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Aligning the Flipped Classroom Approach With Inquiry-Based Learning

A Collaborative Action Research Project
Dave Scott & Jason Publack~ Grade 9 Humanities

Over the past year, Jason and I have been looking at the potential of the flipped classroom to enhance first installment we explored the nature of the flipped classroom and outlined, with example videos, how we were trying to integrate this approach into our Humanities program. In our second and third posts, through surveys and focus group interviews with our students, we examined both the strengths and weaknesses of using the flipped classroom model.
the learning environment of our grade 9 Humanities students. In our last three blog posts we have been documenting our research findings and reflecting on this process. In our

In this post we want to discuss our attempt to better align the flipped classroom approach with the philosophy of inquiry that guides instructional practice at Calgary Science School. Notably this philosophy of inquiry and orientation towards technological integration can similarly be found in Alberta Education’s Inspiring Education document that provides a vision for education in the province to 2030. Notably, both the inquiry-based philosophy at CSS and Alberta Education’s vision for education seek to move the integration of new technologies into the classroom beyond a single flow of information where, for example, students use the Internet primarily to retrieve information or watch a video. Rather, they want to use digital platforms in ways that allow students to interact with experts in various fields as well as to collaborate with their peers to create, share, and exchange knowledge and ideas.

In responding to the need to push the use of the flipped classroom beyond students simply passively watching one of our videos, as part of a CSS Reads inquiry project Jason had students create their own videos. A full description of this innovative project can be found on this post. For teachers wishing to see how this project unfolded they can visit the CSS Reads website. To give you some background, taking inspiration from the CBC's "Canada Reads" contest, all 100 grade 9 students, 5 teachers and 2 student teachers participated in a contest where they sought to have the book of their choosing selected as the ultimate novel of their class. As part of the contest, each class went through a series of "rounds" where students promoted their books through a number of personal blogs posts and videos. In doing this we attempted to align the flipped classroom approach towards the philosophy of inquiry learning at CSS. Here is A. talking about both the strengths and shortcomings of her book the Alchemist. This video can be found on her CSS Reads student blog post.

Students were then put into groups of four or five and asked to read each other’s posts and videos to decide whether they wanted the novel their classmate had chosen to move on to the next round. After watching the posts, the following day students took part in a group debate as to the merits of their chosen novel. The video posts were thus meant to better prepare students for the debate happening the next day.

Research Findings:

Trying to better appreciate how effective this approach was, we asked students to complete an anonymous survey. Here are the results:

As can be seen about 30% didn’t watch their classmate’s videos. However, about 70% watched some or all of the videos. This being said only about 27% watched all of the videos within their group.
If the students did not watch their peer’s post, we asked them why. Here are some of the responses we received:

The reason I didn't watch some of my group members videos was because the book that they were defending was their first book, or because they didn't upload the link to Edmodo within the time I was still participating in the debate.

Ran out of time.


I was not interested.

We as a group already talked about the themes of the book together. Also I feel the point in the debate is to communicate your ideas right there not have them pre recorded. That is why I felt talking face to face as a group was far more effective because that is the way a debate should be done.

I wanted to research them on my own. I do not learn very well when I am being spoken to, I need to read things for myself.

Some of my peers hadn't uploaded their videos so I just googled critiques and synopsis' of their books.

These responses suggest that a number of issues got in the way of students watching all the videos. These issues ranged from students not posting the videos in time, to a sense that the debate was happening anyways the next day making the videos seem redundant. Additionally, some students felt their particular style of learning was better suited reading rather than watching a video. These insights were reflected in the responses to the following three questions:

As can be seen, about 70% of the students indicated that watching the videos helped them better understand their group member’s novels. Similarly, about the same percent found that making the videos helped them better understand and appreciate their own novel. About two thirds of the class said they would return to the videos at some point; however, a full 30% said they would not go back to watch the videos again.

Final Reflection:

As can be seen from our research findings we are still trying to find our way in better integrating the flipped classroom approach into our Humanities program. Given this, there have been some positive responses from our students. The feedback from our students will greatly inform how we proceed next year.

As we move forward in bringing this approach into our classroom we feel, however, that we must proceed with caution. This is because the approach to learning the flipped classroom promotes does not significantly deviate from traditional classroom pedagogies that do not reflect the inquiry-based philosophy of CSS. As outlined by Perkins (2009) traditionally classroom instruction has been orientated around teaching any complex idea or skill, from historical inquiry to mathematical thinking, through one of two ways:

1. Elements first. Ramp into complexity gradually by learning elements now and putting them together later.

2. Learning about. Learn about something to start with, rather than learning to do it. (pp. 3-4)

Perkins uses the metaphor of baseball to argue that the experience of most students in school is one where they either learn isolated skills like throwing the ball or they learn about baseball by studying statistics or the history of the game. However, they are rarely given the chance to play the whole game.

These assumptions about learning have become so deeply ingrained in how we think about education that ongoing attempts at educational reform often fail to question the efficacy of organizing learning around elementis and aboutis. This can be seen in the flipped classroom movement that is often held up as a paradigm shift that will reinvent education. This model of education has much to offer and is certainly preferable to many current practices where students spend a great deal of their time in school listening to teachers talk. However, this approach leaves intact the core assumptions of elementis and aboutis that underpin traditional models of education. Therefore, when we attempt to reintegrate the flipped classroom model into our practice next year we will look to adopt elements of this approach in ways where students are more active participants in the creation of videos and how they engage with the content being presented to them. In this regard, for next year we will be looking at how we can leverage the tremendous potential of digital platforms so that students can interact with experts as well as to collaborate with their peers to create, share, and exchange knowledge and ideas. Stay tuned.


Perkins, D. (2009). Making learning whole: How seven principles of teaching can transform education. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

photo credit: april-mo via photopin cc

1 comment:

Garry McKinnon said...

Dave and Jason; I appreciate the detailed overview of your Research and Innovation project, the data you shared, the student video clips describing their learning experiences and the insights you shared in regard to the efficacy of the flipped classroom teaching strategies in the context of learning and teaching through a disposition of inquiry. You provide an excellent framework for further exploration.

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