The Flipped Classroom Use in EFL Learning and Teaching

Situjuh Nazara

c7nazara@gmail.com

Universitas Kristen Indonesia

Abstract

The flipped classrooms implementation has been one of the most rapidly emerging trends in the adaptation of ICT into EFL classroom. Numerous studies focusing on the flipped classroom implementation in EFL field have indicated its big potentials to address problems raised within EFL classes as well as to facilitate students’ different learning styles. However, since this instructional approach is relatively new, it is not yet widely implemented. This article reviews and synthesizes current studies results and ideas of flipped classroom to portray its nature and use in the EFL field.

Keywords: flipped classrooms, constructivist, bloom’s taxonomy EFL, ICT

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INTRODUCTION

The accelerant penetration of the internet into nearly all aspects of human life has changed the way people communicate, work, learn, and spend free time. As a result, the demand for ICT keeps on increasing, and ICT providers continue to innovate to satisfy the growing demand. One of the sectors experiencing the most change due to ICT advancement is education, including English as a Foreign Language (EFL) field. ICT now offers abundant tools for developing and transmitting audio-visual products, multimedia presentations, visual materials and software that educators can easily apply to generate new learning and teaching practices” (Pardede, 2015), and those tools offer an authentic learning environment which can make courses more interesting, enjoyable and attractive to students and promotes learner interaction by involving them in various communicative tasks (Elliot, 2009). Besides, today’s students belong to Generation Z, the first digital native who grew up with smartphones. They are not only comfortable with that technology but most of them own a smartphone (Think with Google, 2017). The influx of ICT tools into the EFL classroom, therefore, can be advantageous to their learning. This must be one of the reasons why teachers keep on searching more effective ways to integrate ICT into their classrooms to provide better learning opportunities for their students (Koehler et al., 2004).

One of the most rapidly emerging trends in the adaptation of ICT into EFL classroom is blended learning, a learning approach which combines face-to-face and online learning to facilitate greater opportunities for students to learn and promote learner-centered paradigm (Shibley, 2014). A special form of blended learning is flipped classroom which emerged in the mid of the 2000s and is quickly popular among educators worldwide (Obari & Lambacher, 2015). Based on the student-centered learning paradigm, flipped classroom intensifies self-directed, self-regulated, and collaborative learning, which, consequently shifts teachers’ roles as a coach, facilitator, and organizer (Hennic, 2014; Roehl et al., 2013).

Various studies have indicated the great potentials of the flipped classroom. Enfield’s (2013) study showed flipped classroom “was effective in helping students learn the content, and increased self-efficacy in their ability to learn independently” (p. 14). Lage et al. (2000) found students prefer flipped classrooms to traditional courses. It is also more effective than a traditional, lecture-based class in increasing the grades of students (Flumerfelt & Green, 2013). Roehl et al. (2013) pointed out that the flipped classroom increases students and teachers interaction. Millard (2012) accentuated that the flipped classroom promotes student engagement, classroom discussion, personalized student guidance, team-based skills, and faculty’s creative freedom.

Due to its newness, however, not many EFL teacher has practiced flipped classroom. It was first proposed in 2007 by two chemistry teachers, Bergmann and Sams (Correa, 2015). This article reviews and synthesizes current studies results and ideas of the flipped classroom to portray its nature and use in the EFL field.

DISCUSSION

What’s the flipped classroom?

The flipped Classroom was popularized by two chemistry teachers, Bergmann and Sams in 2007. They recorded their slideshow lectures with voice and notes into video presentations and shared them to their students who should view the video before attending the class. In class, the students discussed the video contents or experimented with the material, during which the teachers assisted. In the following years, they started to spread their flipped learning model throughout the US (Correa, 2015). At around the same time, Khan founded Khan Academy, an educational website providing a huge number of videos discussing principles of many subjects which anyone can access freely. More and more teachers replace some of their lectures with Khan’s videos, which students can watch at home. Later, in class, they concentrate on working problem sets (Kundart, 2012).

Bergmann and Sams (2012) described the flipped classroom as a learning environment where the students should do the activities traditionally done during class at home, do the activities traditionally assigned as homework together with peers and the teacher in the in-class sessions. In other words, the flipped classroom is a learning approach in which learning components shift from in-class to homework and vice versa. In line with this, Flipped Learning Network (2014), an association which facilitates educators the support, knowledge and skills to implement the flipped learning, described the flipped learning as “a pedagogical approach in which direct instruction moves from the group learning space to the individual learning space, 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.”

Since the flipped classroom inverts the traditional structure of a classroom, it is also called the inverted classroom. The inversion is seen from the fact that in the traditional classroom students learn by listening to lectures in class and are assigned to do other learning activities, like analyzing cases or solving problems after class. In such traditional learning structure, the students are taught content in class via lectures and attain deeper knowledge through various forms of assignments after class. On the other hand, in a typical flipped classroom, students begin to study by reading modules or watching video lectures placed on the learning management system before class and then do the problem solving and application in the class where they can interact with the teacher and peers. After the class, they may also have other assignments to do independently after class. Thus, in the flipped classroom learners study content before class via videos and readings, and they attain deeper knowledge through in-class activities. This scenario allows teachers to use greater amounts of class time for facilitating students to exchange and apply ideas in problem-solving exercises in place of lecturing them (Wallace, 2014).

Based on this discussion, it can be concluded that the flipped classroom is essentially a learning model which optimizes learners’ engagement in the learning process by letting them gain first exposure to new material outside of class, usually through reading and/or lecture videos, and then use the in-class time to do the harder work of assimilating and implementing that knowledge, perhaps through problem-solving, discussion, debates, or projects. Since the focus in the flipped classroom is the students, the teachers’ role in the flipped classroom model changes from being a source of knowledge to be a guide, facilitator, and organizer (Basal, 2015). Unlike in the traditional classroom model where students are the receiver of knowledge, in a flipped classroom students are the creator of knowledge who is in charge of their learning. The provision of lectures online allows students to learn at their own pace. Mastering a concept, they can move on. Flipped classrooms also facilitate the teacher to accommodate different learning styles. The recorded lesson can be enhanced with text, images, audio, and interactions so that it can reach more of the students’ different learning styles (visual, auditory, kinesthetic) and makes sense to them. Also, the fact that students can access and reread the text or replay the video as they wish allows them to cover the materials at their own pace, and the teacher is always there to help and guide the students in group and individually, no student will get left behind.

The Four Pillars of the Flipped Classrooms

According to Flipped Learning Network (2014), to be considered “flipped”, a class must have four basic pillars, i.e., flexible environment, learning culture, intentional content, and professional educator (see Figure 1). The flexible environment of the flipped classroom refers to the possibility of adapting the most appropriate physical locations, contexts, and cultures in the learning approach to the students’ needs to achieve the learning objectives. The use of flexible and adaptable environments enables students to choose when and where they want to learn and what method they need to use, e.g., group work, independent study, evaluation, performance, and research. As a result, the flipped classroom enhances learning opportunities and properly facilitates students to explore the learning objectives in greater depth. In the flipped classroom, students may learn in various settings, such as the online learning management system, in the classroom, outdoor environments, and outside-of-school locations. The flexible environment also encompasses students’ flexible learning timelines and assessments of their learning. All of these make learning dynamic so that the class time can naturally be “somewhat chaotic and noisy” (Nagel, 2013).

The second pillar, learning culture, indicates the need to shift the learning approach from teacher-centered to learner-centered. FLIP Learning (2014) accentuated that “moving from the ‘Sage on the Stage’ model to a ‘Guide on the Side’ approach is essential in the flipped classroom. Unlike the traditional teacher-centered learning approach, in which the teacher is the primary source of information, the flipped classroom intentionally inverts instruction to a learner-centered approach, where the in-class time is devoted to topics exploration in greater depth and rich learning opportunities creation. By doing so, students are actively involved in constructing knowledge by participating in and evaluating their learning.

The third pillar, intentional contents, depicts the instructional decisions the teachers should make. The intentional contents should be designed to maximize conceptual understanding development and procedural fluency by deciding which parts students should learn through videos and texts and which part they should explore on their own. The content distribution should be related to various methods of instruction such as active learning strategies, problem-based learning, peer instruction, etc. If teachers ignore these and keep on practicing the teacher-centered approach, nothing will be achieved. (Hamden et al., 2013).

Last but not least, the role of a professional educator is highly important in the flipped classroom. It is even more demanding, in a flipped classroom than in a traditional one. In addition to the possession of the features of an effective EFL teacher, including the ability to create interesting classes, offer clear explanations, speak good English, motivate students, conduct games, use humor, the possession of good pronunciation, and being friendly (Borg, 2006), EFL teachers implementing the flipped classroom should reflect in their practice, connect with each other to advance their teaching, tolerate controlled chaos in their classrooms, and accept constructive criticism. Flipped educators should keep on observing their students, providing them with feedback relevant in the moment, and assessing their work. They should also be able to decide when and how to shift direct instruction from a whole group of students to the individual learner. They should know the best methods for optimizing the in-class time (Hamden et al., 2013).

Constructivist Learning Theory in Flipped Classroom

All student-centered instructional models, including the flipped classroom, are grounded in the constructivist theory of learning (Felder, 2012). This theory views that when learning, students build knowledge from experiences and thoughts about that experience (Loyens et al, 2009). In the constructivist view, knowledge is not an entity existing outside of the mind waiting to be found or to be poured into someone’s mind (Papert, 1999), but it is constructed by people through interactions with the world and with other people. True learning does not take place by asking an expert (teachers) to transfer or disseminate knowledge to recipients (students). Learning occurs when the students, as knowledge builders, actively interact with their environment, including their teachers and peers to get rich experiences and think about those experiences. In this context, the teacher’s main task is not to transfer information but to design an authentic learning environment for students to enter.

Learning environment refers to a setting that facilitates, simulates, and recreates the existence and complexity of real-life (Wolmarans, 2000). Such learning environments provide students with abundant experience and opportunities to build knowledge in a context. Since knowledge and understanding are constructed in a real-life context, the social and cultural elements play an important role (Bryceson, 2007). Harkness (2009) posited that knowledge formation usually takes place through social interaction with peers, lectures or experts both inside and outside the classroom. The more students interact with various parties who provide diverse perspectives, cultures, and contexts, the stronger their understanding of a concept and its application context will be.

Application of Bloom’s Taxonomy in Flipped Classrooms

One of the most powerful features of the flipped classroom is that it is more effective than the traditional classroom to activate all levels of thinking classified in Bloom’s Taxonomy. Unlike the traditional learning which involves lower level of learning such as recalling and understanding of facts in class when the students are interacting with the teacher and other students, and the engagement of higher level of learning outside of classroom when the student is learning independently, in the flipped classroom students finish the lower level of cognitive work before class. When they are in the face-to-face class and, therefore, have their peers and instructor’ encouragement (Brame, 2013), they engage in higher cognitive levels of learning with the teacher and peers (see Figure 2).

Involving the lower levels of thinking (which are the simplest and most concrete) when students learn independently outside of the class, and engaging with the higher levels (which are more complex and abstract) when they are with their teachers and peers sounds more realistic. It is also compatible with the constructivist paradigm. The flipped classroom begins by assigning students independently learn new concepts presented in videos and/or modules accompanied by audio, images or PowerPoint slides. While learning the materials, the students construct concepts into part of his knowledge by “remembering” (combining new knowledge with previously owned knowledge) and “understanding” (explaining a concept or idea). After that, learning moves to a face-to-face session in a classroom, in a laboratory, or in the field in which learning activities are directed to activate the higher levels of thinking, from apply and analyze through student presentations and class or small group. To deepen mastery, the discussion can be continued in the asynchronous learning management system (LMS). After that, students work on quizzes in the LMS to measure their mastery of the concepts they have been learned. In the following sessions, the face-to-face session is conducted to apply “evaluate” (assess the decision or action taken) and “create” (formulating ideas, or making products or methods to do something) through assignment or project. Some studies (McLaughlin et al, 2014; Freeman, et al (2014) demonstrate that the flipped classrooms are effective in involving higher-order thinking in learning.

The Flipped Classrooms as a Mode of Blended Learning

Blended learning is essentially a learning approach which combines two instruction modes, i.e., face-to-face instruction and e-learning. In blended learning, face-to-face instruction is combined with computer-mediated activity to provide a learning environment in which the best of both instruction modes is optimized to create an improved learning experience for the student (Elearnspace, 2005). Synthesizing varying current definitions of blended learning, Pardede (2019) concluded that blended learning refers to the integration of traditional face-to-face teaching environment and online learning environment through the use of information and communication technology devices to optimize students learning. Since the flipped classrooms also combine face-to-face (in-class) and e-learning (outside of class) instructions, it is also included as blended learning. However, since the flipped classrooms uniquely reverse the traditional face-to-face instruction and online activities, they are regarded as a mode of blended learning a more specific focus, i.e. the preparation of students (by first offering them foundational content through the online learning activities) before they participate in the in-class activities (discussion, simulation, project, etc.).

The Flipped Classrooms Models

As it has been previously described, simply put, a flipped classroom is a learning approach which replaces activities usually done in the in-class sessions outside of the classroom and vice versa. The flipped classrooms general model, therefore, typically assumes students learn individually in the online mode to prepare themselves so that they can actively contribute in a group in the in-class learning activities. Nevertheless, it is argued that since the students can learn cooperatively or collaboratively through online technology, there is no reason for limiting the out-of-class sessions only to individual learning. In other words, employing educational technology, students can also learn cooperatively during the online learning sessions, in addition to the in-class sessions. To include the possibility of implementing collaborative learning through technology use, Erbil and Kocabas (2016) proposed a model called C-FLIP (Cooperative Flipped Classroom). As shown in Figure 3, in the C-FLIP model the four elements of the flipped classroom (Flexible environment, Learning culture, Intentional content, and Professional educators) are incorporated to the first two Cooperative Learning elements (Group goals and Social cohesion) to encourage student’s Motivation to learn, Motivation to engage group-mates to learn, and Motivation to help group-mates to learn. Students motivation leads to and is affected by evaluated explanations (peer tutoring), peer modeling, cognitive elaboration, peer practice, and peer assessment and correction. The final result of this model is Enhanced Learning. However, this model has two weak points, i.e. it does excludes the technological elements and does not explain how they are fit into the model. The absence of these two points makes it relatively difficult to apply technological tools to make the model workable. To cover these weaknesses, the C-FLIP model can be integrated with the FCM Model proposed by Liu and Liu (2016) to provide a more workable model with practical value. The FCM (Figure 4), in addition to other common activities of a flipped classroom, integrates the online discussion activity into the pre-class and the in-class sessions.

As Figure 4 illustrates, the flipped classroom model (FCM) employs educational technological tools (online lecture video, online discussion, and online preview test) in the pre-class session to stimulate learning environment and learning effects and to in-class learning activities through group discussion, project-based cooperation, and peer interaction and guidance for improving learning environment and learning effect. Cooperative learning can principally occur in both the online and the face-to-face in-class modes.

This FCM seems to have included all satisfied elements required for an effective flipped classroom. It covers both educational technology and cooperative learning activities to accentuate student-led learning through the comprehensive steps in the out-of-class and in-class learning. However, it does not cover the explanations of its effectiveness concerning technological tools used in the process. There is no explanation of how they help improve the key elements of a flipped classroom. The effectiveness was just based on the assumption that the use of technology for organizing the flipped classroom was supportive for a flexible learning environment. Furthermore, unlike the C-FLIP model which describes how cooperative learning affects students’ learning, the FCM does not explain how cooperative learning element affect students’ learning.

To conclude, the C-FLIP model and the FCM have both strengths and weakness. However, they could be combined to develop a good flipped classroom model.

Basic Features of the Flipped Classrooms

Examining the current flipped classrooms, it is apparent that they vary one from another. Despite these differences, however, all of them have three common characteristics. First, the flipped classrooms deliberately and actively transfer certain selected parts of the information to outside of the classroom in a dynamic for the sake of optimizing in-class time for facilitating students to exchange and apply ideas in problem-solving exercises. Usually, teachers do this by creating online texts and videos and upload them to the learning management system so that students can easily access them. Second, teachers turn out to be a guide who organizer to facilitate understanding instead of fact sources and distributors and students become active learners instead of repositories of information. Since the learning materials are well documented and safely archived, students can reread the texts or re-watch the video as much as needed. This provides more time for the students for data collection, active collaboration, and application. Third, the students have instant and direct access to any topic of the course when they need, the teachers are provided more opportunities to expand on higher-order thinking skills and enrichment (Bennett et al, 2012).

Results of Some Recent EFL Flipped Classrooms Studies

Numerous studies on the flipped classrooms implementation in the EFL field indicated the big potentials of this learning model to address problems raised within EFL classes as well as to facilitate students’ different learning styles. The studies show that flipped classrooms offer various advantages, including the promotion of more active learning as students could devote more time to applying the learned concepts to solve problems (Mason et al., 2013), ease of English implementation (Martin, 2012), greater opportunity for students to view, read, and review content before attending face-to-face class sessions (Conner et al, 2014), enhancement of student engagement in learning, academic performance improvement, and increase of student motivation, engagement, and satisfaction (Chen et.al, 2017; Gilboy et al., 2015; Schmidt & Ralph, 2016; Tucker, 2012;), greater opportunity for teachers to use multiple modalities, e.g., videos, discussions, lectures, interactions (Strayer, 2012; McCallum et al., 2015); and provision of more time for one-on-one instruction (Houston & Lin, 2012; Parslow, 2012), increase of a more collaborative and cooperative classroom which prompt students engagement and develop their foreign language higher-order thinking skills (Alsowat, 2016). Mehring (2016) findings echo that study results by revealing that flipped classroom enhanced collaboration and interaction in the classroom.

Concerning the effectiveness of the flipped classrooms implementation in EFL, some studies (Berrett, 2012; Casasola et al, 2017) showed improvement of students’ conceptual grasp of content beyond memorization and basic knowledge. Davies et al (2013) reported that technology use in flipped classrooms effectively enhanced students’ learning as seen from scores improvement. Hung’s (2015) study revealing that the structured and semi-structured flip lessons revealed higher effectiveness of the instructional designs than the non-flip lessons. Evseeva and Solozhenko’s (2015) study revealed that flipped classrooms helped to enhance students’ motivation and improve their academic performance. Additionally, the study of Webb and Doman (2016) indicated that students learned in the flipped classroom gained more significant, actual achievement, compared to those in the traditional classroom. These are confirmed by some other studies (Basal, 2015; Engin, 2014) revealing that flipped classroom positively impacted students’ performance and proficiency levels in various EFL areas. Ahmad (2016) found that the flipped classroom significantly affected Egyptian EFL students’ listening comprehension.

In terms of students’ perception, recent studies showed that flipped classrooms were more favorable than the traditional classes. Doman and Webb (2015) stated that both teachers and students have a positive attitude and favor flipped classroom. The study of Al-Harbi and Alshumaimeri (2016) revealed that the flipped classroom model enhanced students’ performance in English grammar, and the students’ attitudes towards using the flipped classroom were positive. Most common reasons for students’ positive perception of flipped classrooms are the possibility to study anywhere, any time, and at their own pace (Gilboy et al., 2015; McCallum et al., 2015), and the possibility to download the materials (video or modules) at any time, pause and reread/replay them so that they learn at their own pace (Davies et al, 2013). Sung (2015) reported that although the students faced some challenges in the initial learning in the flipped classroom, they kept their positive attitudes towards it. Zainuddin and Attaran’s (2016) study examining students’ perceptions and feedback towards flipped classroom revealed that most students viewed the flipped classroom use positively and most of them would recommend it for other courses and other students. It was also found that flipped learning caused positive impacts to shy and quiet students and international students with low fluency in English, while full-time students have more time for learning.

Some Challenges in EFL Flipped Classroom Implementation

Despite these varied benefits, some studies also found some challenges in the implementation of the flipped classroom model in EFL learning and teaching. Harris et al (2016) described three challenges associated with flipped classrooms implementation. First, since the inversion which turns the traditional classroom “upside-down” in the flipped classrooms necessitates both students and teachers to get out of their comfort zone. Students, for instance, must first study and analyze the course material before attending the in-class session. They should keep in mind that the home content is a prerequisite for the in-class engagement. If they perceive the home self-study content less important than the in-class instruction, they will likely be unable to contribute to the face-to-face instruction. On the other hand, teachers must keep on trying to make the course content interesting, hold students’ interests to stay up-to-date with the course activities. Second, students may still need remediation. Although the in-class instruction ideally consists of group activities and projects; teachers may still need to teach the topics which students find difficult. The third challenge concerns with tutoring. Although the students have studied the course concepts at home and verify and strengthen through group activities and projects, some students might need tutoring. Teachers could do this by adding tutorial time after the in-class session or refer those students to tutors for remediation.

Current studies have revealed the high importance of students’ commitment in the flipped classrooms. Du et al. (2014) reported that in the flipped classroom model, less motivated students tend to get less done. Since the flipped classroom activities rely heavily on the students’ self-motivation, unmotivated learners tend to be uninvolved in learning. The study of Ramazani-Bauer et al. (2016) echo that findings by pointing out that the effects of the flipped learning environment are time-effective for teachers in the realm of student engagement outside the classroom. However, it is also one of the drawbacks because only motivated students were actively taking responsibility for their learning outcomes. This is confirmed by Hanover Research’s (2013) finding that students those who rarely complete homework in a traditional model of instruction do not complete their video homework in the flipped classroom model.

To meet the challenge, the teachers should make well preparations before implementing the flipped classroom model in EFL. Some of the techniques for increasing students’ motivation include: providing short quizzes, reading questions, or online forum discussion (Crouch & Mazur, 2001) and giving comment on forums regarding the video content (Cavender et al, 2010; Roshan, 2013).

CONCLUSIONS

The flipped classrooms implementation has been one of the most rapidly emerging trends in the adaptation of ICT into the EFL classroom. Emerged in the mid of the 2000s, the flipped classrooms become quickly popular among EFL educators worldwide due to its effectiveness to help students learn the content and to increase their self-efficacy in the ability to learn independently.

The flipped classroom is a learning approach in which learning components shift from in-class to homework and vice versa. Grounded in the constructivist learning paradigm, it promotes the learner-centered learning approach by optimizing students’ engagement in the learning process. The flipped classroom lets the students gain first exposure to new material outside of class, usually through reading and/or lecture videos, and then use in-class time to do the harder work of assimilating and implementing the newly constructed knowledge, through problem-solving, discussion, debates, or projects. Also, it activates all levels of thinking classified in Bloom’s Taxonomy. The lower levels of thinking in involved when the students learn independently outside of the class, while the higher levels of thinking are engaged when they are dealing with the in-class activities with the teacher and peers.

Numerous studies focusing on the flipped classroom implementation in the EFL field have indicated its big potentials to address problems raised within EFL classes as well as to facilitate students’ different learning styles. Besides promoting more active learning, facilitating English implementation, and providing greater opportunity for students to view, read, and review content before attending face-to-face class sessions, the flipped classroom also increases students’ engagement in learning, improves their academic performance, and augments their motivation, engagement, positive attitude, and satisfaction.

However, flipped classrooms implementation also raises some challenges. It necessitates high commitment from both students and teachers’ commitment. Since the learning activities in the flipped classroom rely heavily on the students’ self-motivation, unmotivated learners tend to be uninvolved in learning and failed. To overcome this, teachers should keep on trying to motivate the students and make the learning materials and activities interesting.

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This article was presented in The UKI English Education Department Bimonthly Collegiate Forum held on Friday, October 12, 2018 Published in In: PROCEEDING English Education Department Collegiate Forum (EED CF) 2015-2018. UKI Press, Indonesia, Jakarta, pp. 265-281. ISBN 978 623 7256 25 0

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