In April 2016, the Christchurch Diocese embarked on a research journey to create a supplementary resource to the Mandated Religious Education Curriculum. The research hypothesis was that through engaging materials and developing skills that highlight the relevance of faith in their lives, students will enjoy and actively participate in their faith journey.
The Operating Network
Flipped Learning is a pedagogy that promotes adaptive skills and knowledge for future success. This is through a student centered focus where they work through theological material at their current faith stage and are able to collaborate with others to ensure lifelong learning and faith development. It was envisioned that a learning environment where students are in control and can share their knowledge in inventive ways (Dumont, Benavides Bolstad & Gilbert, 2010). A range of Flipped Learning trials have been completed within primary, secondary and tertiary settings with the majority presenting positive impacts on student engagement and achievement. This report will scope how Flipped Learning improves personalised learning opportunities and increases students’ engagement.
The Mandated Religious Education Programme is a fantastic programme packed full of rich meaning and faith experiences. Finding the balance between touching the head and heart was an important consideration for the development team. The work of Professor Groome from Boston College focused on providing students with knowledge and opportunities to express their faith. This is a simple focus whereby you cannot encounter Christ spirituality unless you have an understanding of who he is, where he came from and what his message is.
Our programme focuses on providing a rich understanding of faith while at the same time providing more time in class for teachers to develop the spiritual lives of their students due to the re imagination of class time through Flipped Learning.
Working in Partnership
An important feature of this programme was working with teachers in Year 7 & 8. It was important that we worked alongside teachers in the classroom who have an understanding of what students require. It would be easy to create a programme and push it down without understanding what the students or teachers need in order for this initiative to be successful. This was not the view of the development team and see this programme as a grassroots movements where teachers will provide feedback, resources and ideas for continued development. Two teachers were seconded for a total of five weeks and developed a programme based on educational feedback and two trials involving five schools and over 200 students.
The Programme Development
Students are provided with a Pre- Test which covers the learning aims and objectives within the unit. This data is automatically generated for the teacher and broken down into key ideas within the unit. Early in the learning teachers are able to clearly identify the strengths and misconceptions of their students The data from this assessment will be compared to the Post Test data to see how far they have moved the needle in terms of their students learning.
Within the Church Strand Unit is rich religious literacy, many of which is relevant if students are to understand and apply this in their faith journey. These terms and concepts come up regularly during the Church Strand and provide a foundation for student understanding and the application of ideas. To provide students with a strong understanding of this was important and was provided to them in a ‘maintenance format’ where they could complete vocabulary quizzes to refresh and develop their understanding of religious literacy used throughout the Unit. We were also committed to honouring the founding document of Aotearoa New Zealand The Treaty and Waitangi and provided an opportunity for students to develop their pronunciation and application of Te Reo.
In our two previous trials we received the following feedback on Key Vocabulary:
- Start with a “new words” activity – definitions, spelling (religious literacy)
- Explain the meaning of all specific Church language/words
A concern for many educators with the Flipped Learning model is that it requires a large amount of Homework time. The research on this is varied and we took the view of content being asynchronous for students. If students would like to complete work outside of class they are able to and encourage teachers to use the In – Flip model whereby they watch learning content in class time. This decision will be made by individual teachers and will be determined by the students they have in front of them. Again this programme is to develop teacher capacity, not to tell them how to do it. A second concern is the use of video content. Within Flipped Learning their is a misconception that all Flipped content has to be video. This is incorrect and their are great examples of ‘unplugged content’. For the purpose of this research project we used video content due to the schools that we were catering for.
In our first two trials we used screen casting software and an example of this is below:
We received the following feedback from students:
- Slow the video down
- Provide breaks/pauses in the video for reflection questions
- Have pauses within the video for thinking/discussion time
- Allow students to take notes or have time for discussion
- It was good being able to go back and recap what the answers were on the video
- Being able to watch the videos as many times as I want instead of asking the teacher all the time is helpful.
We took on this feedback and developed this in our third iteration:
Watch – Summarise – Question Sheets
To support this we also had Watch – Summarise – Question Sheets for each Key Idea (Video Content). This provides questions for students to answer during and after watching video content. Research on the use of video content suggests providing questions at the conclusion of the video if they shorter than eight minutes. Providing no questions for students to answer has shown to have low knowledge retention rates. Following direct questions are opportunities for students to ask questions they have based on the content. This could be wondering questions, confusion questions or clarification questions. These are answered in a class discussion and enable all students to have a voice as they can contribute their thoughts and ideas to each other’s questions. By doing this the teacher is able to address student misconceptions as soon as possible before they move onto learning tasks.
An example of a Watch- Summarise – Question Sheet is below:
The application of knowledge based on video content follows Bloom’s Taxonomy. Included within each key idea are creative learning tasks which require students to apply their knowledge and faith to a real world scenario. We focused on students being the creators of content from their faith and knowledge rather than mere consumers.
As part of the learning tasks students are required to complete at least two learning activities before they can sit a Mastery Quiz of the Key Idea. Teachers analyse the Pre – Test data and the Watch – Summarise – Question Sheets to guide students to particular learning tasks via a Must Do/ Can Do list. By completing a minimum of two learning tasks it will provide students with enough knowledge application to complete a Mastery Quiz. An important feature of the learning tasks is the formative feedback that teachers are providing to students throughout their learning. Due to the teaching being able to focus on answering questions and providing feedback they are able to deepen their students understanding with direct instruction being recorded and accessible at any time. If students do require help with content they can be redirected to the video content, their Watch Summarise Question Sheets and the teacher in the classroom.
Mastery Quizzes are important and the final steps for students to complete for each key idea. Once a student has received feedback on their learning tasks and the teacher is comfortable with their understanding they will complete a Mastery Quiz. This Quiz covers ten multiple choice questions which relate to the learning objectives of the Key Idea. The data is sent directly to the teacher and the student receives immediate feedback via a self marking Quiz. To move onto the next key idea students must pass by 80% or more. If they do not reach this milestone they will be redirected back to a learning task and receive feedback from the teacher around their misconceptions. Another Quiz will be sent to the student with a different set of questions where they can again attempt to gain 80% or more.
Once students have completed all key ideas within the unit they complete a Post Test. This test focuses on learning objectives throughout the unit and operates via a multiple choice Quiz. Teachers are able to view the data and compare this to the Pre – Test taken at the beginning of the unit. Developments and lingering misconceptions can be viewed and shared with students for further development and discussion.
Due to the re imagination of class time we know that students and teachers will be able to see the development of knowledge and their faith with increased class time given to prayer and spiritual development as the teacher is not spending this time lecturing or providing direction instruction which has already been recorded.
The resource team will gather together in Term 4 (2017) to review and reflect upon the feedback we receive. If there is evidence that this structure and this process and these types of online resources provide an option that assists Religious Education teaching and enriches student learning in Religious Education, and we are at least heading in the right direction, albeit that we need to continually learn from the classroom feedback and refine and add to the bank of digital resources and online approaches, we would continue with our research project.
If we do continue into a fourth phase of this project, we would look to crowd source other voices and faces from teachers and students (and priests/bishop) throughout the Diocese to be the voices and faces of our knowledge/content input videos.
If we do continue we would definitely be sharing our learning and this structure and this collaborative process with the National Centre for Religious Studies (NCRS), and The Catholic Institute (TCI), and the NZCBC.
In this way, if our structure and process proves to have validity and “legs” we (i.e. RE teachers and administrators throughout the various Dioceses of New Zealand) could collaboratively crowd source and take responsibility for particular strands and thus relatively “quickly” provide such online resources to augment the teaching of our NZCBC-mandated primary (and Years 9 & 10?) RE curriculum.
Teaching today is no easy task! This is a time of great change and it is the only time we have to live in. In “Educating Today and Tomorrow: A Renewing Passion”, the Congregation for Catholic Education writers note the complexity:
Professional competence is the necessary condition for openness to unleash its educational potential. A lot is being required of teachers and managers: they should have the ability to create, invent and manage learning environments that provide plentiful opportunities; they should be able to respect students’ different intelligence’s and guide them towards significant and profound learning; they should be able to accompany their students towards lofty and challenging goals, cherish high expectations for them, involve and connect students to each other and the world. Teachers must be able to pursue different goals simultaneously and face problem situations that require a high level of professionalism and preparation.