Post Script to #AMEE2014 #PCW16 Workshop on Personalising Learning

Here’s the second of my post AMEE blog posts which focuses on the pre-conference workshop I ran with John Sanders from the University of Sheffield on ‘How to create personalised learning opportunities in the information age: Essential skills for the 21st century teacher’.  John kicked off the workshop looking at why we might personalise learning and some relevant learning theories and how technology is being used to personalise learning.

I went on to give a quick overview of how I’ve been using technology to support my own learning and talked about some of the elements of my personal learning environment (PLE) and how I’ve built a personal learning network (PLN).  I talked about how this related to my ongoing learning in relation to professional development and the 12 roles of the medical teacher outlined by Crosby and Harden (1) back in 2000.  Whilst their focus is on medical education a good number of these roles apply to lecturers whatever their discipline or subject area in higher education.

12 roles of the medical teacher

You can see my slides below which walk through my journey of using social media including blogs, Twitter and the emergence of free open access meducation – FOAMed.

For those of us who’ve been inhabiting digital landscapes for sometime the concepts of PLEs and PLNs are nothing new but for some these are new terms.   In the lead up to the conference I was struck by a blog post by Martin Weller asking the question ‘Why don’t we talk about PLEs anymore?’.  I think Martin is right, there’s less discussion these days on Twitter and in the blogosphere about PLEs than there was 5 years and I posted this comment on Martin’s blog with some of my thoughts on why this might be.

I wonder if it’s also dropped off the radar slightly because personalised learning is talked about much more rather than personal learning. Much of this is perhaps being driven by the attention on learning analytics and how this can be used to support personalised learning. Along with MOOCs and the flipped classroom, learning analytics seems to be one of the big buzzes (hypes?) in education. I do wonder whether this is a good thing and whether we should actually be focusing more on personal learning so that students develop the skills to become lifelong and wide learners.

I picked up on these themes in another section of the workshop and made the distinction between ‘personal’ learning which is made by and for oneself and self-organised and managed versus what seems to be the current trend around ‘personalised learning’ which to me seems to have become more about learning being customised for individuals and linked to machine learning.  Learning analytics seems to be the big driver here and whilst I can see that this can all help support student learning I do have concerns that this is technology spoon feeding students rather than encouraging students to become independent self-directed and regulated learners.  Once our graduates are in the work place they have to take personal responsibility for their own personal development and lifelong learning, I’m not sure learning analytics are going to be prescribing learning pathways for them in the world of work (but who knows MOOCS might have taken over the world and this will be the future!).

John  went on to look at the importance of both students and teachers having the digital, information and learning literacies to be able to personalise their own learning.  He also highlighted that teachers need to have the skills to be able to design learning activities which provide the appropriate scaffolding for students to develop their own personal learning approaches.  I think we still have a way to go with teachers developing these skills and the continued reliance on the walled garden of the VLE perhaps doesn’t help.  There have been several posts over the past few days about VLEs/LMSs talking about why we’re sticking with VLEs which if time permits I’d like to respond to but in essence I think they kind of miss the point.  I think these posts also provide a further answer to Martin Weller’s question about why no one is talking about PLEs anymore, which I think is a real shame.

Within the medical education and health care professions world there is still some scepticism around the use of social media for learning, not least from students who make great use of facebook to support collective learning in their year and study groups but don’t connect much beyond that.  There are growing communities around #FOAMed, #WeNurses, WePharmacists etc and there’s a nice editorial by Moorley and Chinn (2) in the Journal of Advanced Nursing looking at using social media for continuous professional development.  Closer to home I was interested to see that NHS Education Scotland (NES) have teamed together with the The Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services (IRISS) to make this video on building your personal learning network.

The press release that accompanied the launch of this video included a great quote from Malcolm Wright who’s the Chief Executive of NES.  He said:

‘The social use of knowledge is an important strand of the Knowledge into Action strategy which aims to make finding and using knowledge a routine part of everyday work.  By social use of knowledge we mean the tools, techniques and skills that connect people so that they can share experience and find ways of applying knowledge.

We know that published evidence does not translate into practice until people start talking about it and sharing practical examples.  Social networking tools such as communities of practice, Twitter and Yammer can play a vital role in this socialising process.’

If you walk the online corridors of #FOAMed this is exactly what you see, personal networks talking over the latest evidence, guidelines, critically appraising them.  Senior medics serving as virtual mentors to new doctors and students. With organisations like the NHS recognising the benefits of PLNs perhaps we can start to get PLEs talked about again.

If you’re new to the concept of a PLN and PLE take a look at Join the PLN Challenge and Earn a Rare Prized Badge to get some useful tips.

REFERENCES

(1) Crosby, R. H. J. (2000). AMEE Guide No 20: The good teacher is more than a lecturer-the twelve roles of the teacher. Medical teacher, 22(4), 334-347.

(2) Moorley, C., & Chinn, T. (2014). Using social media for continuous professional development. Journal of advanced nursing.

Anyone going to follow Clay Shirky & ask students to put laptops away?

Not Allowed!

Not Allowed! By My Sideways World on Flickr

Back in February I blogged about attention and and whether students were checking out of the flipped classroom.   In the post I mentioned the work Howard Rheingold has done around attention literacy and videoing one of his classes and then subsequently only allowing one or two students to take notes on laptops in his classes.

Several months on I continue to mull over these issues and so probably no surprise that a tweet linking to a piece on Medium from Clay Shirky outlining why he’s asked his students to stop using laptops and mobile devices in his classes caught my attention.  Shirky has banned the use of laptops in class unless they are required and in the piece he explains his rationale.  He says:

Over the years, I’ve noticed that when I do have a specific reason to ask everyone to set aside their devices (‘Lids down’, in the parlance of my department), it’s as if someone has let fresh air into the room. The conversation brightens, and more recently, there is a sense of relief from many of the students. Multi-tasking is cognitively exhausting — when we do it by choice, being asked to stop can come as a welcome change.

So this year, I moved from recommending setting aside laptops and phones to requiring it, adding this to the class rules: “Stay focused. (No devices in class, unless the assignment requires it.)”

Shirky goes on to outline the problems with multi-tasking, including the long term negative impact it can have on declarative memory.  He says:

People often start multi-tasking because they believe it will help them get more done. Those gains never materialize; instead, efficiency is degraded. However, it provides emotional gratification as a side-effect. (Multi-tasking moves the pleasure of procrastination inside the period of work.) This side-effect is enough to keep people committed to multi-tasking despite worsening the very thing they set out to improve.

On top of this, multi-tasking doesn’t even exercise task-switching as a skill. A study from Stanford reports that heavy multi-taskers are worse at choosing which task to focus on. (“They are suckers for irrelevancy”, as Cliff Nass, one of the researchers put it.) Multi-taskers often think they are like gym rats, bulking up their ability to juggle tasks, when in fact they are like alcoholics, degrading their abilities through over-consumption.

Shirky doesn’t say how his students have taken to this laptop ban though he does highlight that some students will opt of paying attention anyway (something which has always happened anyway even in the days when we didn’t laptops).

Has Shirky been too radical? It would be interesting to hear what lecturers and students think about banning laptops.  Is anyone else thinking of banning laptops or already done it.  How has that gone down with students.

 

Summary of #amee2014 symposium on the importance of educational theories

Last week I was at the annual AMEE conference, which is probably the largest international conference in medical education attracting delegates from across the health care professions and the continuum of education.  It also has a reasonable amount of engagement from students and it was great to see so many students presenting both posters and short oral communications.  I’m hoping to write a few posts following on from last week and this one is the first in the series with some notes on the symposium I took part in on ‘Creating effective learning with new technology in the 21st century: the importance of educational theories’.  Here’s the abstract for the session:

There is an increasing variety of technology available to the 21st medical educator, from social media (such as Twitter and You Tube) facilitating free open access education (FOAMed) to large knowledge repositories and simulations to Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). The challenge for all medical educators is to resist the temptation of adopting the latest technology without considering how the technology can be used to facilitate effective learning. This symposium will offer participants a range of established and newer educational theories, from multimedia design and deliberate practice to ecology of learning and connectivism, and illustrate how these theories can critically inform the use of technology to create effective personal and collaborative learning. Participants will have the opportunity to consider the extent to which they currently use theory to create learning opportunities with technology and to explore how they can produce innovative learning with technology by the use of newer theories.

John Sandars, Director of Research at the School of Medicine, University of Sheffield chaired and introduced the symposium and started off by sharing Jean Marc Cote’s vision of a 21st century school from 1901.  John went on to outline the importance of the role of the instructor (a theme which was revisited in the discussion) and the need to think about both educational philosophy and theories when designing an instructional approach.

France in XXI Century. School.jpg
France in XXI Century. School” by Jean Marc Cote (if 1901) or Villemard (if 1910)
http://publicdomainreview.org/2012/06/30/france-in-the-year-2000-1899-1910/ – A reproduction of the early 20th century, scan / Репродукция, скан бумажной карточки. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

John went on to introduce the four co-presenters in the sympoisum and the topics we’d be covering.   First up was Pat Kokatailo, Professor Of Paediatrics at the University of Wisconsin who looked at ‘What type of learner do I want?‘  Pat focused on John Dewey and his core beliefs of the teacher as a facilitator or guide, presenting content in a way which enabled the student to relate to prior experience and engage in active inquiry based learning. She went on to detail how Dewey had informed Flexner and him advocating small group and hands on teaching and how this in turn informed Schon’s reflective practice. Pat went on to talk about what kind of learners we want in medical education, a theme picked up in my presentation and we both highlighted the need for students to develop into independent life long learners who were active and inquisitive and knew where to find information.  The role of technology was then considered in how it could be used to develop inquiry by designing activities that encouraged self-direction, promoted interactive activities that also provided feedback to students.

Next up was Goh Poh Sun from Yong Loo Lee School of Medicine in Singapore who presented on ‘Designing effective individual learning’. You can take a look at Poh Sun’s presentation on his Designing effective individual learning blog and the further resources he’s posted on Padlet.  One of the themes of Poh Sun’s talk was cognitive load and multimedia learning theories which Richard Mayer has written about extensively.

I then went on to my slot where the focus was on social learning and you can take a look at my slides below.

My main focus was on communities of practice, networked learning and connectivism. There are clearly others such as Bandura’s social learning theory but there’s only so much you can say in 10 minutes. These theories are inter-related and can be used  as lenses to gain perspectives on social learning and help develop frameworks to support the design of social learning activities.

Finally Rakesh Patel of the School of Medicine, University of Leicester went to provide a helpful overview of Emergent theories for effective learning. Rakesh’s focus was learning in the clinical and work-based setting and he emphasised the need to prepare our learners for the fast-paced and ever changing workplace that they will practise in.  The importance of developing and being able to assess clinical reasoning skills was highlighted and the role that technology might play n helping to identify gaps in student knowledge as well as supporting feedback.

The educational theories outlined by Dewey, Vygotsky, Mayer, Lave and Wenger seemed to weave together through the presentations and it’s clear to see their relevance when designing effective learning with technology.  What was clear from the 45 minutes of discussion is the need to explore these further and develop frameworks to support the design of effective learning approaches.  Too often our use of technology in learning and teaching has been technology lead, we’ve learned about a new technology and want to use it rather than thinking about what our students need to learn, what skills we want them to develop and how that can best be achieved.  The importance of the teacher came through time and time again from the audience and it’s we that need to be the agents of change.  With that in mind I’d recommend having a look at this paper by Kirkwood and Price ‘Missing: evidence of a scholarly approach to teaching and learning with technology in higher education‘.

You can gain a further insight into the session by checking out the Storify  which includes links to resources and live tweets from the Symposium just click the link below.

View Storify #AMEE2014 Creating effective learning with new technology in the 21st century

 

 

 

Building an open source learning ecosystem: does anyone want to?

My Learning Ecosystem by ianguest, on FlickrLast week I saw a few tweets in between sessions whilst I was at the ASME annual scientific meeting (#ASMEASM2014) from the annual Blackboard World get together.  Over the weekend I read a few articles and this piece in Inside Higher Ed – The post-LMS LMS caught my eye.

IHE report that Chuck Severance, who’s Chair of the Sakai Project Board has commented that this year’s round of LMS/VLE vendors have been characterised by their lack of major announcements.

“I think we’re in a weird place right now in the marketplace — partly because there’s a lot of parity between the systems,” Severance said. “You can almost throw a dart at a dartboard and pick an LMS, and it won’t be that bad.”

He added, “Everyone is struggling to figure out what the next steps are.”

The article goes on to mention that the major LMS/VLE platforms are embracing interoperability standards and moving to the notion of a marketplace of apps and add-ons rather than trying to build clunky bloated tools into their platforms.  This leads us back to the notion of an online learning ecosystem which includes different tools that hopefully are all usable and do what’s actually needed.  The piece ends with Chuck Severance reminding us that the notion of a learning ecosystem was something that was talked about years ago in educational technology circles.

The idea of a learning ecosystem was a hot topic at ed-tech conferences years ago, Severance said, but instead “everything fell back to ‘let’s all stay inside our silos.’”

“Everyone wants to make proprietary ecosystems,” Severance said. “That’s not what a learning ecosystem is.”

How true – we’re still stuck in walled gardens and too often teachers are given a technology and told to use it rather than starting with what and how they want to teach and looking at what tools might best support and enhance what they’re trying to achieve.

Severance continues:

“Higher education needs to be present with real participation to ensure that the right things happen, and that it doesn’t just go to the quickest, dirtiest solution it can possibly be,” Severance said. “The sad thing is that if an open ecosystem does not get built, a closed ecosystem will. If the open-source people don’t stand up and actually get involved …, then we’ll just wait for the vendors to tell us how much it costs.”

Is there an appetite to develop this open learning ecosystem?  At first glance it would seem that in the current climate of cuts and reduced funding in HE in the UK that perhaps this isn’t achievable.  In times of plenty we seem to have seen lots of projects funded and technical solutions developed which haven’t been sustained and adopted by the wider community.  There are countless reasons for this, I have my own thoughts, but sometimes it’s when we have to be a bit more resourceful and creative that we can work together and come up with solutions that work.  The wider issue is whether HE in the UK buys into the open source ethos and I’m not sure it does in the way that other sectors have.
Are there others interested in working together to build an open learning ecosystem and can we make it happen?  Or is everyone past caring?  Back in March Joss Winn from Lincoln talked about hacking the University at the JISC Digifest.  In the medical and healthcare professions education field we’re now working on organising two hackday events, is there anything similar happening in HE more broadly?  Perhaps everyone’s happy with proprietary solutions?
Image Attribution
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  ianguest  

More reflections of day one of Jisc #digifest14: Part 2

So here’s part two of my reflections on the first day of the Jisc Digital Festival meeting following on my post earlier this evening with  part one of my reflections on the opening keynote.

After the opening keynotes there was a brief Q&A session and my ears pricked up at a question asking whether there was a Jisc strategy to support open source solutions to create digital transformations.  The Twitter back channel picked up on this and highlighted that many open source tools had been developed with JISC funding but that these hadn’t been sustained and further developed due to the stop start nature of the funding.  Some highlighted that open source systems should be promoted and encouraged ahead of proprietary systems.  I have a lot of sympathy for this view and have written previously about HE adopting open technologies and an agile approach to developing our technical solutions in the same way that the Cabinet Office has. I’ll pickup on this thread later.

Following the keynote we moved onto a mix of workshops, expert speaker sessions, panels and tech demos.  First off I went to the workshop which launched the new Jisc Open Badges Design Toolkit.  We worked through the Toolkit and I think this is going to prove really useful to those looking at open badges and thinking about how you might use them.

Next up I pitched up at the hangout session – ‘Flipped classroom, or just flippin’ technology? Where are we now with technology, student experience and organisational change?’  The slides for this session aren’t up as yet, which is a shame because I’d like to have another look at them.  I found myself at odds with some of what was said in this session, for example the notion that the use of technology in a lecture makes it interactive.  Surely it’s not the technology that makes the lecture interactive it’s the design of the learning activity.  There’s also the issue of how we design learning spaces, our newly refurbished lecture has been designed to support team-based learning and small group learning, technology is used in these interactive learning sessions but it doesn’t work in isolation.  There was also the suggestion that technology makes the flipped classroom more flipped but I was left thinking again about whether students are really engaged with the flipped classroom.  It would have been nice to have seen a bit more attention given to the pedagogical approaches rather than the notion as the technology being the agent of change (it’s worthwhile looking at this paper on the missing evidence of scholarly approach to teaching and learning with technology in higher education).

Onto the afternoon and another workshop this time on developing digital literacies.  This linked to another Jisc toolkit and there was some good discussion in the various groups in this session.

The day ended on a bright note for me with Joss Winn’s session looking at ‘The university as a hackerspace: Can interventions in teaching and learning drive university strategy?’.  In part one of my reflections on the first day I asked whether we need to think about what higher education really is.  Joss outlined how at Lincoln they have been questioning the purpose of the University and how teaching and research need to work together.  In so many of our universities these have been separated and the relationship between them has become dysfunctional.  Lincoln is well known for its work on students as producers and it was interesting to hear how this concept is becoming embedded into their programmes.  Joss also raised questions about who’s driving innovation in our Universities, is it IT departments and are they best placed to be doing this.  He proposed that University’s need a hack space to foster interprofessional innovation and research.

As someone who’s worked closely with students as producers and also piloted a hack event I’m perhaps slightly biased but for me this is so much more interesting and exciting than flipped classrooms, MOOCs and learning analytics. For me it shifts the focus from students as consumers as learners to developing our students as producers and scholars and their creativity and problems solving skills.  Having recently worked with a colleague in the School of Computing on a 4 week module which saw medical students work with computing students on technology projects, it’s clear that both sets of students developed skills in communication, team work, time management, problem solving, digital literacy in ways that mirrored what goes on the work place whilst applying their subject knowledge and understanding.  Both sets of students found it a great experience and we’re hoping to run this again next year.  The conversations that have resulted from this experience have also been interesting.  The computing students were surprised that the Medical School weren’t using Blackboard as their VLE but WordPress.  Following this initial surprise they asked why we couldn’t work together to further develop WordPress as a VLE more widely across the University which links in with the issues around open source technologies in HE.  We pay so much to consultancy firms in HE and yet we have so much talent and creativity in our institutions.  How much more could we achieve if we created hackspaces for staff and students to come together and take forward and build solutions to enhance learning and teaching, research and administration in our institutions.  What if JISC and the HEA and other funding bodies awarded funding to projects born from HE hackathons that addressed issues common to most universities rather than just giving the money to what seems to many of us like the usual suspects.  Would this be a way to better support a more sustainable approach to the development of open source solutions in higher education.

There are some of us involved in UK medical education who are keen to explore the notion of hackerspaces further and it would be great to extend that conversation across HE more widely.

Some reflections on day one of Jisc #digifest14

Today I’ve been at the Jisc Digital Festival being held in Birmingham and here are few quick reflections following the opening keynote from Diana Oblinger, President and CEO of Educause who looked at ‘Designed Digital. You can watch the recording of Diana’s keynote over on the JISC mediaplayer.

Diana highlighted that so much of what we do with digital is a retro fit or a bolt on.  We were challenged to think about the digital experience and the role of digital in the student life-cycle and beyond into how digital is shaping the workplace and employment, how it’s changing work and changing society.  Rather than thinking of man and machine as separate entities we need to think of the two working together.  The demographics of those engaging with education are changing in the US, there are more adult learners and students from minority backgrounds or first generation students in higher education. To support this education needs to change we need new models.  Should we be moving from face-to-face delivery to online delivery and exploring the potential of collaborative and immersive learning environments.  Thinking of health care professions education the area I work in this all sounds great, however the costs in developing these environments is not inconsiderable.

There were a couple of things which really struck me from the session.  There was mention of the push in the US to more competency based learning and the lack of technology to support this.  Also the notion of a type of pick and mix approach to earning a degree by selecting and progressing through a pathway of competencies using curated elearning resources. All of this raised some questions for me:

  • Is that really higher education though, are we talking about providing training rather than an education?  Do we need to stop and think about what higher education really is?
  • Why do people want to study for a degree?  Far more people go onto higher education than when I left school.  It’s maybe not a politically correct question to ask but do so many people need to go onto University.  When I first started working in a University many of the secretarial/admin staff had not been to University, they had left school and gone into further education and gained an HND or HNC in secretarial studies or office administration.  Nearly 15 years on these posts seem to be nearly all filled by graduates. We keep hearing how so many graduates end up in unskilled jobs and yet we’re also hearing that we have a lack of people with skills.
  • Brings us back again to whether we need to rethink post 18 education and training.  There’s perhaps a role for competency based training but are Universities the place to be delivering this?

There was also big mention of learning analytics – (alongside MOOCs and flipped classroom this seems to be the other big hype in higher education).  I think learning analytics have a lot to offer, having integrated systems that can flag up students who might be struggling would be great , it’s where we’d like to get to in my own institution.  I like the notion of adapted learning and how technology can help support this. BUT in the back of my mind I’m also left thinking whether learning analytics will end up as another means of technology being used to spoon feed our learners when actually what we need to do is be encouraging them to be self-directed and independent learners and helping them to nurture and develop skills for lifelong learning.

I had a brief twitter exchange with Pat Parslow about some of this and I tend to share his fear that all of this talk about how we apply digital and technology to higher education is taking us back to an industrial model that will turn out clones.

Maybe I’m being to pessimistic?! I’ll hopefully get a chance to post some more reflections on discussions around the final session of the day which I think give us much more cause for hope.

Attention & students checking out of the flipped classroom

Following a couple of conversations with students over the past week and reading a few articles in Clinical Teacher and Medical Education I’ve been thinking about attention in lectures and student learning skills.  The picture above isn’t too far removed from the daily view our lecturers see, a sea of MacBooks and laptops, there are growing numbers of iPads and other tablets and some students will be interacting with 2 or 3 devices.  It’s a sight that some teaching staff find disconcerting.  They question what students are really up to, are they paying attention, are they on Facebook, texting their mates?
After being hit by a sea of laptops in a tutorial she was delivering Hannah Beckwith (1) has asked if we’re hitting a wall in teaching undergraduate medical students.  Hannah was taken aback and questioned why students felt the need to have their laptops.
First of all, I found myself asking the question ‘why?’ Why had the students felt it necessary to bring a laptop to the tutorial? Were they scared? Had previous sessions been too interactive, and did they feel the need to place a physical barrier between the ‘interrogator’ and themselves? Or were topics too complex, and learners struggling to keep up? Such that they needed to search the internet during the tutorial to supplement understanding? Or were they bored, and using the time to check e-mails or Facebook, messaging their friends around the globe complaining about their ‘ridiculous timetables’?
I tweeted the link to this and got a couple of responses
If I was a student today I’d be taking my iPad or laptop along to lectures and tutorials in the same way I used to take along a note pad.  I do it at conferences, I take notes, might tweet or Google to look up something that’s been mentioned so I have it saved for future reference. I do however fully accept that there are students who have an issue with attention in lectures and classes and that lecturers may find it off putting not being able to make face contact with students as they are hidden behind laptop screens.

Students switching off in lectures is nothing new, I remember boring lectures where students ended up playing hangman or battle ships or keeping a tally of how many times a lecturer repeated a particular phrase or word. We had some great lecturers and some weren’t so good.  Lectures get a bad press these days because they don’t necessarily promote active learning and higher order thinking, for me lectures provided a framework to build on in my own study time and I’ve referred previously to the fact that students do still get inspired in lectures.  Howard Rheingold has also written extensively about attention and I’ve often thought it would be interesting to replicate what he has done. Videoing a class and then showing them what’s it’s like from the teacher perspective and then showing what the students were doing on their laptops and then running classes where only one or two students are allowed to use a laptop for notes taking for the class.

After MOOCs perhaps one of the other things most talked about is the flipped classroom and there is growing interest in applying this approach where students watch condensed video lectures or engage with pre-reading resources before coming to the class and then applying that knowledge in various learning activities in the lecture session. Whilst appreciating the attraction of this approach, I’ve never really thought it was anything particularly new given that we’ve always had smaller group teaching sessions where students are required to come prepared and engage with pre-class resources.  I know many colleagues get exasperated because many students simply don’t come prepared and so half the session is spent trying to get everyone to the place where they can start to effectively take part in the learning activities they’ve planned.  It was interesting therefore to read a paper by Casey White and colleagues (2) at the University of Virginia School of Medicine and their experience of the flipped classroom in their new curriculum.

Virginia School of Medicine has redeveloped its curriculum to encourage more student engagement and active learning in the classroom based around constructivist and adult learning principles. The flipped classroom was adopted as an approach and there was a hope that this would also address falling attendance at lectures.  Students seemed to like these flipped sessions when they worked well but teaching staff noticed ‘dwindling’ attendance over the course of the phase of the pre-clinical curriculum and a growing issue around student attention with students being distracted from the learning task in hand.  Student evaluation highlighted only 25% of the class regularly attended these sessions and that the sessions varied in quality.

White and her colleagues ran student focus groups to investigate why students weren’t engaging with these flipped classroom sessions (allbeit the groups were volunteers and represented less than 10% of the year group).  Analysis of the discussions highlighted a number of issues including that

  • students did not always appreciate the value of collaborative working
  • some students lacked the skills for self-directed learning
  • some did not have reflective skills
  • others did not have the motivation required for adult learning.

In sessions where students could sit where they wanted they were less prepared as they would typically sit with their friends and would chose their table based on fun rather than who knew their stuff. The session for some served as a ‘social catch-up’ others admitted they watched videos.  There was however a difference in approach to team-based learning sessions where students were assigned into groups, they were more likely to prepare as they were more concerned about appearing stupid.  They also found the sessions more helpful and enjoyable because they were prepared.  Some recognised that sitting with their mates wasn’t always a good move and would switch groups based on the activity.  Students also highlighted the variation in the quality of the activities and their tendency to disengage if they weren’t great.

In terms of student engagement comments included:

More and more people are less and less prepared, that’s why you see a decline in attendance. With the problem sets, if you don’t feel prepared and ready to contribute, your time is better spent [at home] doing your own work.

There are some lectures where the resources are so good – I can read the book and understand everything and I don’t really gain too much from going to the lecture… But if I have read the material and don’t understand it by the time I’ve done the pre-reading, then I’m going to the lecture.

Others mentioned hiding at the back to avoid being called upon an they used the phrase ‘checking out’ to describe being present in body but “intellectually disengaged”.  They outlined how they resisted engaging in learning activities by allowing themselves to become distracted.  Some questioned why there had been away from traditional lectures.

Liz Mossop (3) in her  commentary on this paper in Medical Education titled, ‘The curse of the teenage learner‘, suggests we need to change the learning culture and train students in active learning. In a previous post I considered whether we spoon feed students and consequently don’t help them to develop their learning skills.  This has also been discussed elsewhere such as in this piece in the Times Higher which highlights the need to treat students as independent scholars.  As students are now faced with paying fees the focus seems to be students as consumers, I don’t think this is a helpful move.  It does seem that many students don’t know how to learn independently as so we do perhaps need to consider supporting our students to develop learning skills, but I’m surprised by the comments from the students at Virginia.  In the USA medical students graduates and it’s concerning that they don’t have adult learning skills.
What’s not clear in this paper is what approach the Virginia Medical School actually took in flipping the classroom and what sort of activities were developed and whether there was any assessment associated with the learning.  For example were students using electronic voting systems so that lecturers could address gaps in knowledge and understanding?  Was there any assessment attached to the sessions as is the case in some other implementations of the flipped classroom?
This is obviously just one paper, but I wonder whether others have had similar experiences to Virginia in introducing the flipped classroom?  Maybe these issues can be addressed by better designed sessions and staff development to better prepare and equip teachers for this type of learning  and teaching approach.  Do these sessions work better when linked to assessment – given the good old adage that assessment drives learning?  With growing interest locally in piloting some flipped classroom sessions and similar experiences with falling lecture attendance this paper has certainly sparked my interest to look at what else has been published to determine if there’s a sense of an evidence-based best practice approach to running this.  I’d be interested to hear how others have got on trying out the flipped classroom.
References