Category Archives: Action Research

Flipped Learning & Motivation: The Sequel

Recently I reflected on my integration of flipped learning principles in my English foundations program class. In my earlier action research blog, I noted several remarks by students about their motivation, or lack thereof, towards outside classwork. I avoided using the term homework but it doesn’t necessarily need to be completed at home, right? Mobile technologies will remove “homework” from our vocabulary… 🙂

I have reflected more on this and thought more about the learning design and the my employment of flipped learning. As a language teacher, I always want to incorporate language learning elements within all of my lessons. Firstly when I completed the passive learning task within class, due to more than half the class not completing the passive activity, I tried using communicative activities.

I first observed success during an information gap-esque activity where students watched two different videos on the passive voice. The video content had some overlaps but also some different points. Students were given some general questions to help them take guided notes as well as specific questions for students to answer. After watching their separate video, students started their active learning and came together to complete a number of different tasks specifically related to information from the video. Students then proceeded to actively use the passive voice within appropriate texts.

My teaching context involves teaching IELTS preparation and skills and thus I feel hamstrung because the assessment can, to a certain extent, dictate the types of teaching activities. This is especially the case within the education culture of the Middle East. I first start with specific IELTS language input, both grammar and vocabulary, within a passive learning mode and most was completed outside of class. I informed students of the next day’s activity that we would do only if the flipped task was complete.

by Jonathan Kos-Read

by Jonathan Kos-Read

Based on the language input, I used small tasks to integrate language skills and provide ‘authentic’ tasks in which to practice specific skills related to the IELTS. I say ‘authentic’ because they are skills necessary for the test, which is the students’ real world, as opposed to the outside real world. Students use iPad apps like Explain Everything, iMovie, QuickTap Survey App and Keynote to actively create and produce language necessary for the IELTS. When I asked about these tasks, students didn’t automatically see the connection to IELTS practice.

I also observed students working quite hard throughout these active tasks. The tasks caught their attention and they worked for longer periods of time individually and in pairs. I asked several students afterwards and it came down to their preference for the iPad apps we were using. Explain Everything and iMovie were hits as they produced their own videos. They loved the creative expression afforded to them (my words) and the ability to bling their videos (their words).

The principles of flipped learning could be used in contexts without technology, no doubt about that. But the technology certainly affords many more opportunities and modes of content delivery in both the passive learning before class and active learning during class.

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Flipped Learning & Motivation

by Backratze

by Backratze

This buzz term has gained traction over recent years and with good reason. Rather than explain flipped learning again, see this infochart.

Language learning lends itself to being flipped quite well as students could complete the passive learning of the language structure before the active use and production of it. How easy is that?

One observation that I have made, as well as others, is that the premise of flipped learning fails if the learner does not complete the work outside the class. Whether it is used as pre-learning or a post review, language acquisition is promoted the more times learners are exposed to the language.

I have decided to selectively flip only certain lessons of language learning in my class as I believe in utilizing a variety of pedagogy to suit the learners, their needs and the goals of the lessons. However, students in my foundations ESL class in a Middle Eastern university have largely failed to complete the passive part of the flipped learning more often than not. I recently spoke informally with my students and noted some reflections on the teaching and learning that happens in my classes.

To generalize, students lack motivation to complete all tasks at home. There are of course students who see value to this and understand the rationale of why I set some passive work outside of class and more active work in class. Some don’t have the internet so most of these lack the drive to complete the work using campus wifi before or after class. Some lack motivation to work hard on activities with no direct relation to their grade. There’s always one or two of these students in the class and this means rigid assessments that haven’t caught up to our changing classrooms are hindering progress. There’s a number of students who just don’t like learning English and the passive, individual learning, whether it be a video, audio recording, or a reading all with basic ‘getting started’ information and questions, just isn’t interesting to them. Perhaps the last two are push backs from students and John Sowash acknowledges this.

Whilst I believe that intrinsic motivation is the key for successful independent learning, I am taking the steps to provide more extrinsic motivation to perhaps get the ball rolling. I have noted a few times that the carrot dangling in front of students does produce some short-term motivation.

Online merit lists and weekly report cards are two options I will employ soon to publically highlight good standards of attitude, motivation and behavior. Badges are one upcoming trend with a number of educators and Educational websites are slowly seeing this and incorporating badges into their design. Additionally I will also review the passive learning input I choose to use and see if I can add to it. Adding emphasis, highlights, extra inset video, supplementary materials, editing resources for only crucial information etc… may all be effective in capturing student interest. I am also thinking of more individual consultations to provide positive praise and constructive feedback (probably face-to-face, the shock!). Of course I reason with students as to why we are doing the work in the way we are doing it but it is difficult to assess understanding among non-native speakers as feedback for everything.

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Digital Literacies

Digital literacies, to me, are an enormous part of the shift towards digital technology in the classroom. As educators, there’s a number of traditional literacies that need attention as well as various new literacies that need instruction within our classes. For a Masters of Education (ICT) assignment, I surveyed and interviewed a number of teachers at my current institution to examine their beliefs on digital literacies. I wanted to find out what literacies would be needed by students in their classes.

While reviewing the literature, I set out to make a list of skills that reoccurred throughout the literature (see Digital Literacies list below). Of these digital literacies, I wanted to know the ones that should be implemented within our curriculum. In order the most popular ones were:

  1. Collecting
  2. Information literacy
  3. Communicating
  4. Connecting
  5. Critical thinking and doing
  6. Collaborating
  7. Text production



It was interesting to note that interviewees and survey respondents not only rationalized the skills to be used within their classes but also in socioeconomic terms as they believed these skills would help their students after graduation in the workplace. Some went so far as understanding digital literacies within a socio-cultural context as these would make them better people functioning together for a better society.

Language teachers gave a range of reasons why these should be considered important for their students. A few teachers mentioned that these skills could be utilized by students to become more autonomous in their language learning. To finish that thought, when asked in the survey for examples, teachers said that students might become more independent when they have collected bookmarks and know the right tools to find the information they are looking for.

Content teachers looked at these skills from more of an academic research perspective. One teacher remarked in an open ended survey question that students always lack the information literacy skills to find the right information and work the text appropriately. I can only guess that this teacher was referring to critical or higher order thinking skills when they said ‘work’.



I would consider the top seven digital literacies chosen by teachers represent active skills. Yes parts might include consuming, or passive, but the skills could be mostly envisioned to create, to produce, and to develop.

Coming up soon is the start of our iPad implementation. I am going to have a pilot class with students completing all work on the iPad instead of their laptops. It would be interesting to survey and interview the same teachers again to see if their opinions have changed. I noticed that text production is in the top 7 of 15. The iPad has great potential to produce many different digital texts and for teachers to move away from the essay written on Word. Would this result in a higher regard for text production? Time will tell.

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