Active Learning in the Flipped Classroom

What is ‘Active Learning’?  Well, for me it is a little more than getting the young people out of their seats!  There is something magical in seeing a group of pupils really get their hands on their learning…and for me the flipped classroom approach has allowed me the time to do this more often, and with greater impact than before.Whilst discussing Pythagoras’ theorem and specifically Pythagorean Triples , the question came up “where is this used in real life?”  Some hasty research later came the answer…the builders of the Pyramids used a variation of the Pythagorean theorem, and a class project was born!

A 22 metre climbing rope was issued, with some instructions on how exactly these historic builders used triangles to help them in their efforts.  The class were then able to use the concepts learned in class to create a giant (I didn’t anticipate the size to be honest!) right angled triangle using equally spaced knots to measure side length.

Using the climbing rope to create a '3,4,5' triangle in the school hall!

Using the climbing rope to create a ‘3,4,5’ triangle in the school hall!

As I watch my flipped classroom evolve, and the young people become more and more acquainted with the new ideas and approaches we are discovering together, it becomes easier to let go somewhat in their learning process.  However, I feel that a level of proficiency in certain skills is required before you can become confident enough to tackle a practical problem.  So we worked for a little while on traditional problems until we achieved a level of mastery (more on this another day!) that we were all happy with as a class before tackling the practical activity.

Pre-activity working with Pythagorean Triples

The impact on the learners in the classroom, well maybe not quite in the classroom, was striking in terms of their enjoyment and their engagement with the task.  Even a week later(an eternity if you are 14!) they still remember Pythagoras’ theorem accurately and show a level of understanding that I have not experienced before as a teacher.  Maybe this ‘deep learning’ stuff does work after all…


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