The Flipped Classroom: Interesting (But Possible in HS EFL Classrooms?)

Flipping a lesson seems to mean different things to different people these days. But here is one definition, via Knewton, that makes a lot of sense. Instead of having the teacher convey information/explanations to the learners during classroom time and then getting the learners to practice it later for homework, the learners watch/listen/read the lecture or explanation or teaching part of a lesson at home and then come to the classroom to try it out, practice it, or get feedback on performance. That makes a lot of sense to me. Many teachers are already doing some form of blended learning these days, usually either parking resources on the web or providing learners with options for web-based self-access learning. Flipping a classroom seems to be the next logical step.

Of course, there are issues that come to mind immediately–Internet access inequality, digital learning literacy problems, motivational differences, and (for many teachers) just adjusting to a new way of approaching teaching. But the idea is interesting, the technology is extant, and I believe most learners are very, very ready for this. And the new official course of study in Japan comes into effect for high school this upcoming April, requiring more English in the classroom, particularly more productive use of English by learners. This may be one way of really achieving the directives.

March 25th update: Recently, Blackboard posted the slides of presentation on the challenges of flipping classrooms.


4 thoughts on “The Flipped Classroom: Interesting (But Possible in HS EFL Classrooms?)

  1. Hi! I’m a university instructor of EFL here in Japan and I’m in the process of researching Flipped Learning as it relates to CALL (computer-assisted language learning).

    The key thing you want to establish is open and transparent communication between the Japanese teachers who are likely the homeroom teachers, as well as the principal and even super independent. Create an Action Plan in both English and Japanese that cites research and projects around the world using Flipped Learning as a tool for integrating the benefits of technology and promoting greater discourse and performance of the actual L2 in class. Students here will have access to the videos on their keitai and if they don’t want to go that route you can always burn them on to a CD/DVD or USB flash drive (that the students should have). I’m planning to do a trial blended Flipped Classroom at my university and once off the ground you I can get back to you about it and you can then state that “See! Universities are doing it!” I think the University of Queensland and Griffths University in Australia is also doing flipped learning-based language courses, so check those out.

    Many students however don’t have a CD player per se, and some don’t realize they can put it into a laptop and move the files over.
    The other thing is teaching the HOW and WHY to use the videos and involve the parents in the process to so there is some accountability in the home. This will also save you the hassle of some parents complaining that it seems like the school isn’t teaching anything IN school. You have to get the parents onboard from the get-go!

    Good luck!

    Btw, where are you in Japan?


  2. Thanks for the comment, Dan. Definitely, good advice. I would like to hear how things go with you as you implement the changes. I work with public high schools in Kanagawa where there are serious reservations as well as obstacles in trying to flip classrooms. One problem is the view of what the content of a lesson actually is. As you probably know, many teachers see their job as helping students understand and memorize the content of textbooks. Right now, there is MEXT-driven shift to include more productive activities/tasks into the classroom. In doing so, teachers are likely to feel much more time pressure as they try to explain the text *and* do speaking or writing activities. Flipping, or at least moving some activities (reading, listening to the audio, checking vocabulary, etc.) out of the classroom will begin to look like a more and more attractive option.

  3. Hi,

    I am a researcher studying Flipped Classroom in Korea. Comparing to the rest of the world, Japanese and Korean educational system and culture seem to share a lot of features such as competetive college enterance test and reliance on private education institution. Since last year, there has been very active movement found among Korean teachers to carry on this Flipped classrrom approach to their classroom. Therefore, I was curious about the situation in Japan, and I would like to know how many teachers and/or schools are actually practicing this Flipped classroom/ learning, particularly in K-12 schools.

  4. Thanks for the inquiry Sung Hee. Flipping classes is becoming more common at the university level, as far as I can tell. But I work with high school and junior high school teachers in a large prefecture near Tokyo. I don’t have any data on actual use of flipped classroom approaches being used, but my guess from my experience is that it is close to zero. Some teachers may be making materials available to students occasionally, but I have only heard of one teacher doing so with any regularity. The reason, as far as I can see, is that most teachers see covering the textbook (explaining the content especially) as the reason for having the class. By moving their explanation online, they encounter two problems: privacy/security/access, and what to do with classroom time. Most teachers are reluctant to have a web presence. Schools have not set up LMSs or other places where teachers can park content (video especially) online. I doubt many teachers would be willing to upload video of themselves to Youtube or other sites. Most teachers are unfamiliar with video sites, are unfamiliar with access option settings, and are reasonably afraid of what could happen if video were totally public. It is difficult to do so for individual teachers, and schools/districts cannot implement policies that require web use since they do not have the infrastructure in schools and some students may not be able to access online content on their own.The second problem is perhaps more challenging. At present, most teachers do not spend much time for productive activities in class (discussion, writing, presentations, projects, etc.). They tend to focus on the actual content of the textbook and supplementary vocabulary book. Doing more productive activities would require teachers to create more materials (something they don’t have the time or expertise for usually) and changing the way they assess students.

    I believe other factors may also affect this. There has traditionally been an emphasis on intensive reading as a means of learning English. Using audio-visual materials has never been that common in institutional settings. Stuffing students with vocabulary has been the most common approach to out-of-class learning, and students usually have a vocabulary list book (with 2000-5000 words) to memorize. It gives them lots to do outside of class time (even if the effectiveness of this may be suspect).

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