Ask Sarita

Sarita Mathur
Sarita Mathur

Sarita Mathur is a free-lance education consultant offering services to schools, both rural and urban, in India and abroad. An alumnus of St. Stephen’s College, Sarita has a degree in Mathematics, Education and a postgraduate degree in Operations Research. She started her career with the India Today group as Assistant Manager Marketing and then after a period of 12 years went on to join the education sector. The Mathematics background and her well-honed sense of systems and processes had her institutionalize several long lasting and important changes as Principal of The Shri Ram School placing it firmly on the map as a progressive and leading school of India. Sarita has served as a consultant on the International curriculum of the CBSE and also serves as advisor/consultant to several curriculum companies, schools and start-up ventures. She is currently actively engaged with Scholastic India and the Shiv Nadar Foundation. I have heard a lot about blended learning. What exactly is it and is it very difficult to implement. I want to consider starting it in my school.

The term blended learning is the practice of teaching students using both online and direct contact learning experiences. In blended-learning, students attend a class taught by a teacher in a traditional classroom setting, while also independently completing online components of the course outside of the classroom. The online and face-to-face learning experiences run parallel and complement one another.

In most cases the online modules are designed in such a way that students work independently on those lessons, projects, and assignments at home or elsewhere outside class, periodically meeting with teachers to review their progress, discuss their work, ask questions, or receive assistance To start implementing blended learning in a very simple and basic way and in order that teachers start getting comfortable with it, it makes sense to start with one grade at a time. Chose a grade possibly grade 8 or 9 where students are mature enough to take responsibility for their learning. Second: for concept or module, identify what is working well in a face-to-face mode and let that be; add what could be more effective in a digital format. Third: define deliverables. This may differ from teacher to teacher some wanting to overhaul an entire unit of their course making it completely online, others wishing to focus on creating smaller sub-modules with assignments and assessments in both.

Fourth: reflect. What went well, what did not, do more components need to be added, does the mix of face-to-face and online have to be tweaked, are the assessments of learning well aligned with the desired learning outcomes, is the unit coherent and complete?

Be flexible. Adapt and enhance the curricular units as you move from year to year adding more content areas and more grades as you go along.

What is a flipped classroom? Will my students be able to learn as much if I am not actively teaching them?

Simply put, flipped learning is ‘school-work at home and home-work at school’. Flipped classrooms are a kind of blended learning. Instruction that normally occurs in class is now accessed at home, in advance of class through reading, videos and interactive lessons created by the teacher. The class becomes a hub for discussion, working through problems, extending the concept, and applying the learning in collaborative ways.

In Alison King’s 1993 publication ‘From Sage on the Stage to Guide on the Side’, the importance of the use of class time for the construction of meaning rather than information transmission is brought into focus. This sort of ‘inversion’ or flipping allows for more active learning.

The key words in understanding the benefits a flipped classroom are ‘active learning’ -a term coined by Bonwell and Eison that, simply put, ‘engages students in two aspects – doing things and thinking about the things they are doing’. This is different from ‘active teaching’ which is more of a one-way communication, the outcome of which does not necessarily imply that learning is taking place.

So yes, your students will certainly learn as much and more if your flipped learning modules are carefully and creatively crafted.

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