Flipped Learning Case Study: Beginners French I & II


Based on an interview with Anna Pletnyova, Department of Languages, Linguistics, Literature, and Culture, written by Ashley Weleschuk, Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning

May 2018

Course title

Beginners French I & II 

Student profile

All undergraduate students; mix of French majors and minors 

Class size

34 students

Format

In-person, small, traditional classroom with stationary desks

Reflections

How would you describe your typical flipped classroom?

The focus of the course was speaking and communicating in French using proper grammar. The required textbook for the course came with a code that unlocked online resources for students, including short (10 minutes or less) videos that explain proper grammar and tenses. Students were asked to watch these videos at home and read short textbook passages to prepare to apply the content in class. Occasionally they would also be assigned short readings about French history and culture. Classes started with a short review of the focus of the homework. Then students participated in group work, including describing an experience, role-playing a scenario, playing games, or just speaking to one another in French. After class, students reviewed the content through D2L quizzes, further readings, and videos.

What was your motivation to get started with flipped learning? How did you start?

Lecture time is limited. Each class is only 50 minutes long. In order for students to effectively learn a language, they need to dedicate at least an extra hour outside of class to studying and practicing. Students don’t always have someone to practice speaking with outside of class, or they may be intimidated to practice with native speakers, but all students can work on the foundations of grammar and vocabulary on their own. Anna was really motivated to get the most out of class time, so focused it on conversations, and let students study the content in their own time. Anna started by flipping a few topics at a time. Some days, she ran traditional lectures, while other days were flipped. This helped her and her students adjust to the flipped methods.

What were you excited about? What were you concerned about?

Anna enjoyed seeing students working together and developing their skills as a group. She also found that she was meeting her goal of using class time more effectively for her students. Her biggest concern was that students would not do the pre-class work and would not be prepared to engage in good conversations in class. In such a diverse group of students, some students were very engaged, while others needed more motivation to do the pre-class work. She introduced short reviews at the start of class and used classroom polling tools such as Kahoot and Socrative to ensure that everyone was on track with the content.

What was your biggest challenge and how did you address it?

One of the biggest challenges Anna and her students faced was managing the non-flexible learning space. The classroom was small and there was very little room to move the desks from being in rows to being in groups. It was difficult to form new groups every class. They just had to use the space as well as they could, but it still felt restrictive. In future iterations of the course, she is hoping to find a more flexible space that allows students to move around and easily work in groups.

What tips do you have for other instructors to engage students in flipped learning?

Anna encourages instructors to try flipped learning in their classes. She says that the results are worth the effort and challenges of making the change. Flipping single lessons is an easy way to test out the practice in a more low-stakes way. Students need a space to practice skills (such as speaking a new language) where they are able to try and make mistakes, and flipped learning can provide this environment. That idea is a good source of motivation for flipped learning.

What was your biggest take-away from the experience?

Anna feels that the flipped model fits well with how language is learned. Students want to practice their conversation skills together, so they should be given opportunities to do so. Working together with their peers helps build confidence and skills in the language. Her students had a positive experience with the method and were able to learn a lot in the course. She believes flipped learning and new technology should be incorporated into more language courses to help promote student-centered learning. She is excited to see more classrooms become flipped, especially as new types of technology is introduced into classrooms.

Assessment and Technology

How did you assess students in the class? Were there any differences from a traditional class?

The flipped model did not impact how students were assessed in the course. Four D2L quizzes, created by course coordinator, were used as low-stakes assessment tools. They each had 100 short multiple choice and fill-in-the-blank questions about vocabulary, grammar and French culture that reflected the questions being asked on larger term tests. They could be attempted multiple times by each student. Some students chose to skip the quizzes because they were worth such a small percentage of the course grade, but those students always did much worse on the larger exams.

The other course assessments were fairly traditional for a language class: oral work, compositions, and dictations.

What kind of technology do you use?

The online textbook and associated videos were used for students to prepare before class. These resources were particularly useful because the videos were directly based on the course material, so Anna did not have to search extensively to find them or create her own to ensure that they had relevant material. Kahoot and Socrative were used in class to do quick checks that the students had completed the assigned homework before class. It is important to ensure that all students have either a smart phone or computer with internet access with them to use these tools, but if they do, they are simple to set up and use. D2L was also used extensively for quizzes and communications. Most students were already quite familiar with the platform, so using it was easy and convenient for them.

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