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My first experience of Flipped Classroom

When I first heard of the Chinese term for Flipped Classroom (翻轉教室) a few years ago, I thought it was just a gimmick used by certain people to promote some sort of unorthodox pedagogy. So I did not pay much attention to it. But later, when I realised that Professor Hau Kit-tai, a colleague at the CUHK Faculty of Education, was zealously speaking for Flipped Learning through different channels, I began to wonder: “Am I missing something important?”

A few months after that in 2014, I had the good fortune of attending a symposium on Flipped Learning which took place at Ying Wa Primary School. That was a totally eye-opening experience, as I got to listen to in-depth academic presentations by Professor Hau and Professor Morris Jong of CUHK, and the enthusiastic experience sharing by two frontline teachers passionate about Flipped Learning, a Chinese teacher called Mr Chan, and a Maths and IT teacher called Mr Ha Chi-hung. In no time, I had completely bought into the rationales for Flipped Learning, as it converged on some of my basic principles in teaching and learning.

Professor Hau Kit-tai (left), Professor Morris Jong (middle) and Mr. Ha Chi Hung, Ha Sir (right) I met in the symposium

In the following year, together with Professor Morris Jong, I applied for, and obtained, a Micro-module courseware development grant from CUHK, and, with technical support from CUHK’s Centre for Learning Sciences and Technologies (CLST), developed a Flipped Learning platform for one of the courses I was teaching at that time: Subject Curriculum and Teaching: English. The platform contained resources that I had specially produced for the flipped course, such as pre-class videos and quizzes, and interactive e-learning tasks for the class sessions.

The Flipped Learning platform Professor Morris Jong and I developed with support from CLST

With the completion of the development of the platform, I immediately used it with a new cohort of students. The effect turned out to be far better than what I had expected. For example, while previously students prepared for each class by reading an academic article, now they would go to the platform, view the respective video, and answer the post-viewing quiz. This turned out to be a welcome mode of pre-class preparation for the students. (Of course, I would still ask them to read an academic article once in a while as pre-class preparation, as this was part of the training for university studies.)

The biggest benefit to me, however, was the freed class time for practical and higher-order activities. The course Subject Curriculum and Teaching, which is concerned with classroom teaching methodology for a school subject, is a highly practical course. As such, students need time to try out, and to try designing, classroom teaching and learning ideas and activities. The flipped model with which I started to apply in teaching the course with support from the course platform freed up much time for such activities which would otherwise have been taken up by my lecturing on the basic concepts.

The Flipped Learning platform was awarded Poster Commendation in Teaching and Learning Innovation Expo 2015, CUHK

After that successful first attempt, I continued to re-design all the other courses I was teaching following the Flipped Learning model. Today, all the courses I am teaching are flipped. In the upcoming articles, I will share my insights in Flipped Learning, based on my first-hand experience in doing flipped teaching in classrooms (tertiary, secondary, and primary). But before I conclude this article, I would like to point out that so far, the benefits of Flipped Learning to me are not just pedagogical. I have noticed that as a result of increased time for interacting with students in class, I have come to connect even stronger with them on a personal level!

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