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Why I started Flipping Biology

For the first 6 years of my teaching I followed a rather traditional method of teaching. I delivered content in class using a PowerPoint, students took notes and then we may spend a lesson doing a practical or an activity, then I would set homework which we may or may not have time to go through in a future lesson. Every year in faculty meetings we would lament the lack of time for activities, quality individual feedback, development of scientific skills and longer-term projects. To try and combat this we would argue for extra contact time with senior management and get angry with exam boards for never reducing the size of the syllabus that needed to be delivered. Every year you would feel the pressure to ‘get through the content’ and many topics needed to be rushed through only once to meet the deadline of exams. If students were ill, or absent for matches or music lessons then it meant meeting with them at other times to repeat the lesson. When the exams approached you were asked to repeat many lessons by students who couldn’t remember, had poor notes, didn’t listen or just wanted to sit and feel like they were learning it again. Then I found Flipped Learning . . .

“Flipped Learning is a pedagogical approach in which first contact with new concepts moves from the group learning space to the individual learning space in the form of structured activity, and the resulting group space is transformed into a dynamic, interactive learning environment where the educator guides students as they apply concepts and engage creatively in the subject matter.” (flippedlearning.org)

The important point to make here is that flipped learning is not just getting students to do homework in class and then teach themselves in their own time. It’s about making the most of the time spent in the classroom when the teacher is present (group space). Through the use of technology it has now become possible to deliver the content to a high standard out of the classroom (individual space). When looking at Bloom’s taxonomy one can see that remembering and understanding are at the base of the pyramid. These are lower order skills that the students can work on in their own time. The advantages of this are that they can learn at their own pace at a time that suits them. I make detailed animated tutorial videos for each Biology Topic; these are hosted on YouTube and internally on planet eStream. The students watch these and answer the questions that come up on screen to make sure they engage with the content and provide me with feedback about how and when they watched the video. They use the video along with a detailed PowerPoint to make notes on that particular topic. They can pause, rewind, and replay the lesson as many times as they like. They can watch it and make notes at a time that suits them. They will never miss another lesson again!

When they come into class they have done the groundwork on the topic and we can use the notes to take part in the practical activities that I have planned for them. Looking back at Bloom’s taxonomy they will now build on the higher order skills such as applying, analysing, evaluating and creating. These are quite often covered at homework time when the teacher isn’t there to help, but now I can go around and see individual students much more often, give them instant feedback, help them with problems and develop their learning. It solves many of the problems listed in the first paragraph and also creates better independent lifelong learners. The classroom becomes a fun engaging place to be rather than a lecture theatre. Better student teacher relationships are developed and teacher becomes a ‘guide on the side’ rather than a ‘sage on the stage’.

Just like any teaching method, Flipped teaching requires good planning and preparation for it to be effective. I am currently over half way through an online course in flipped teaching that will give me Flipped Certification Level I.

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New Pre-U videos

This is my latest set of ‘flipped’ teaching videos for section 1.1 of the Cambridge Pre-U on Eukaryotic Cell Structure.

Cambridge Pre-U Biology

From September I will be teaching the Cambridge Pre-U Biology course. My focus therefore over the Summer will be to develop resources for it. However, my plan is to come back to A Level, and the IB soon and there is plenty of cross over so I will be able to develop all three courses.

Here is my guide to the Cambridge Pre-U Course:

I have finished the PowerPoint for section 2.2 on the Chemicals of Life which is probably the first topic many teachers will start with, and in the next few days topic 1.1 on Eukaryotic Cells will also be complete.

Here is the PowerPoint sample for section 2.2 Chemicals of Life.

As I will be doing with all my resources from now on, here are the teaching YouTube videos for this topic.

New A Level Biology Topics

I have now completed a fully animated PowerPoint for topic 5 of Edexcel A Level Biology B. This covers the biochemical processes of cellular respiration and photosynthesis. You can view a sample of the PowerPoint here:

It is probably my most advanced presentation to date, with complex animations for the electron transport chain and photophosphorylation.

It is designed for the Edexcel syllabus but would be a suitable resource for any A Level or post 16 biology course.

Even better, I am now working hard to produce teaching videos for all my topics. These feature stripped back versions of the PowerPoint with my explanations. The playlists for respiration and Photosynthesis can be found here.

 

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