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Flipping the classroom at Sandgotna school

Ellen Birgitte Johnsrud, a teacher at Sandgotna secondary school in Bergen, Norway learned about ‘flipping the classroom’ from fellow teachers and social media channels. During the spring semester of 2013, she asked her colleague Tonje Elise Barclay De Tolly Straume if she could help flip her Grade 8 Norwegian grammar class. Tonje liked the idea, so they teamed up to make it happen.

Ellen Birgitte Johnsrud and Tonje Elise Barclay De Tolly Straume

What is the flipped classroom?

The flipped classroom entails students watching video lessons online for homework before completing traditional homework assignments in the classroom. The method is most effective if students are required to answer questions about the video lessons' content, allowing teachers to discern what students actually learned and what they need help with. By assessing this information before the next class, teachers can design the class to address students’ individual needs.

Instead of Tonje teaching Norwegian grammar rules in the classroom as she would normally have done, Ellen and Tonje recorded two videos explaining the grammar rules. Tonje asked her students to watch one video at a time for homework. Part of the homework was to complete a survey gauging their understanding of the video. Through this survey, Tonje learned what her students understood and what they still needed to work on. She designed the next lesson to fit her students’ individual needs.

Why flip a classroom?

Ellen and Tonje were motivated to flip the classroom for many reasons. One reason was that absenteeism caused them to repeat lectures, which drained valuable class time. Another was the fact that some students struggle with reading, and that some students do not learn well using traditional textbooks. Many learn effectively by watching video lessons. “It’s easier for students to go online than it is for them to open a book now,” Tonje remarks.

Tonje’s students were in their first year of secondary school. They came from four different grade schools so it was difficult and time-consuming to find out what academic level each student had reached. By flipping the classroom, Ellen and Tonje hoped to be able to determine these levels more quickly.

Making the videos

Ellen and Tonje recorded the videos in Camtasia, but the itslearning video recorder can be used as well. Tonje uploaded the videos into the My files folder on itslearning so that she could access them for future use. Ellen adds: “A lot of teachers use the YouTube channel, but it’s really tempting for students to click on other videos as well. When you integrate the video into itslearning, that’s where students are used to doing schoolwork, so it’s better.”

Afterwards, Tonje created a note in itslearning notifying students that they had a homework assignment. The note included a description of the assignment, a link to the video and a survey. Students logged on to itslearning and watched the video from whatever device they wanted (tablet, cell phone, PC etc.)

Creating the surveys

Ellen and Tonje took great care in creating surveys to assess their students’ understanding of the video content. They chose to use itslearning’s survey tool instead of itslearning’s test tool. They knew from experience that students had a more open approach to answering survey questions. The test tool reminded them too much of taking tests. Tonje logged on to itslearning to see which students had completed the surveys. Survey results can be viewed student by student or in a one-page overview of what the class understood.

The survey tool offers four question types: open-ended, yes/no, multiple choice and matrix. Ellen and Tonje found that using open-ended questions was the most effective way to measure student comprehension. “We asked the students to explain in their own words what they had learned. Some of the students thought that they had understood, but we could see by their explanations that they had not quite understood the material,” Tonje explains. She used the survey answers to help plan her next class.

Differentiated learning

After reviewing the survey results, Tonje created exercises that were tailored to address each student’s needs. The students worked on these exercises in class the next day. Instead of instructing the whole class, Tonje was able to spend time helping specific students with specific problems. Students felt like Tonje “saw” them and took them seriously because their survey answers alerted her to their specific needs. “Flipping the classroom made me happy. It made me feel that I was able to see the students,” Tonje smiled.

The benefits

Ellen and Tonje say the benefits of flipping their classroom are:

  • For teachers

    Saves time: The videos take time to plan and make, but they can be used over and over again. Surveys allow teachers to assess their students’ academic levels more quickly. Teachers don’t need to repeat lessons for students who are absent and they can spend class time assisting individual students.

    Motivates and engages students: Students appreciated the effort the teachers had made to record the videos. To show their gratitude they answered the survey questions, which ensured that they arrived at class engaged in the learning material. “They were standing outside the door when I got to class saying, ‘I know what we are going to do today.’ They knew what I was going to talk about, what they had learned and what they needed to learn,” Tonje explains.

  • For students

    Students are allowed to digest class material at their own pace. They can take notes and pause or replay the videos as much as they want. Those who have been absent or haven’t done their homework can catch-up on their own by viewing lessons during class on school PCs or other devices.

    Students were more enthusiastic about video homework. By checking survey submission dates on itslearning, Tonje could see that students often completed video homework days before it was due.

  • For parents

    Parents can watch the videos and study the subjects along with their children. They enjoy it when their child “brings the teacher home”. It strengthens the parent-teacher relationship. Many parents found it easier to help their children with homework when the theory behind it was explained to them, instead of just being handed questions on a sheet of paper.

  • For student achievement

    Students performed better on tests about subjects that were explained through video lessons, as opposed to through traditional classroom lecturing.

    “After flipping the classroom I had four students with top grades when I usually have one or none. I didn’t have any extremely low grades either, when I usually have two or three. It’s a lot better than some of my other classes,” Tonje says.

itslearning helps flip the classroom

“itslearning makes it easier to publish homework assignments, contact students, make polls and surveys, upload videos and see what students learned from videos just minutes after watching them. It saves me time,” Tonje concludes.

Ellen adds: “For me, itslearning is easy!”

If you'd like more information on flipping the classroom, please read the following success stories:

  • Anne Cathrine’s step-by step recipe for flipping the classroom 
  • Merethe flips her college class in Denmark 
  • Elisabeth flips her secondary school class in Norway
  • Stig flips his secondary school class in Sweden

If you have your own flipped classroom success story, feel free to share it in the comments below!

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