SEVEN STEPS FOR FLIPPING A PHOTOGRAPHY CLASSROOM
- Identify the core objectives
First the teacher must: identify the lesson’s core objectives, from simplest to deepest, tracing the path of knowledge that students will follow. Lower-order targets (the what) should be sorted out for video delivery, while higher-order objectives (the how and why) should be tagged for deeper exploration. (Hirsch, 2014)
Teachers establish the purpose of the course by visualizing all the topics it will cover. Also, educators establish the learning objectives and expected outcomes for the course.
- Guide students through the learning objectives
The teacher designs a series of lessons that will guide students through the learning objectives and result in them being able to demonstrate intended outcomes. They also choose the methods for facilitating those teachings. Lessons will gradually build upon prior knowledge, leading students through the learning process of increasing complexity, from achieving a proper exposure to advanced levels of editing, composition, and critique. Lessons could take the form of pre-class self-study, in-class activities, field trips, and extracurricular activities. Once the progressionof teaching methods and subject matter are designed then resources can be selected to help teach those concepts.
- Consider how students will be assessed
Consideration is given to how students will be assessed based on their ability to demonstrate what they have learned. This could be in the form of photo assignments, presentations, quizzes, and/or tests. Assessments could be formal, as part of a grade, or informal where learners play games, ask/answer questions, or have discussions.
- Provide concepts and information
Resources are curated to provide first-exposure experiences to concepts and information about photography. In order to gather effective source materials for a flipped course, the teacher must know how the resources are going to be used to scaffold the learning topics over the semester. For example, when covering the topic of exposure, the teacher may provide to students a video that talks about and illustrates how exposure functions to control the light that falls on the sensor. In addition, a complementary reading explains exposure and the law of reciprocity. Finally, having students try out an interactive site like camerasim lets them see, in real-time, how the changes in settings affect the appearance of the image. With camerasim, students can gain some understanding from a pre-experiential perspective. At the same time concepts from the other sources are reinforced. Finally, students must make their own images to illustrate the degree of their understanding. Ultimately it is the experience of applying their knowledge by photographing that allows learners to integrate the knowledge into their understanding.
- Think about ways to engage and motivate students
In this step educators think about ways to engage and motivate students so they come to class fully prepared. Teachers should keep an open line of communication with students, through email or texting, so students can ask timely questions about obstacles that are preventing them from learning (like the online resource is not accessible). By administering a quiz at the beginning of each class, students are motivated to study. Study sheets also help students engage the pre-class study materials and direct them toward the most important topics of learning. Planning strategies that help students succeed will prepare them for valuable in class learning and deep understanding.
- Focus class time on higher-order cognitive skills
While time outside of class is centered on acquiring information, basic skills, and knowledge needed to build on prior understandings of photography, time in class is a valuable opportunity to deepen comprehension through thoughtful investigation and practice. Critical thinking skills are developed through discussion and inquiry. For example, students may have learned, between classes, about early photographer Hippolyte Bayard and his noble quest for the fixed image. During the next class, peer-discussions could be centered on the circumstances and ethics around Bayard’s loss of recognition through the French Academy of Sciences, the subsequent documentation of his fake suicide, and the impact those actions continue to have on the perception of photography today. As a course continues, discussion topics are designed to engage students on progressively higher cognitive levels.
Class activities are generally conducted for use with groups to allow for peer-to-peer discussion and collaboration. Many of the teaching approaches that follow are based on the important research and resulting methodology of Team-Based Learning creator Larry K. Michaelsen, author of Team-Based Learning: A Transformative Use of Small Groups. As Michaelsen recommended, the purpose of the in-class activities is for students to practice using the concepts and skills they will need to perform in the future as educated photographers. This could take the form of games (which demonstrate cognitive understanding), field trips (so teachers can oversee the mastery of technique), and discussion(for assimilation of content and Bloom’s higher levels of evaluating and creating).
In the case of group discussions, the teacher can help prepare students by providing a worksheet that includes clearly stated descriptions of the discussion challenge along with any needed background information. Discussion topics should be relevant to what is being studied and should be significant in some way to photography. Topics that are best apply to real-life photographic processes, concepts, theories, and constructs that either students are grappling with, will contend with, or other photographers have struggled with.
Essentially the tactic is in creating barriers and obstacles for students, motivating them to rally around the issue, seed the circumstances with breadcrumbs to follow and provide the resources and support to overcome the obstacle. These obstacles may take many forms from a statement or position to a task that students will develop into an ownership of the knowledge and the achievement. (Tapia Urquiza, 2/2/15)
This approach will inspire participation among group members while also encouraging peer-instruction/learning. Also, by making the challenges more vague, it will inspire more discussion (Sweet, 2012). Topics should encourage students to draw from their prior knowledge in addition to sourcing newly assimilated knowledge. As the course continues through the semester, challenges appropriately require more critical thinking skills and are more intellectually challenging. Challenges may or may not ask students to present correct answers, but more importantly require a traceable line of thought that leads each group of students to some theory, conclusion, or proposal. Students are many times faced with making informed (or partially informed) decisions about what actions they would take to address the challenge so they need to offer supporting reasons for what they believe.
As a general rule, all groups work on the same discussion problem and they should do so at the same time. This way, at the end of the exercise, groups will be able to compare and contrast final conclusions.While the discussion is taking place the teacher travels from group to group listening to the quality of the conversations.
Two important things can be accomplished with this listening:
1) you send the message that what the students are saying is important enough that the instructor will listen, and 2) if misconceptions or misunderstanding are preventing students progressing then you can intervene and provide some expert clarification or guided questioning either at the team level or whole class level. (Team-Based Learning™ Collaborative, 2/19/15)
The teacher plays the part of a coach, encouraging participants to take risks and become fully involved in the exercise. To view examples of discussion
topics, see Appendix 3 online at: http://tiny.cc/422dxx.
By providing both theoretical and actual opportunities for student teams to cognitively engage problems like those above, teachers can assess how much knowledge they were able to acquire and assimilate during their studies prior to class. Problems ask students to develop a deep sense of inquiry into the subject matter while at the same time calling upon them to apply both prior knowledge and new found knowledge.
To develop competence in an area of inquiry, students must: a) have a deep foundation of factual knowledge, b) understand facts and ideas in the context of a conceptual framework, and c) organize knowledge in ways that facilitate retrieval and application. (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000)
Once discussions start to wind down, the teacher announces a time limit, such as 5 minutes, before groups must be prepared to summarize and present their discussions. With the use of large paper tablets or white-boards, a representative from each group records the key ideas and conclusions produced by their group’s discussions. Groups then present their results to the other groups, creating a fertile ground for further discussions as groups elaborate on and defend their logic and conclusions.
Again, there may not be any right or wrong answers, but what is important is the process that groups go through in order to arrived at their conclusions. After they are finished, “The groups each formulate their own responses to the problems, the teacher leads a comparison of different responses by groups, and offers feedback on the quality of their responses” (Fink, 2002).
During the open-group discussion the teacher facilitates, making sure that each member of every group has a chance to be heard. The teacher may pose further questions to move the dialogue in a constructive direction or ask questions to get students to elaborate. It is very important for the teacher to provide space for students to be able to speak about conversations on their own terms. This is where much of the learning takes place. As the exercise concludes, the teacher reviews and analyzes what was learned as a result of the discussions. Key points that were realized are emphasized so students have a clear understanding of exactly what was learned in the exercise.
At the end of the discussions students turn in their worksheets, on which they have recorded notes on their individual lines of logic. Pages can be turned in from oversized tablets and/or photos can be made of any notes recorded on white-boards. These records serve as evidence of each student’s progression through their group’s discussions. Furthermore, this evidence should reflect the overall class discussions between groups as each presents their conclusions in relationship to other conclusions. It is up to the teacher to decide whether or not to include these items as part of student grades.
- Evaluate the Success of the Course
During the course teachers take the opportunity to continually evaluate the level of success for the flipped model of instruction. Teachers should also perform a summative assessment and, based on what was learned, consider ways to improve the next course. Some questions to ask are:
- Are students progressively gaining an understanding of the concepts and achieving mastery of the content?
- Can learners demonstrate the things they are supposed to be able to do, like compose an image?
- Are the strategies used in the flipped model delivering benefits over the traditional approach to teaching?
- What strategies worked best to produce intended learning outcomes and which ones did not?
- In what ways could the course be modified in order to achieve greater student success?
- At the end, ask students for feedback. Do they feel they had learned a lot about photo and are able to demonstrate that knowledge? What part of the course do they feel was most difficult? Were they engaged, motivated, and challenged? Do they feel like part of the class photo community?