This project aimed to provide students of English as a Foreign Language at Georgetown University with improved conditions for learning English grammar. The project was implemented in parallel sections of ENFL 037 Intermediate Grammar in both Fall 2013 and Spring 2014 semesters. Fifty-one students enrolled in the courses. Most of these international students (51%) hailed from Saudi Arabia, and the vast majority (88%) intended to pursue higher education in the United States, with 43% seeking to pursue a graduate degree. For these academically-bound students, extending their use of English grammar and increasing their accuracy is vital. The classroom, unfortunately, is not always well-suited to grammar instruction. This project examined how "flipping" impacted the learning activities which, based on current theory and research, most directly result in language learning. The Principal Investigators Jennifer Lubkin and Andrew Screen hypothesized that flipping the class—moving lectures and explanation out of the class to make more room for workshopping, conferencing, and interactive practice—would create more favorable conditions for student learning.
We knew going in that this project would lead to significant professional development. Still, we couldn't have predicted the extent of professional development in terms of fundamental, if not dramatic, shifts in how we approach technology, teaching, and interactions with students.
Jennifer Lubkin & Andrew Screen
Two Intermediate Grammar classes were "flipped," meaning that lecture or teacher presentation elements of the course were digitized, and students accessed this course content during homework assignments rather than in class. Tasks for practicing the grammar which were previously assigned for homework were moved into class-time and expanded. Five main types of data were collected: data on classroom activities, student demographics, student perceptions, student performance, and teacher perceptions and were analyzed using a mixed-methods approach. Lubkin and Screen compared their results to other iterations of the course which had been taught in a traditional style.
The main finding from this study is that flipping may result in faster learning with longer lasting gains. Preliminary results from this ITEL project suggest that the immediate feedback students received online about their performance allowed feedback in class to target patterns of errors rather than individual student errors. It appears that the flip allowed for more semi- and less-controlled practice activities in class, compared to units which were not flipped. A potential challenge of the flipped style is that students were unable to interject with questions during a lecture, which is an issue that could be addressed with a different online lecture platform. The most significant impact on learning effectiveness was the speed with which students adopted relevant meta-language and could ask meaningful questions using the meta-language. While building meta-language is not a direct objective of grammar instruction, it is important in terms of having a common language for talking about grammar or discussing errors. Overall, students seemed to retain learning from flipped units better than from unflipped units, and their feedback indicates that students found the online learning to be very helpful. Due to the success of this project, Lubkin and Screen will continue to use the flipped classroom approach, pursuing the use of software to provide students with immediate feedback and to provide analytics on student performance. They are both now exploring other online, interactive resources as platforms for students to engage with course content. All of these technologies shift the presumption that learning happens with the teacher to the idea that learning happens within the student.
Lubkin, Jennifer and Andrew Screen. “Effectively flipping an ESL grammar class: An action research project.” Presented at the Conference on Language, Learning and Culture, Virginia International University, Fairfax, VA, April 11, 2014.
Screen, Andrew and Jennifer Lubkin. “Teacher and student perspectives on learning in flipped grammar course.” Presented at the Annual Convention of TESOL, Inc., Toronto, Canada, March 25-28, 2015.
Lubkin, Jennifer and Andrew Screen. “ITEL showcase: flipping language and linguistics.” Presented at Panel for the Initiative for Technology-Enhanced Learning and the Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship, Georgetown University, Washington, DC, April 10, 2014.
Screen, Andrew and Jennifer Lubkin. “Flipping a grammar class: What, why, and how?” Presented at the Annual Convention of TESOL, INC., Portland, OR, March 29, 2014.
Screen, Andrew and Jennifer Lubkin. “CLED Flipped Grammar Project.” Presented at In-service Professional Development Meeting, Georgetown University, Washington, DC, February 19, 2014.
The Prospect Issue 3: "ITEL Thematic Spotlight: Flipping the Classroom" (page 11)