What, Why and How to Implement a Flipped Classroom Model’. Available at https://omerad.msu.edu/teaching/teaching-skills-strategies/27-teaching/162-what-why-and-how-to-implement-a-flipped-classroom-model

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The A.C.E. Method of Post-Pandemic Teaching

Written by Richard James Rogers (Award-winning author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management)Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati.

Accompanying podcast episode:

How many of us are fully aware of the damage caused to learning by lockdowns and school closures?

For me personally, I was surprised to learn that K–12 student learning was significantly impacted by online teaching, with students being on-average five months behind in mathematics and four months behind in reading by the end of the 2020/21 academic year (according to McKinsey Insights).

When we think about this in real-terms, for instance, many of our students experienced their last ‘normal’ academic year in 2018/2019. Many schools have seen their teaching disrupted for at least three academic years. This has hit some students harder than others – many Year 13 cohorts in British schools this year, for example, have never had an external examination during the whole of their high school education to-date. This is truly unprecedented.

Now that our students are, for the most part, back in school and should be learning on-site for the foreseeable future, it is important that we somehow ‘plug the holes’ in our learners’ incomplete knowledge and understanding. This extends to skills such as problem-solving, critical-thinking, metacognition and manual dexterity expressed through subjects like Design Technology, Science, Textiles, Electronics and Home Economics.

This brings me on to a pioneering strategy for facilitating the transition from online to hybrid to on-site learning which I believe should be aptly named the ‘ACE Method’: Action, Collaboration and Exploration.

Part One: Action

Our students have been stuck in front of computer screens for so long. Now it’s time to get them moving!

There a number of spatial learning strategies we can use to engage multiple areas of the brain. Activities such as the Human Graph and True or False Walls (please see the illustration below) are just two examples of simple things we can do in the classroom to turn everyday content into fun, interactive games that involve the students using their bodies in creative ways.

I wrote a separate blog post about spatial learning activities here. All of the activities described in that blog post can be applied to any subject area and require little-to-no resources and/or planning time.

In addition to spatial learning activities, think about interactive games which are not screen-based that you can implement. Such games are the tried-and-tested traditional teaching activities that have been around for decades. My personal favourite is ‘splat’, which is outlined in the illustration below:

You can watch a quick video of me playing splat with my students below:

There are many learning games we can play with our students that simply break the lesson down into fun, engaging ‘chunks’. These games combat boredom and act to improve knowledge retention.

I’ve written a separate blog post with descriptions of my top ten favorite games to play with students here. As with the spatial learning activities described earlier, these games can be applied to any subject area and require few-to-no resources and very little planning time (i.e. they’re awesome!).

One final thing to consider is ways to get your students gathering data and investigating things. Every subject can include some investigative work, even if it’s just carrying out surveys and interviews with other students. Such activities really do help to facilitate deep learning.

As a Science Teacher, I am used to guiding my students in the investigative design and data collection processes. Investigations in Science are basically a way to ‘test’ if the theory in the textbook is true, or false. Think of ways in which you can get your students to test the subject content you are teaching – you’ll often find that this is a very fun process. Better still – ask your students to come-up with ways in which they could test the central dogmas of your course.

Part 2: Collaboration

Whilst online systems like Google Meets did attempt to solve the student isolation problem during lockdown (e.g. via Breakout Rooms), no computerized system can fully replicate the experience of being physically in the classroom, working with your peers in a small group.

It’s important that we now start including even more groupwork activities in our lessons. Tons of research papers and top universities sing the praises of collaboration in the classroom, including the Eberly Center at Carnegie Mellon University, who state that:

Properly structured, group projects can reinforce skills that are relevant to both group and individual work, including the ability to: 

  • Break complex tasks into parts and steps
  • Plan and manage time
  • Refine understanding through discussion and explanation
  • Give and receive feedback on performance
  • Challenge assumptions
  • Develop stronger communication skills.
Eberly Center, Carnegie Mellon University, 2022, ‘What are the benefits of group work?’.

In fact, when students work together on a task/project that is well-planned and carefully executed, a large number of incredible things can happen:

It is very important to stress again, however, that group tasks must be very well-planned, otherwise they can “frustrate students and instructors and feel like a waste of time” [University of Waterloo].

I’ve written a separate blog post containing ten groupwork activities that can be applied to any subject area here. These activities have creativity at their core, and have all been field tested by me many times over (so I know that they work). However, as well as planning our group tasks/activities carefully, we must also consider a number of additional problems that may arise:

  • Most classes of students contain ‘cliques’/friendship groups, and it’s not uncommon to find that some children have few, if any, ‘friends’ within the classroom. This is one reason why I almost always choose the groups for the students – usually by lining the students up and numbering them in random ways in order to group them together, This removes the natural stress that comes when students are asked to create their own groups.
  • If you know your students really well, then you can group them by ability. If they need to present some slides at the end of their project, for example, then make sure that there is at least one good orator in the group. A tech-savvy student placed strategically in a group of students with weak IT skills may also be appropriate, for example.
  • Think about the classroom space and simple things like how your tables are arranged. You might need to push tables together to encourage students within groups to actually face each other and talk, for example. It might be appropriate to allow groups to work in different areas of the school (make sure you have permission!) if what they’re doing is very active/loud, for example.

Part 3: Exploration

One key message I want to get across in this article is that it’s not always necessary to know everything about your subject, especially if you’re new to teaching it. When I first came to Thailand in 2008, for example, I was much less knowledgeable about Chemistry than I am now (I was a Biology Teacher in the UK). The strategy I adopted back then was this – I will learn with the students

And that’s another key point that needs to be raised – it was difficult to encourage deep exploration when students were learning online – not least because the task outputs would often be handed in late, not handed in at all, be of varying quality and we could never be sure what kind of conditions the students were doing this work under at home.

So, get some fundamentals under your belt and think of ways to get your students to explore the topics they are learning. Get your students to use source material to:

  • Create Google Slides presentations (these are great, by the way, as multiple students can work on the slides in real-time)
  • Create a class quiz (e.g. a Kahoot!)
  • Create infographics (don’t go with ‘posters’ – they’ve been done to death)
  • Create a website or blog (Google Sites is brilliant for this, and is yet another reason why schools should take on Google Suite)
  • Create models of the concepts (simple materials are all that’s needed – bottle caps, plastic bags, cardboard boxes, etc)
  • Create a table display (e.g. for a Science Fair)

Try the I.E.S. Method for Exploration

Introduce the topic to the students via some kind of engaging starter activity (see my blog post on starter activities for some ideas to get you started). Use the three As (Assign, Analyse and Ask) where possible.

Give the students a ‘menu’ of different ways in which they can choose to explore the topic in a creative way (e.g. by creating a collaborative Google Slides presentation, making a Kahoot! quiz for the class to complete, designing an infographic, etc.)

Showcase the work to the class (or allow students to showcase their own work) so as to provide acknowledgement, a sense of accomplishment and a useful opportunity for class reflection. Do this important step the next lesson if time runs out, Do not skip this vital step. 

Conclusion

It’s vital that we do our best to make-up for the physical time at school that our students have missed so much of. Of course, we’re not miracle workers, but if we can keep just three little words in our minds when we are planning and delivering our lessons then we’re going to make a big difference in our students lives: action, collaboration and exploration.

Effective Feedback: The Catalyst of Student Progress

Written by Richard James Rogers (Award-winning author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management)Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati.

Updated: May 2021

Updated again: Nov 2022

It was a mid-spring morning in 1996. I was 13 years old enjoying Science class with one of my favourite teachers up on the top-floor lab at North Wales’ prestigious St. Richard Gwyn R.C. High School

I loved Science. The feel of the lab, decorated with preserved samples in jars and colorful posters and periodic tables and famous Scientists on the walls, along with the cool gas taps and Bunsen burners that rested on each desk. This was my favorite part of the school.

Today’s lesson was special though, and I remember it for a very unexpected reason.

We were receiving back our Forces and Motion tests today. I loved getting my tests back, not least because I always revised really hard and was used to getting at least 75% on each one.

Q & A

I always used to do two things whenever I got my tests back:

  1. Check that the teacher had added up the scores correctly
  2. Check how to improve my answers

On this particular day I had lost marks on a question that was phrased something like this: ‘If a rocket is travelling through space, what will happen to the rocket if all of the forces on it become balanced?’

In my answer I had written: ‘The rocket will either continue travelling at a constant speed or will not move at all.’ 

Now, how do I remember this seemingly obscure moment in a sea of moments from high school, most of which I cannot recall? Well, that’s simple: My teacher came over and took the time and effort to verbally explain where I’d gone wrong.

I should have just written that the rocket will continue at a constant speed, not “or will not move at all”.

Giving feedback
A one-to-one conversation that I’ll remember forever

This moment of personal, verbal feedback from my teacher was powerful and precious. Not only did it serve to maintain my momentum in Science learning, but it left me with visual impressions of the memory itself: My friends in the Science lab, the posters on the wall and even the sunlight shining over the glistening Dee Estuary which was visible from the Science lab windows. 

This little story shows us the power of verbal feedback, and therefore the caution we should place on what we say to our students. Young girls and boys grow up to become men and women, and their teachers leave a number of impressions on them, some of which are permanent.

The trick is to ensure that the permanent impressions are useful, positive and productive: As was the case with my conversation with my teacher that day. 

And not all impressions need to be verbal. Written feedback can be just as memorable.

Explaining
Do you empower your students with the feedback you give?

Let’s now explore the fundamentals of effective student feedback that are easy to implement, and useful.

Peer Assess Properly – The Traditional Method

I first learnt the power of peer assessment back in 2008, when I had just moved to Thailand. 

As a keen young teacher with two years of UK teaching experience, I found myself teaching students who were all very keen to do their best. Homework assignments and classwork seem to come my way on a real-time, live-stream basis, and I soon found myself inundated with work to mark. 

At first, I tried the traditional methods of using a green or red pen to write lengthy comments on each piece of work. I had learned from my training in Assessment for Learning in the UK, that written comments that help the student to improve were much better than a letter grade or a score followed by a ‘Well Done’. I’d learnt about the ‘two stars and wish rule’ where I’d write two positive things about the work and then one item or target for improvement.

These ideas were great in theory, but I found that my weekends became shorter and shorter as I tried to write effective comments on every piece of work that came in. I was spending less and less time doing the hobbies I enjoyed, and I became quite the old grouch.

I finally expressed my concerns in the staff room one day and a colleague of mine said “You should do more peer assessment”. She was right.

I instantly started getting my students to mark their own work, and reflect upon it, and the results were astounding: My weekends became ‘me time’ again, and students seemed to learn better than they would from receiving my comments.

teaching with laptop
When students reflect on their work they develop a ‘growth mindset’

As I continued to develop my skills in assigning proper peer-assessment, I discovered that I was sometimes making some catastrophic errors. I refined my strategy over the years, and came up with this six-step system:

Step 1: Make sure that the work you set has an official mark scheme or set of model answers associated with it. There’s nothing worse than trying to ‘guess’ the best answers along the way as you’re trying to get the kids to assess the work. Make your own mark scheme if necessary, but make sure the answers are clear.

Step 2: When it comes time for the kids to assess the work, ask them to swap their work with someone else in the class. Alternatively, if this doesn’t work for your particular class, then collect the work in and redistribute it.

Marking work
Peer assessment saves you time and energy, and is effective

Step 3: Ask each student to get a colored pen ready to mark with. Red and green are good. You may wish to have a set of special ‘marking pens’ somewhere in class that the kids can use whenever they mark each others’ work.

Step 4: Print the official mark scheme and give a copy to each student. This has the advantage of providing a permanent copy for each student to keep, and allows you time to help students as they mark. Projecting the answers onto a screen canalso work, but you may find that students cannot see and that you may have to scroll through at a pace that’s not suitable for every student. Printing a copy, or sharing it on the schools VLE so that students can access it via a tablet or laptop, is best.

Step 5: Make it very clear that students should tick the answer if it’s correct, and make full corrections if it is wrong. The mere act of writing out the model answer onto the work being marked will reinforce the concepts into the subconscious mind of the student.

Step 6: Let the students give the work back. Collect it in at the end of the lesson so that you can glance through and check that everyone has peer assessed properly. If anyone hasn’t, then make them do it again.

discussing-homework

Once work has been peer-assessed, you can sit down with individual students and have ‘progress conversations’ designed to pin point areas of weakness and highlight areas of strength

You have to be quite organised with this method (e.g. making sure you print the mark schemes on time). However, this will save you loads of time and will definitely help the kids to learn properly.

Experiment with automated assessment

I wrote a blog post about the effective use of ICT in lessons some weeks back, and I mentioned the first time I came across MyiMaths. 

It was back in 2013, and it totally transformed my work life. 

Why? That’s simple. Students would go into the ICT lab, or use their laptops or tablets in class, and literally be taught mathematics by the computer! The program would even assess the work immediately, and differentiation wasn’t a problem because students could work through the tasks at their own individual pace. The benefits were enormous:

  1. All of the students were focused and engaged
  2. All of the students were challenged
  3. The teacher had more time to spend with individuals working on specific problems
  4. The content was relevant and stimulating
  5. No behavior management issues as the students were all quietly working
  6. No time was needed by the teacher for marking and assessment. The program did all that for you. All you had to do was collate the data.

it integrated
Instructional software can provide quick and comprehensive feedback to students, with little involvement from the teacher

There are numerous instructional software programs on the market today that save the teacher lots of marking time, and provide the students with engaging material to learn from, Whilst I wouldn’t advocate using instructional software every lesson, it certainly can become a big and effective part of your teaching arsenal. 

Give verbal feedback the right way

Verbal feedback is a great way to have a personal one-to-one conversation with a student. It can help you to address systemic, widespread issues (e.g. not writing down all of the steps in calculations) and it can be a great way to motivate each student.

However, many teachers are only going so far with verbal feedback and are not using it as the powerful tool it is.

Take this piece of KS3 Geography work for example:

Geography not marked
Geography work from an 11 year old, shown to me on 21st June 2016

I received this work from a parent at dinner, who knew I was an educational author, on 21st June 2016.

You’ll undoubtedly have noticed the dates on the work: 1st December and 8th December 2015. I’m sure you’ll have shuddered upon the realization that this work hadn’t been marked in seven months! No peer-assessment, no self-assessment and no comments from the teacher. There aren’t even any ticks! Add this to the fact that this boy’s entire notebook was completely unmarked, just like this, and you can begin to understand why I nearly had palpitations in front of several avid noodle and rice connoisseurs!

When I asked the boy about why it wasn’t marked, he said that this teacher never marked worked, he just gave the occasional verbal feedback. My next obvious question was to ask what verbal feedback he’d received about this work. He said he

With teacher workloads increasing globally, this kind of approach is, unfortunately, not uncommon, However, verbal feedback need not be time-consuming and can be executed in a much better way than is seen here in this Geography work. Here are my tips:

  1. 1. Set your students a task to do and call each student one-by-one to have a chat about their work. Be strict with your timings – if you have a 40 minute lesson and 20 students in the class then keep each conversation to two minutes.
  2. Mention the points for improvement and use sincere praise to address the good points about the work. Ask the student to reflect on the work too.
  3. Once the conversation is over, write ‘VF’ on the work, and ask the student to make improvements to it. Agree on a time to collect it in again so that you can glance over the improvements.

As you can see, this simple three step approach to verbal feedback generates a much more productive use of time than simply having a chat with the student. Action has to be taken after the discussion, and this places the responsibility of learning solely in the hands of the student, which is where it should be.

Be specific in your comments

Sometimes it is appropriate to collect student work and scribble your comments on it with a colored pen. When you do this, make sure your comments are specific and positive, Take a look at these examples, which all serve to empower the student:

Slide2
A piece of IBDP Biology homework. Comments are designed to empower and motivate the student, and address areas of weakness

Slide1
An end of semester test. Comments refer to specific progress made, and areas that require further attention.

Krishi Classnotes 1 electricity marked
This piece of work was sent as a photograph via Skype. The teacher has added word-processed comments and an encouraging smiley. 

Peer Assess Properly – The Technological Method

A growing trend that is proving popular with teachers is to use Google forms in the peer assessment process. I wrote about this in my book, and I’ve included the extracts here:

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Slide3.JPG

Slide4.JPG

Google Doc 3.jpg

Google Doc 2.jpg

A good form for students will look something like this:

Using Google forms in education-page-0

Using Google forms in education-page-1

Using Google forms in education-page-2

There are many alternatives to using Google forms. For example, you may wish to create a form via your school’s VLE, or even get the students to send each other their work through e-mail or a chat application (although this will remove anonymity). Either way, peer assessment with technology will save you time and provide your students with quick, detailed feedback.

Make sure students improve their work

A common theme you may have spotted in this week’s blog post is that of improvement. Students should always improve the work that’s been marked or assessed. This serves two purposes:

  1. The student will get into the habit of giving their best effort each time. After all, a great first attempt means less effort needed in the improvement phase
  2. The process of improving a piece of work serves to firmly cement concepts in the subconscious mind of the student, aiding memory and retention

Don’t forget to use rubrics, mark schemes and comments – students can’t possibly improve their work without these. 

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Homework: A Headache We Can All Easily Cure

An article by Richard James Rogers (Award-Winning Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management and The Power of Praise: Empowering Students Through Positive Feedback).

This blog post has been beautifully illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati

Updated: October 2022 (Originally posted May 2017)

I received a message from a very stressed out Newly Qualified Teacher a few weeks ago. It pertains to a problem that many educators face: dealing with homework. When I told her that I was planning to write an article about this very issue, she agreed to share her message with all my readers:

Dear Richard. I’m about to finish my first year in teaching and I’m really ashamed to admit that I haven’t been able to mark my students’ homework on time each week. In fact, I’ve set so much homework that it has just piled up and piled up over the course of this year, to the point where I now have a literal mountain to deal with! I’m kind of hoping that most of my students will forget that I have their work, and this seems to be happening as some of it is months old. I’m so stressed out! How can I make sure that this never, ever happens again?! – G 

work overload
A letter from a stressed-out NQT. Are you facing similar challenges?

Being overwhelmed with marking, particularly that caused by homework, is a common problem for new and experienced teachers alike. In this article, I’ll examine the best ways to design and organise homework, as well as ways to avoid being bogged down and ‘up to your eyeballs’ in paperwork. If you would like an audio version of my strategies, then please listen to this excellent UKEdChat podcast (highly recommended for anyone who wants to get better at assigning and organizing homework) here.

with-ukedchat
An AMAZING book! A must read for all teachers!

Consideration #1: Homework is not pointless

It’s really important to make this point from the outset. A number of articles have come out in recent years causing us to question the merits of setting homework. At one point, this mindset became so mainstream that I remember sitting-in on a departmental meeting in which a number of teachers suggested that we shouldn’t set homework at all, as it is totally pointless!

This might be a nice excuse to use to avoid some paperwork and marking, but unfortunately it’s not true at all.

In my experience, homework is only pointless if the kids never ever receive feedback, or if the homework doesn’t relate to anything on the curriculum. Then, of course, their time has been wasted.

Marking work

I’ll always remember one school I worked at where all of the teachers had set summer homework for their students. Piles and piles of homework were set, including big, thick booklets full of past-papers. Guess what happened when those students returned to school the next academic year; many of the teachers had changed, and the work was piled up in an empty classroom and never marked. What a tragedy!

We’ll explore some ways in which we can give feedback in a timely manner today, as well as ways in which we can design our homework properly. 

Consideration #2: Think carefully about the purpose of each piece of homework you set

This is crucial. Ideally, all homework should fall into one of four categories:

  1. To review concepts covered in class
  2. To prepare students for new content they will cover in class
  3. To prepare students for examinations (e.g. with exam-style questions, revision tasks and past-papers)
  4. A combination of two or three of the above

If the homework you are setting does not fall into these categories then you are wasting both your time and the students’ time by setting it.

Consideration #3: Think carefully about how much time the students will need to complete each piece of homework 

Explaining
Homework affects whole families, not just the kids you teach

This is an important consideration. Put yourself in the students’ shoes. Is this homework too demanding, or too easy for them? Will they actually have enough time to complete it? Is your deadline reasonable? 

Consideration #4: How much self-study or research will your students have to do to complete your work? Where will they get their information from?

If the piece of work you are setting involves preparation for content or skills soon to be covered in class, then your students might have to do some research. Is the level of self-study you are asking of your students reasonable? Are they old enough, and mature enough to be able to find this information on their own? If not, then you may need to give some tips on which websites, textbooks or other material to look at.

Too much homework

Consideration #5: Can you mark this work?

This is such an important consideration, but can be overlooked by so many teachers who are in a rush. 

self-assessment

Think carefully: if you’re setting a booklet of past-paper questions for ‘AS’ – Level students, then how is it going to be marked? Crucially, how will the students receive feedback on this work? And remember: homework really is pointless if students don’t get any feedback.

Be honest with yourself. If you honestly don’t have enough time to mark such large pieces of work, then it’s much better to set smaller, manageable assignments. At least that way your students will get some feedback, which will be useful to them. 

Peer assessment

Also, don’t try and do everything yourself when it comes to marking. Use peer-assessment, self-assessment and even automated assessment (such as that found on instructional software) on a regular basis. Be careful though –  make sure you at least collect in your peer-assessed and self-assessed assignments afterwards just to be sure that all students have done it, and so that you can glance over for any mistakes. Students can be sneaky when they know that the teacher is trusting them with self-assessment each week by simply providing the answers to the work. 

Automated assessment.jpg

Another good tip is to spend some time on the weekend planning your homework for the week ahead. What exactly will you set, and when, to allow you enough time to mark everything? How can you set decent homework that’s not too big to mark? An hour spent planning this on a Saturday is much better than four hours cramming in a marking marathon on a Sunday because you didn’t think ahead. 

Consideration #6: Are you organised enough?

Not to sound patronizing, but are you, really? 

If you’re a primary school teacher then you’ll be collecting in assignments relating to different subject areas each week. If you’re working in the high school, then you’ll you’ll be collecting in work from potentially more than a hundred students on a regular basis.

You need to have some kind of filing system in place for all of this work. Maybe a set of draws? Folders? Trays? Electronic folders?

Teacher-led assessment.jpg

One strategy that absolutely works for me is that I get all of my students to complete their homework on loose sheets of paper, not their notebooks. Why? Because if they do it in their notebooks, and I haven’t had time to mark their work by the very next lesson, then it’s a nightmare having to give back notebooks again and collect them in continuously.

With loose paper its easy. I collect it in, and put each group’s assignments in a set of trays. I have one set of trays for work collected in, and one set for work that is marked. It stops me from losing students’ work and losing my sanity at the same time! The students then glue the work into their notebooks afterwards.

In addition to organizing my paperwork, I also organise my time. I use every Saturday morning for marking, which really saves me lots of headaches during the week. Do you set aside a fixed slot each week to do your marking? 

Summary

  1. Think carefully about the purpose of each piece of work you set
  2. Don’t set work that will take the students too long, or too little time, to complete
  3. Think carefully about the demands of any research that students will have to do. Maybe you need to point them in the right direction?
  4. Use a variety of assessment strategies to mark student work. Don’t make assignments so big that you just don’t have time to make them.
  5. Make sure you have some kind of filing system in place, so that you don’t lose work.
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Queen Elizabeth II Lesson Resources: My Humble Tribute to a Life of Service

An article by Richard James Rogers (Award-Winning Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management and The Power of Praise: Empowering Students Through Positive Feedback).

Accompanying podcast episode:

The sad passing of Queen Elizabeth II on 8th September 2022 has reminded many people around the world of what a life of service looks like.

From the duties she fulfilled during her National Service way back in the 1940s, to her most recent engagement on September 6th 2022 (in which she appointed the new British Prime Minister, Liz Truss, to her role), Queen Elizabeth’s life has been filled to the brim with duties, public service projects and a clear devotion to bettering the welfare of others.

Princess Elizabeth, pictured in her ATS uniform, April 1945. Image from the Imperial War Museum collection, TR 2832.

Most people are familiar with the Queen’s most public commitments, such as the role she has played in advising former British government ministers (made topical by the brilliant 2006 movie, The Queen), but few are aware of the immense contribution she has made in her lifetime to bettering the education of disadvantaged children all over the world.

As a humble tribute to Queen Elizabeth II, and particularly her education-related work, I aim to provide a series of links to great resources that will help you teach a lesson or two about her intriguing life.

Lesson resources

Check out these awesome resources if you’re interested in teaching your students about Queen Elizabeth II (all free, no sign-up needed):

  • This great lesson plan by the New York Times provides a video, a starter activity, questions and even extension work! Just an all-round great resource!
  • National Geographic Kids really leads the way with this great primary resource in which kids learn about the Queen’s life through the creation of a comic strip. The task even comes with links to the British National Curriculum, making it easy to place into schemes of work and curriculum maps.
  • These recently published British Monarchy Discussion Cards by One Stop English are great for facilitating deep conversation and guided research into the life and legacy of Queen Elizabeth II.
  • It’s an unfortunate coincidence that 2022 marks both the year of the Queen’s passing and her illustrious Platinum Jubilee. This awesome Primary Lesson Plan and Resource Pack from Historic Royal Palaces is just the trick if you’re looking for an all-in-one comprehensive package to support any lesson about the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, and her life in general.
  • One really brilliant resource I’ve found is this Queen Elizabeth II ESL Video (with lesson plan) aimed at English competencies A1-A2, published by ISL Collective. The main reason I love this video is that it comes with an interactive quiz – perfect for use with a smartboard or for setting as a quick homework.

Conclusion

The Queen’s remarkable life should be used as a great case-study to help teach students about the necessity of providing service to others. I think it’s apt at this point to finish with one of Queen Elizabeth II’s most poignant quotes:

It’s worth remembering that it is often the small steps, not the giant leaps, that bring about the most lasting change.

Queen Elizabeth II

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A Back-to-School Checklist for Teachers

An article by Richard James Rogers (Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management and The Power of Praise: Empowering Students Through Positive Feedback).

Illustrated by Sutthiya Lertyongphati

Originally posted on August 18th 2019. Updated on September 3rd 2022.

Accompanying video:

Getting back into the swing of things can be a challenge: especially after a long summer vacation. Our body clocks are normally out of sync and we’ve probably been taking life a bit easy for a while (and rightly so).

The new academic year pounces on us like a monkey from a tree. 

In order to be prepared for the craziness ahead I’ve devised a list of ten things to do prior to the first day back at school. Follow these magic tips and you’ll be energized, prepared and ahead of the game. 

Tip #1: Create a regular sleeping pattern

Get up at your normal ‘work day’ time each day for at least a week before school starts. This will calibrate your body clock so that it’s easier to get up when school begins.

It’ll be hard at first – if you’re like me then you’ll be exhausted at 6am. Just try it – force yourself to get used to getting up early. 

be enthusiastic

Tip #2: Set up a morning ritual 

Come up with a sequence of events that will inspire, empower and energize you each morning. For me, my morning routine looks like this:

  1. Get up at 4.30am
  2. Go to the gym (it opens at 5am)
  3. Work out at the gym
  4. Shower at the gym
  5. Have coffee and breakfast at the gym lounge
  6. Read over e-mails and lesson plans for the day ahead
  7. Leave the gym and be at school by 7am

Getting the hardest things done in the morning (e.g. exercising) is a very empowering way to start the day. This ritual of mine also serves to give me energy – I’m not rushing to school and I’m fully breakfasted, coffee’d-up and mentally prepared before the school day even starts!

Tip #3: Learn about the A.C.E. method of post-pandemic teaching

The best way that we can re-integrate our students after so much disruption due to lockdowns is by facilitating the following:

  • Action: Include lots of kinesthetic activities in your lessons.
  • Collaboration: Get students working together in groups (see my blog post here for more advice about how to do this).
  • Exploration: Encourage deep learning through problem-solving and research-based tasks.

I’ve a quick video all about the A.C.E. strategy here:

Tip #4: Read ahead

Whether you’re teaching the same subjects again this year, or if you’re teaching something totally new – it always helps to read ahead. 

Go over the textbook material, watch out for subtle syllabus changes and make sure you read over the material you’ll actually give to the kids (PPTs, worksheets, etc.).

woman-reading

Tip #5: Prepare ahead

Linked to reading ahead but involves the logistics of lesson delivery – make sure your resources are prepared.

Don’t forget – every teacher will be scrambling for the photocopier on the first day back. Prepare your paper resources in advance, or plan to do photocopying at ‘off-peak’ times (e.g. late after school one day).

Tip #6: Set personal targets

Is there anything that you could have done better last year?

If you’re a new teacher, then what are some life-challenges that have held you back in the past? Procrastination? Lack of organization?

We all have things that we could do better. Think about what those things are for you and write down a set of personal targets in your teacher’s planner. Read them every day.

One of my targets, for example, is not to set too much homework but to instead select homework that achieves my aims most efficiently. 

The Power of Praise
Available for Pre-Order on Kindle now. ONLY $3.99

Tip #7: Get to know your new students 

Spend time talking with your new students and take an interest in their hobbies, skills and attributes.

Look at previous school reports if possible and find out if any of your new students have any weaknesses in any subject or behavioral areas. Talk with members of staff at your school about ways to accommodate and target such needs if necessary.

I’ve written a separate blog post about getting to know your new students here (highly recommended).

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Tip #8: Contact key colleagues

You may be working very closely with certain individuals this year. Perhaps there’s a school event coming up after Christmas that will involve collaboration with a colleague.

Maybe you’re running an after-school club that requires assistance from another person. 

Find out who these ‘key colleagues’ are, and start reaching out to them early. Professional relationships between colleagues are built on trust and, crucially, time. 

Tip #9: Get your planning documents ready

These documents may include:

  • Schemes of Work
  • Curriculum Maps
  • Unit plans
  • Individual lesson plans in your teacher’s planner (the absolute minimum)

Here’s a video I made about efficient lesson planning which you may find helpful:

Tip #10: Prepare your marking schedule

Look at your new timetable, when you get it, and figure out:

  • When you’ll set homework and when you’ll collect it in (you may need to refer to your school’s homework timetable too)
  • When you’ll mark notebooks

Look at your free periods, after-school time and times when you’re not in-contact with the kids. Try to maximize on this time by getting a regular marking schedule in place. 

You may also want to think about:

Don’t forget – your weekends belong to you. Don’t use those for marking (I recommend) – life is too precious. 

Giving feedback

Tip #11 – Get your clothing sorted

Don’t under-estimate the importance of this. We don’t need to break the bank and splurge on a new wardrobe every year, but we do need to:

  • Make sure we look presentable
  • Make sure our clothes are in good condition

Think about:

  • Making repairs to old clothes (three of my suit jackets needed buttons replacing this summer, for example)
  • Shoes – I like to have a few pairs so that they last longer. When I’ve worn the same pair of shoes every day for a year they’ve tended to wear out quickly.
  • Socks – they get holes in them and the elastic can fail
  • Dry cleaning – some of my ties and suits really needed a good dry-clean this summer

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6 Ways Virtual Reality Can Transform High School Education

Updated: 17th July 2022

Accompanying podcast episode:

According to Fortune Business Insights, the global virtual reality in education market is booming, and is projected to grow by an average of 45.2%, every year, between now and 2029. Teachers everywhere would be wise to skill-up and take courses in Virtual Reality EdTech in order to get prepared for the exciting changes we will soon see in our classrooms. Today, I’ve invited Kiara Miller from The Speakingnerd to share her insights into how VR will change the way we do things as educators for many years to come.

Kiara Miller

Gone are the days when all you had to do was walk into a classroom, explain a concept, dictate notes, and call it a day. These days you can offer your students more than that, thanks to technology. Technology in the education sphere is a hot topic and trust me, it will remain so as long as the world continues to embrace it.

Nowadays, teachers can offer students meaningful and impactful learning experiences using Virtual Reality technology (VR). According to this recent report by Global News Wire, the virtual reality market in the education sphere is expected to reach $8.66 billion in 2022, at an annual growth rate of 36%. In fact, 97% of students in technologically developed/developing countries would like to study a VR course.

360 VR is a type of VR that is commonly used in education. It offers immersive experiences by using specialist cameras and equipment to capture real-world locations. The content is then viewed on VR headsets or projected onto walls. Students don’t have to leave their classrooms or spend a lot of money to travel to locations that were once imagined. Virtual trips can happen anywhere and anytime as long as the students have the right equipment.

In a world where it is increasingly becoming difficult to attract students’ attention, engage them or keep them motivated to pursue studies, virtual reality technology seems to have the potential to provide at least a partial solution. It is associated with a range of benefits that we are going to explore together today.

The 7 Vivid Ways Virtual Reality can Transform School Education 

#1 VR offers amazingly immersive in-class learning experiences

What are your thoughts about students vividly seeing what is being taught rather than imagining things? STEM subjects such as biology, computer science, and architecture require hands-on experience for students to obtain a deeper understanding of the concepts and to build their expertise. Virtual reality allows educators to embed really impactful learning experiences into their curricula.

We live in a world that is increasingly dependent on technology and obtaining digital skills is seen as the way forward for future professionals. Using virtual reality in schools helps to provide in-depth knowledge to students on what is being taught. They can zoom in and out of locations that are a thousand miles away, observe how human blood flows throughout the body and even conduct specialized surgery.

VR brings things closer to students and makes things a reality that could have been impossible to relate to otherwise. It also allows students to interact with objects, chemicals or scenarios that could be too dangerous to interface with in the real world.

#2: Intricate concepts are simplified

There is nothing that hurts quite like like teaching a concept to students and then receiving negative feedback at the end of it. Teaching is a profession that requires patience, especially when describing and explaining difficult concepts or topics to students who may not have the ability to grasp the content immediately.

VR technology can help students to decipher intricate concepts with the help of images, videos, or virtual tours. VR is also an excellent add-on to a range of active-learning strategies since users are immersed in, and interact with, 3D worlds.

Intricate concepts are not easy to unpack and yet they also vary in their degree of complexity. Cases where learners can’t visualize what a teacher is talking about tend to produce confusion. Students tend to become passive learners in such scenarios, which negatively affects their performance. VR technology offers a solution in that it can be introduced to classrooms to help students get a clear view of the concepts being taught.

#3: Increases engagement 

Unlike traditional teaching methods, Virtual Reality can fully immerse students in the lesson being taught. Seeing something for the first time or that which seemed impossible increases enthusiasm and also maintains a high level of attentiveness. With the help of virtual reality tools, students can connect to worlds and objects which are normally out of their reach.

VR also stimulates higher levels of imagination which helps students understand concepts better than when just reading about them. The interactions enabled by VR help to keep students’ engagement high throughout the lesson.

#4: Increases practicality

Reading about something is different from having hands-on experience. Students that put more emphasis on learning concepts than practicing them find themselves increasingly left out. In simple terms, knowledge without practicality has a limited impact on students. For certain fields like biology, engineering and computer science, practical skills are vital to survival in an increasingly competitive world.

VR can increase students’ ability to understand concepts, implement what is learned and think of new ways of doing something better. Reading about something and learning how it works helps students believe that they are set on the right path. Also, it helps them set SMART Goals which are believable and achievable. With that, virtual reality offers a new meaning to education, by letting students know that they can put to use what’s learned.

Teaching makes a difference when learners are able to put what’s learned into use. In today’s world where skills are the top need of the hour, in-school training is essential and VR can help out. Using VR in class lays a platform for deep learning which helps students understand content better than when only surface learning takes place.

#5: It’s all-inclusive

Virtual reality has a wide range of applications in the education sphere. It can be used in architecture, philosophy, design or even in science classes. Videos can also be produced in a range of languages. On the other hand, it is suitable for all types of classes whether those occur in-person or remotely. Additionally, every student gets the chance to participate in and enjoy the experience: something which cannot be said for the majority of traditional teaching methods.

#6: Increases Retention

The purpose of teaching is to offer knowledge that can help students academically perform better and excel in their careers. However, the traditional teaching approaches, which tend to be text-based, do not offer optimal learning outcomes. With this approach, students tend to easily get bored, lose interest in science subjects and even perform poorly in exams due to low retention levels. 

VR is changing students’ school experiences by enabling effective learning to take place. Scientifically, the brain processes images better than text. This means that students can easily learn, retain and memorize what is taught in class with the help of VR technology. VR can also rewire the brain and enhance the neural relationships that are required for memory and learning to take place.

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5 Ways Teachers Can Prevent Burnout While Teaching Online

It is no hidden fact that teaching is a stressful profession. From managing students to maintaining multiple records, teachers have a lot to deal with on a daily basis. Moreover, if stress remains unmanaged and unnoticed for a long time, it can even lead to serious burnout. Today, I’ve invited Jessica Robinson, educational writer at The Speaking Polymath, to share her insights and tips for maintaining a stress-free life as an online educator.

Accompanying podcast episode:

In modern times, where digitalization was supposed to take the burden off the shoulders, more stress was somehow added on to teachers. Moreover, it even led to serious burnout situations for some. If you think that these are just random verdicts of ours, let’s have a look at some of the statistics to back up these claims:

  • The world’s largest teacher burnout survey concluded that almost 65% of teachers are facing burnout in their jobs. Additionally, 85% were recognized as working “unsustainably” which led to a significant impact on their mental and physical health. 
  • As per the survey of March 2021, 42% of educators have considered retiring or quitting their current position last year, and they say it happened because of their shift to virtual learning or COVID19.
  • Almost 40% of the teachers believe that they are less productive when they are under stress.

These statistics are evidence enough that some teachers are still not comfortable with the virtual model of learning. Moreover, they are finding it hard to cope with the burnout occurring while teaching online. If you are a teacher, then there are chances you could have related to one of or all of the above-given statistics. Moreover, we understand how difficult it can be sometimes for you to handle so much pressure and still have a smile on your face while delivering the lectures.

That being the case, this blog will effectively highlight the top 7 strategies that can be utilized by you to prevent or deal with burnout while teaching online. 

5 Strategies For Preventing Burnout While Teaching Online

#1: Take the 4A’s approach

One of the most effective and efficient forms of preventing burnout is using the approach of 4A’s of stress management given by Mayo Clinic. To elaborate, 4A’s stand for Adapt, Alter, Accept and Avoid. A detailed elaboration of all the 4 A’s with respect to the teaching profession is presented below

  • Adapt – During online teaching, you may have to deal with different kinds of students and various situations regularly. Adoption of new things and changing your standards of dealing with things according to the virtual environment can lead to eliminating the scope of stress and burnout in different situations. 
  • Alter – When in a stressful situation that cannot be avoided, try altering your behavioral traits and communicating better. It is no hidden fact that during teaching we have to deal with a lot of stress associated with various types of work. Moreover, the link of physical communication is often broken in online classes. In such situations, try communicating openly with higher authorities about the problems you are facing. 
  • Accept – We often find it difficult to deal with situations when we are not ready to accept them. We can not deny the fact that virtual learning is the new normal. In order to accept the situation, first, you need to identify the stressors and then react accordingly. 

Identification and acceptance of stressors is the most important strategy in stress and burnout management. For instance, some people get stressed about teaching in front of a screen, while some feel burned out when it comes to grading papers. When you know and accept what you are stressed about, it becomes easier for you to respond to the situation.

  • Avoid – Believe it or not but there are situations where you can simply avoid the situation to reduce the risk of stress. You might have different tasks to perform within two days and the ideal way to deal with a situation is to plan the important things accordingly. 

#2: Set firm boundaries

One of the biggest issues teachers come across while teaching online is the lack of maintenance of work-life balance. Lack of work-life balance not only impacts your mental health but if continued for a long time, it can lead to serious burnout. Hence, it is really essential for you to set firm boundaries between your professional and personal life.

That is the reason many prominent people have explained why it is important to learn how to say ‘No’. This not only simplifies your life but also gives you enough time to relax and start your new day with a positive attitude again. 

In the scenario of online teaching, you can decide not to work after the classes which will give you enough time to plug out from the hectic schedule of virtual classes. This will assist you in maintaining your mental peace and will assist in regaining your energy back.

In order to effectively manage your time and set boundaries, you can use the Pareto principle to meticulously manage your time and get positive results.

#3: Try different stress-releasing activities

In online classes, teachers often feel burnout because the link to the physical world is broken and they get less time to focus on themselves. However, we need to always remember that self-care is not selfish. On the contrary, it’s about knowing the correct time to take some time off. This break will assist you in giving the time you deserve to maintain that mental peace.

While teaching online, you can just adjust your lectures with frequent short breaks which will give you enough time to regain your energy and relieve yourself from stress. In such situations below mentioned are some of the stress-relieving activities that you can try:

  1. Get away from your screens and relax your eyes
  2. Try meditation
  3. Drink your favorite tea or coffee on your balcony 

Moreover, did you know that taking a 30 minute walk can help in dropping your stress levels?  It’s not important to take a 30-minute walk at once, just divide your time and complete different sessions at times. This will assist in lowering your stress levels and can prevent burnout in a long run. Along with this, these activities will also contribute to your self-improvement.

#4: Give positive affirmations to yourself

Saying a mantra, such as “I know how to do it and I will do it” is an example of a positive affirmation that you can say daily. Positive affirmations will not only help you to reduce stress but also help in maintaining calmness in handling all of the challenging situations that arise throughout the day.

As per the article by Cohen and Sherman, affirmations are related to one’s identity, efficiency, and productivity. Psychological studies say that there are many changes that occur in the brain with self-affirmations.

For instance, when you are in an online class dealing with disruptions and you feel students are not under control – at that point various positive affirmations can help you. It will assist in calming you and release you from the stress of handling chaos in classrooms. This will also contribute to making you a happy teacher

#5: Delegate classroom responsibilities

In virtual classrooms, there are many responsibilities that need to be taken care of but can be performed without your supervision. In such scenarios, you can delegate the responsibility to your sincere students. Examples of such responsibilities may include:

  • Verbally reporting about the progress of the group they are working in
  • Creating, sharing and monitoring the creation of project work (e.g. Google Slides, Sites, Docs, Sheets, etc.)
  • Uploading project work to the relevant place (e.g. Google Classroom)

Conclusion

To encapsulate, nobody is denying the fact that teaching is not an easy profession. Moreover, virtual learning even made it tougher for teachers to cope with their stress. In that situation, the need is to effectively manage your mental health and try the above-given strategies to prevent burnout and embrace the changes that are happening in the education sector in the form of virtual learning. 

We welcome you to join the Richard James Rogers online community! Join us on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates, giveaways of Richard’s books, special offers, upcoming events and news. 

Deep Learning vs Surface Learning

An article by Richard James Rogers (Award-Winning Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management and The Power of Praise: Empowering Students Through Positive Feedback)

Illustrated by Sutthiya Lertyongphati

Accompanying podcast episode:

I’m currently working through an excellent online course offered by the University of Queensland via EdX. The course is entitled ‘Deep Learning through Transformative Pedagogy‘. It’s absolutely fascinating and I would highly recommend the course for any teacher who is serious about helping students prepare for examinations, catch-up on missed work or understand complex content.

In today’s blog post I aim to share:

  • What I have learned about deep and surface learning from the course so far
  • Some practical ways in which deep learning can be encouraged in the classroom

So, get ready for a deep dive into this compelling topic!

A brief history behind the development of deep learning practices (and why surface learning is no longer enough)

The course began with brief history of schooling, and how technology has been a key driver for the need to educate children. The point was made that surface learning (e.g. memorization of facts) may have been sufficient in the past. However, for our learners today, facts can change very quickly. Skills need to be upgraded regularly and throughout one’s life. As a result, teaching has seen a massive shift from teacher-centred approaches to those which are learner-centred. Contemporary pedagogical approaches, such as constructivism (where students are active participants in their own learning and construct new knowledge based on links to current understandings and prior fundamentals) have an important role to play in this new, digital age.

It’s important to remember throughout today’s blog post that effective and active learning are two sides of the same coin: to be effective, learning must be active. Research shows that learner-centred approaches to teaching that change and develop student thinking get better results in terms of student learning outcomes than traditional information transmission methods.

What is deep learning, and how is it different to surface learning?

Deep learning means asking big questions. When students have the opportunity to explore a topic: asking the why, what, where, when and how behind some concept, idea or process, they learn a plethora of different things and extend their knowledge and understanding.

Surface learning involves rote memorization, and I saw a lot of this happening when I worked in China. Examples included colleagues who had very high-level credentials from top universities in Asia, but who were unwilling to perform classroom practical tasks/experiments with students because either ‘the students didn’t need to do that to pass their exams’, or the teachers themselves felt nervous due to inexperience. This seemed to really show itself in one subject in particular, however: mathematics. Students would be trained to learn lots of formulae, and would be given an astronomical number of drill questions to do for homework. However, when it came to applying the mathematics to an unusual or real-life problem, many students struggled.

Since taking the online course with the University of Queensland, I’ve learnt a number of interesting facts about deep learning:

  • Deep learning often involves revisiting and reviewing a topic, and can be achieved through tasks in which students are involved in active problem-solving.
  • Neuroscience teaches us that the brain is plastic, and that chemical changes actually occur during deep learning. Deep learning involves consolidation of knowledge, and is driven by protein synthesis in the brain. Animal studies have shown that when protein synthesis in the brain is blocked, only surface learning occurs.
  • Deep learning is a process of integrating new facts we learn about the world into our existing semantic framework.
  • Deep learning can be achieved when students are given the opportunity to discover content, knowledge and skills for themselves.
  • Deep learning Involves an analysis of the information being collected, allowing a more complete understanding than surface learning can provide.

In contrast to deep learning, surface learning concerns itself only with the knowledge, ideas and content present in a curriculum. Deep learning is all about relating or extending all of that. This surprised me to some extent, as I thought that learning high-demand content (e.g. redox equations in IB Chemistry) would be considered deep learning, when actually it’s just surface learning (even though the content may be considered ‘advanced’). Deep learning would occur when the student is able to apply their knowledge of, say, redox equations, to unfamiliar or extended contexts  – such as when the student is tackling sub-sections of an IB HL exam paper in Chemistry, or designing and implementing an experimental investigation into the topic. 

It’s important to note that there isn’t a clear-cut distinction between surface and deep learning: rather, there exists a gradation between one and the other. A progression is made from having an idea to having many ideas (surface learning), to relating and extending those ideas (deep learning).

Whilst the progression from surface learning to deep learning follows a continuum, it is also cyclical – as students begin to relate and extend ideas, they come up with new ideas which brings them back to the surface learning part of the cycle.

What kinds of activities can teachers do in the classroom to encourage deep learning to take place?

  • The Flipped Classroom: This was something completely new to me which I discovered on this course, and it was really enjoyable to learn about this novel approach to teaching and learning. The basic idea is that pre-reading is done at home and homework is completed in class! The students come to class already prepared with some fundamental knowledge, and then complete activities based upon what they have read. Collaborative activities (e.g. using Padlet) are really good for getting students to reflect on their learning. In terms of the pre-reading to be done at home – this doesn’t actually have to be reading. Short, 5 minute videos that the students have to watch may be enough.
  • Give students some prompt material (e.g. a website to use, an information sheet, etc.) and ask students to CREATE something from it. Good things to create include a Google Slides presentation, a Google Site, a Google Doc summary, an infographic, a stop-motion animation, a quiz (e.g. a Kahoot!) and so on. Please note: If you ask students to create something, then make sure they present it to the class in some way (e.g. a short talk). Students can work in groups for activities like this. I’ve written a separate blog post about encouraging creativity in the classroom here.
  • Since deep learning can be achieved through revisiting and reviewing content and skills regularly, journaling and past-paper practice can meet the necessary requirements. With past-paper practice, however, make sure that the students make full corrections, and can somehow articulate why they made made mistakes. The process of completing, correcting and reflecting on past-exam paper questions (or exam-style questions) is a problem-solving sequence in and of itself – hence a deep learning activity.
  • Practical work that allows students to explore an unusual context, or an extended part of a topic, can definitely encourage deep learning to take place – especially if the students have been involved in the creative design of the task themselves in some way. Think about opportunities you can create for students to design and implement their own experiments, presentations, model-building and practical/hands-on work (e.g. welding together an iron gate, making an item of clothing, building the circuitry for a small radio – it will depend on the subject you teach, of course).

Recommended further reading

Constructivism: Creating experiences that facilitate the construction of knowledge. The University of Buffalo. Accessed: 23rd May 2022.

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5 Awesome Live Quiz Apps You Can Use in The Classroom

An article by Richard James Rogers (Award-Winning Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management and The Power of Praise: Empowering Students Through Positive Feedback). This blog post is illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati.

Accompanying podcast episode:

Children love competition – be that through sports, online gaming, traditional learning games, puzzles or even the drive to acquire more house points/plus points than their peers. Quiz-based apps, however, are unique in that they have finally allowed teachers to bring a healthy level of technology-driven rivalry into the remote, hybrid and traditional classrooms.

One big positive that we can attribute to these apps is that they have become very easy to use, and quick to set up – often requiring the students to simply type in a code on a website to begin the game. For the teacher, there’s the added benefit that games created by other teachers from around the world are often freely available to use on these platforms – saving you tons of preparation time.

What follows next is a list of the top five apps that I use on a regular basis with my students in my high school science classes. They are fun, easy to use and are great for reviewing prior knowledge.

#1: Blooket

I’ve only recently discovered Blooket but, I have to tell you: I’m already hooked!

Blooket distinguishes itself from other quiz-based apps in that there are actually ten types of game that you can play with the students (at the time of writing), all based on the much-loved multiple-choice quiz format. My personal favorites are:

  • Crypto Hack: With a dark theme and Bitcoin-centric atmosphere, Crypto Hack is one of the students’ favorites. After answering a series of questions correctly the students are then able to guess fellow students’ passwords (passwords are chosen from a pre-determined list that the game provides). A correct guess allows the player to hack the other player and steal imaginary crypto currency from them.
  • Fishing Frenzy: This one’s a bit crazy – hilariously so! Students, again, answer multiple choice questions but this time they cast a virtual fishing line into the water after answering correctly. What they pull out are usually different types of fish, but they can pull out junk and other crazy objects too. Players are ranked by the weight of fish they pull out of the water. Players can also ‘plunder’ other players’ fish and steal their poundage. It gets very competitive and you can expect to hear a lot of laughter in the classroom as this gets going!
  • Tower Defense: According to Blooket themselves, this is their most popular game. In this mode, the students answer multiple choice questions and are then presented with a map. On this map, the students must place towers in strategic positions to shoot enemies that appear on-screen. In this sense, Tower Defense is more similar to the kind of computer games that children are playing in their free time than all of the other game modes provided.

The main reason why Blooket is number one on my list is that you can replay the same multiple choice questions with the students but in different game modes. This can cause excellent knowledge recall and understanding to take place, especially after three or four attempts. This could be done in quick succession within a lesson (most of the game modes are exactly seven minutes long) or you could even play the same questions but in different game modes over a series of lessons. As with most quiz-based systems, there’s a searchable database of quizzes that other teachers have made – saving you tons of preparation time.

To summarise: I love Blooket.

#2: Quizlet Live

Hidden within Quizlet‘s excellent flash card system is a little-known activity called Quizlet Live. When the teacher selects this, the students in your classroom join the game (by entering a code on their devices) and are then placed into random teams. Once the game begins, all of the players in each team are given different questions to answer, so they MUST help each other (usually) if they want to win. The first team to pass twelve rounds of questions is the winner, and the teacher’s screen shows the real-time position of each team (1st place, 2nd place, 3rd place and so on).

Quizlet Live has two features which I believe make it a very unique learning tool:

  1. Students can read through the flash cards for the game as they’re waiting for other students to join. This, I believe, gives Quizlet Live a big advantage over many other quiz-based systems as students are not sitting around doing nothing as they’re waiting.
  2. Quizlet Live provides each team member with a different question, making the game more thorough/rigorous than some other quiz-based systems. Every member of the team has to answer their question correctly before the team can move to the next round.

The only disadvantage I’ve found with Quizlet Live is that it doesn’t lend itself very well to hybrid/remote teaching, as the students have to physically be next to each other in teams in order to interact quickly. I guess it could be feasible to put students into Google Meet Breakout rooms, or even hangout groups, to do the Quizlet Lives. However, I’ve tried this and have found it to be quite problematic and difficult to execute in real time (not least because you, the teacher, has to manually put the Quizlet Live teams (chosen at random) into Hangout/Breakout Rooms, and even then interaction between team members tends to be poor.

Quizlet has an immense database of flash cards created by other educators from all over the world, so it’s highly likely that you’ll find a question set that is suitable for your topic. If not, then you can make a set yourself.

#3: Quizziz

Quizizz is a simple but very effective multiple choice question system. Students log in with a code and answer questions – that’s it really. However, there are a few bells and whistles, such as excellent graphics, good music, power-up tools available for students on winning-streaks and a real-time leaderboard display that the teacher can present to the class.

One unique feature of Quizizz, which could be seen as either a disadvantage or an advantage, is that the game only ends when every person has answered every question (the teacher can set time limits for each question of between 30s and 5 mins). I quite like this feature of Quizizz, because as soon as one student is finished I ask him or her to go and help a student who isn’t finished. This can be a great way to build a sense of community within the classroom, and reinforce any work you’ve been doing on sympathy/empathy with your students.

Quizizz has many cool integration options with Google Classroom and even MS Excel. Read this excellent overview by TeachersFirst for a more in-depth analysis of how Quizizz could be utilised in your classroom. Of course, Quizizz has a large, searchable database of ready-made games that will allow you to set up a suitable quiz in seconds.

#4: Mentimeter

This is another simple and effective system that is somewhat similar to Kahoot! (number 5 on my list) but with a higher-quality user-interface, in my opinion. One interesting feature of Mentimeter is that it supports multiple question types (not just standard MCQs) such as ranking, scales, grids and open-ended questions.

Mentimeter is well-worth a try if you’re looking for something different.

#5: Kahoot!

Kahoot! is the original behemoth in the EdTech Hall of Fame, and we cannot ignore the influence it has had on the classroom app-development landscape. Kahoot! is simple, but very effective, and took the teaching world by storm when it first came out in 2013. Almost all modern live quiz-based systems have been inspired by Kahoot‘s innovative approach to game-based learning, and that’s why I wrote about Kahoot! in my award-winning book for teachers: The Quick Guide to Classroom Management. Kahoot‘s can be set as homework, or self-paced tasks too, which is handy if you want to help individual students in real-time.

Unfortunately, I’ve had to put Kahoot! at number five on my list as the system hasn’t really evolved much since 2013. Let me be clear: it’s awesome, but the other apps I’ve described today have additional features that make them somewhat more special than Kahoot! (in my humble opinion).

Conclusion

Use these game-based systems: it’s that simple! Students love them, and can gain a lot from their implementation when we plan their use carefully. They act as great starters, plenaries or even ‘chunks’ of lessons.

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