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Research Department of Primary Care and Population Health Blog



Flipping their learning, and your teaching

By Nathan Davies, on 21 March 2016

Melvyn Jones UCL v3In this Post Melvyn Jones talks about new methods and ways of teaching/learning – something in here for us all to take away to our next class!

A room full of students staring at you – “ok teacher, teach us”.   We’ve all probably been faced by a passive group of students turning up to be taught and it can be a bit daunting. Mid way through you see the smart phones being glanced at, the odd stifled yawn. How effective is this teaching?

So faced with this should you be doing the “teaching”, or is what you are after for the students to do the learning? What is out there to help you?

I’ve tried out a few of the CALT teaching updates; a lunch hour session where you can get some fresh ideas on making student learning more effective. I went, I sat, but most importantly I took away what I had learnt and had a go.

First up “Flipped learning”- in a world where information is everywhere, is there any point in transferring facts in a lecture anymore?  Flipped learning suggests getting the student to use the face to face session with the teacher to try new things out, to understand concepts and to explore any difficulties they are having with the subject matter.  The price of this “flip” is that the student must cover the factual material before. It is no longer preparatory reading with all the “optionality” that implies; it is the “meat” of what they will learn.  The “lecture” is no longer a lecture but a discussion, an interaction using that material to advance the students’ learning.  Your job as the teacher is no longer to passively transfer that information but to help the students understand and interact with it in a way that consolidates their learning.  So what if the student hasn’t done the reading?  Well that is their problem; the logic goes that if you buckle and go into lecture mode you disadvantage the students that did do the preparation and you reduce the motivation of all the group to prepare for the next session, so hold your nerve.  Make sure your students know that this is what you expect and if you teach the same group, be consistent and try to get your other teaching colleagues to do the same.

Next up Pecha Kucha, strictly this is presenting 20 slides on a subject and moving on every 20 seconds, but I tried a “Pecha Kucha lite”,  each student talks  about a subject using just  1 slide and you set a very strict time limit; I did 5 minute slot per student  but adapt it depending on the group size and the time available.  Make it fun but also supportive; “bong” them out if they overrun, stop them if they try a second slide or bend the ground rules, but do give them constructive feedback, moderate the feedback from the rest of the group, and make sure everyone is involved.  It is a very effective way of getting students engaged, you will very quickly see if they haven’t “got it” or have misunderstood something and most importantly it is the student doing the learning and to a lesser extent you  doing the teaching. So what did my students think when I had a go? Their feedback included the following “engaged with learning especially as the result of feedback”. Job done?

Importantly these types of skills (Independent learning, presentation skills, team working), are the skills that our students need to develop, to go out and to get jobs in a very competitive world.  The UCL connected curriculum @UCLConnectedC is pushing us to develop research based education, so students learn about research but also that the research informs their learning.

I would strongly recommend these sessions.  Whether you do large group teaching, one to one supervision or bedside teaching there will be something for you. You will interact with people from a wide range of disciplines, as varied as Physics to the Built environment, think about your teaching again and probably be back at your desk by 2.30.

One Response to “Flipping their learning, and your teaching”

  • 1
    Tara Stewart wrote on 21 March 2016:

    Great reminder to us all to think about small changes to individual learning sessions- perhaps less daunting than redesigning a whole module! We can trial new techniques and share them or upscale as we become more confident…

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