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Foreign Language Teaching 101: The Flipped Learning Approach


Foreword


Foreign language teaching has changed throughout the years. In the previous era, teachers would enter the classroom and begin the transfer of information, while the role of the language students was also clearly defined; to listen, take notes, study, and eventually learn. However, through observation, studies, and experimentation, we discovered that language teaching is more complex in practice. It requires the educator attending the methods of presentation of the new information, while also providing the right circumstances for developing the competencies, skills, and abilities of the students. The following series will explore some of the methodology and aspects of language teaching while also looking at the different mediums used by educators and learners.



The Foreign Language Teaching 101 series is divided into six chapters:

  1. Foreign Language Teaching 101: Brief History of Foreign Language Teaching and Method Development

  2. Foreign Language Teaching 101: the Communicative Approach

  3. Foreign Language Teaching 101: the Total Physical Response and Suggestopedia Approaches

  4. Foreign Language Teaching 101: the Content-Based and Task-Based Approaches

  5. Foreign Language Teaching 101: the Competence-Based Approach

  6. Foreign Language Teaching 101: the Flipped Learning Approach



The Flipped Learning Approach

The series of Foreign Language Teaching approaches concludes with the Flipped Learning approach. Flipped Learning is the most modern and innovative of all methods of teaching that have been implemented in classrooms around the world. With this approach gaining popularity in the past decade, Flipped Learning was first applied to secondary school subjects such as math, biology, and history. It entered the field of foreign language education after 2014 (Turan & Akdag-Cimen, 2019) and quickly became popular with educators because it gives them more time for practice in the classroom which results in more motivated students. Studies, such as Al-Naabi (2019), have proven the effectiveness of this approach. With more and more educators utilizing the method in their curricula and classrooms, there has been a need for a unified definition of what Flipped Learning is. Jonathan Bergmann has been a prominent advocate for this approach, and his website titled the Flipped Learning Global Initiative explores the method and its practicality. The definition provided states:


“Flipped Learning is a framework that enables educators to reach every student. The Flipped approach inverts the traditional classroom model by introducing course concepts before class, allowing educators to use class time to guide each student through active, practical, innovative applications of the course principles.” (Flipped Learning Global Initiative, 2023).


Thus, direct, teacher-led instruction moves from occurring in front of the group to that of an individual learning space. Every student has access to as many explanations of the studied idea as they would like to read, watch, or listen to. This philosophy must be understood and internalized by them. The subsequent group or class work serves as a dynamic environment for learners to put their newly acquired language skills to use, examine it, and pose questions. The classroom teacher further encourages them to apply the concepts and explore the language by participating in the activities. The term "flipped" comes from this concept – instruction and the application of subject matter are reversed.

Source 1: Soundtrap. (2020). n.d

According to the Flipped Learning Network – a community of professionals dedicated to the implementation and further development of this approach – "Flipped Learning" and "Flipped Classroom" are two terms that have to be distinguished as they are not interchangeable. The flipped classroom, where the teacher asks students to prepare for a lesson by reading a text or watching a video happens occasionally, but it may not be part of the curriculum or an approach upon which the whole course is based (Definition of Flipped Learning, 2019).


The main characteristics of the Flipped Learning approach include the presence of a flexible environment, the development of a learning culture, rethought content, and professional specialists. The flexible environment encompasses classroom facilities, as well as students' access to learning materials at home. Teachers need to be able to use the classroom for group or pair work, alongside student-led presentations, games, and role-playing. Moreover, students must be equipped with appropriate study space and essential technology, such as an internet connection, laptop or tablet, and headphones. Naturally, the same is true for teachers and school administrators. Finally, in a flexible environment, teachers should be ready to allow students adjustable timelines for learning and plan the course accordingly.

Source 2: Borges S. (2020). n.d.


The development of a learning culture might be the most significant aspect of the Flipped Learning approach. Since this approach requires students to independently learn the language concepts at their own pace from the comfort of their homes, students need to have developed studying habits or discipline. These studying habits are something that can present a challenge in some cultures, where students are used to being more passive recipients of teacher-led instruction. However, empowering learners to take control of their own learning process is very rewarding for all parties involved in the process, including educators, learners, and administrators.


Educators wishing to implement the Flipped Learning approach must rethink the content of the course in two ways. Firstly, how the information should be presented to students so that they can independently study it. Various ways in which material is presented for self-study could be discovery exercises complemented by video or audio materials, and explanatory reading texts accompanied by comprehension questions, graphs, flowcharts, and images. Often, independent study is assisted by technology – students read and complete assignments online with the help of a learning management system, such as Moodle, Edmodo, Schoology, and others. A learning management system can help flipped courses with assessments as well.

Source 3: Trueba J. (2019). n.d.


The second way in which course materials need to be rethought is the quantity and quality of the in-class activities. The majority of these activities are focused on applying self-acquired knowledge in practice. They can be in the form of communicative activities, crossword puzzles, role-plays, or task-based small-group activities. However, with the freed-up classroom time, there is a need for more in-class activities than during non-flipped lessons. Additionally, when creating a Flipped Learning curriculum, educators must consider tasks assigned for independent study, class work, and follow-up activities. In addition, they have to keep in mind the flow of the course, allow time for continuous evaluation, and anticipate time for any discrepancies in students' learning pace.


In order to be able to achieve the above-mentioned goals, teachers must have professional qualifications and an innate ambition for continuous professional development. Educators have to not only adapt the existing teaching materials to this method but, during in-class activities, they must constantly monitor students’ production and correct any errors, misunderstandings, or insufficient use of the language. Teachers’ feedback is extremely critical in the Flipped Learning classroom. This is because only during class participation can it become apparent if students have been able to comprehend and acquire the material studied prior to class. Since some of the independent studies consist of tasks and assignments, teachers’ roles also include monitoring their completion and evaluating those assignments throughout the course. Overall, educators are less prominent figures in the classroom, but their role is more demanding outside of it.


A typical lesson plan for a Flipped Lesson would look similar to the following:

Stage

Function

Time


  1. Warm up


Brief review of the last class’s language topic or exercises.

5-10 min.

2. Discussion of independent study activities

The teacher answers questions or makes clarifications about any of the homework.

10 min.

3. Practice activities with the new material

Students participate in pairs or in small groups activities while the teacher monitors and corrects the produced language.

20-30 min.

4. Wrap up

Teacher reviews common errors that have been spotted and gives general feedback to the class.

5-10 min.

5. Directions for the next flipped lesson

Teacher assigns units/videos/materials for independent study and sets deadlines.

2-3 min.

Overall, this approach has received a lot of positive feedback, both from educators and students. Learning on their own provides students with the freedom to access instructional materials as often as needed. Additionally, learners are appreciative of the fact that they can study at their own pace and at preferred times of the day or week. Several studies have reported that they find the method of presentation interesting and engaging (Ozdamli, 2016) and that students are more motivated and engaged in the classroom (Al-Naabi, 2019; Pudin, 2017). The interesting format and the fact that information is offered to them prior to the lesson may be the reasons behind this increased motivation for learning. Moreover, the final assessment results are usually higher than the results obtained with other types of language teaching approaches. The Flipped Learning approach yields results from an educator's standpoint due to increased student-to-student interaction during class time, the students' readiness for class work, and their engagement with classroom activities (Basal, 2015). Teachers also find it more effective because they have sufficient time in class to pay attention to each student, monitor their language production, and follow their individual progress.


Some of the drawbacks of the Flipped Learning approach are connected with the daunting amount of preparatory work required prior to the beginning of the course. Educators have to modify some of the existing materials, but more often than not, they need to create completely unique self-studying guided documents, video and audio recordings, assignments, and ongoing evaluations. Overall, there is a huge planning and material development stage, which may temporarily increase teachers’ workload. However, this is a one-time engagement. It is only necessary to prepare materials and set up the language management system the first time a course is flipped. They may only need to be tweaked or updated the next time the same course is being taught.


Source 4: Soundtrap. b.(2020). n.d.

Educators may not know if their students have finished the required pre-class independent studies, which is also a disadvantage often mentioned in studies (Rivera, 2015). This can be easily avoided, however, by using some of the features of modern technologies, such as recording the logging of students' accounts. In addition, educators can create interactive study materials with Canva for example, where learners need to answer a question before continuing with the study.


The most significant downside of the Flipped Learning approach to date is the fact that it is heavily reliant on technology. Students must, on the one hand, have access to computers, tablets, or at the very least smartphones, as well as an internet connection at home. On the other hand, school administrations ought to give teachers computers, the required gear, and the software they need to produce interesting video content. Last but not least, a language management system is needed to monitor students' independent study and progress during the course. Flipped learning is therefore deemed to be largely inapplicable in regions of the world where these tools are not readily available.


Source 5: Trueba J. (2019). n.d.


Despite all the drawbacks of the Flipped Learning approach, its many advantages continue to draw more and more supporters to it. It consists of switching the places where language instruction and language practice most often occur. In the traditional classroom, the introduction of new material happens during class and there is little time for practical implementation of that newly introduced material. As a result, exercises and practical tasks are assigned as independent study after class. In the Flipped Learning approach, instruction and acquisition of new material happen before class. This frees up in-class time for the implementation of more practical and communicative activities through which students can demonstrate comprehension of the newly introduced material. In this way, Flipped Learning contributes to an increase in learners’ participation, motivation, critical thinking, communication skills, and interest in studying foreign languages (Kawinkoonlasate, 2019). Additionally, being exposed to this approach students develop autonomy and a feeling of responsibility for their learning.


Bibliographic References

Al-Naabi, I. S. (2019, November 30). ERIC - EJ1255482 - Is It Worth Flipping? The Impact of Flipped Classroom on EFL Students’ Grammar, English Language Teaching, 2020. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1255482 Basal, A. (2015). The implementation of a flipped classroom in foreign language teaching. Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education, 16(4), 28–37. https://doi.org/10.17718/tojde.72185

Flipped Learning Global Initiative. (2023, January 17). Flipped Learning International Definition. Flipped Learning Global Initiative: The Exchange. https://www.flglobal.org/international_definition/ Definition of Flipped Learning. (2019b, January 18). Flipped Learning Network Hub. https://flippedlearning.org/definition-of-flipped-learning/ Kawinkoonlasate, P. (2019). Integration in Flipped Classroom Technology Approach to Develop English Language Skills of Thai EFL Learners. English Language Teaching, 12(11), 23. https://doi.org/10.5539/elt.v12n11p23 Ozdamli, F. & Asiksoy, G. (2016). Flipped classroom approach. World Journal on Educational Technology: Current Issues. 8(2), 98-105. Pudin, C. S. J. (2017). Exploring a flipped learning approach in teaching grammar for ESL students. Indonesian Journal of English Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics, 2(1), 51–64. https://doi.org/10.21093/ijeltal.v2i1.47 Rivera, E. (2015). Using the flipped classroom model in your library instruction course. The Reference Librarian, 56(1), 34-41. https://doi.org/10.1080/02763877.2015.977671 Turan, Z., & Akdag-Cimen, B. (2019). Flipped classroom in English language teaching: a systematic review. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 33(5–6), 590–606. https://doi.org/10.1080/09588221.2019.1584117


Visuals Sources

Cover Image: Surface. (2022). n.d.https://unsplash.com/photos/qmnxlfFufOI


Source 1: Soundtrap. (2020). n.d.https://unsplash.com/photos/ddwbTn5HDdQ


Source 2: Borges S. (2020). n.d. https://unsplash.com/photos/q3zZHY5GHu0


Source 3: Trueba J. (2019). n.d.https://unsplash.com/photos/vFJNeWJAA2g


Source 4: Soundtrap. b.(2020). n.d.https://unsplash.com/photos/mFASGqpB0Mg


Source 5: Ikwuegbu E. (2021). Community Secondary School in Oginigba Community, Port

Harcourt, Nigeria. https://unsplash.com/photos/VC6MGt9ZoBA