Learning turned on its head lets students soar

Flipped classrooms

Flipped learning: Students discuss their leagal studies tasks with teacher Gordon Bobin. Photo Kitty Beale

It has turned the usual approach to homework and classwork on its head, but students taking Legal Studies and Ancient History electives with Gordon Bobin wouldn’t change a thing.

The De La Salle Revesby teacher introduced the ‘flipped classroom’  in 2014, where teachers provide a lecture or content for the students to read or watch at home before a lesson, then set ‘homework-like’ activities for students to work on in class. Though Year 12 Ancient History students mastered content ahead of their trial HSC examinations in July this way, it is the first year the school will used the model of teaching for an entire course – Year 11 Legal Studies.

“I really like it because it is preparing seniors to be independent learners and to take more accountability for their learning,” Mr Bobin said.

“When they get to university it will help them out. The older kids have a lot of demands on their time. They have other subjects and a lot of them have commitments outside of school – football training, soccer training – so it’s empowering them by giving them the flexibility of not having a specific thing due each night. They can plan their time accordingly to a degree.”

Mr Bobin said though the four lessons Year 11 Legal Studies students had each week were structured – Monday for revision, Tuesday to meet a new topic, and the others to work individually or with peers on questions and case reports – students have until midnight on Saturday to submit set tasks for the week.  The questions and readings are prepared in full for the term and students can access them via a website for the subject. Jack Hure and classmates are fans of the structured, yet fluid, approach to learning.

“I’m a pretty organised sort of person so I love the way it works,” he said. “You learn independently and I think that’s important for the future. It’s pretty open to whatever you want to do. Mr Bobin makes sure that if you do the questions on your own you understand the concepts. He’ll look over them and give you pointers, but if you have the confidence to do them yourself he won’t stop you.”

Christian Gourlas, said he appreciated the flexibility the subject gave.

“It’s not like a Maths lesson where the teacher gets up and explains a concept for 15 minutes and says ‘go do the work’,” he said. “It’s active discussion and Mr Bobbin proposes questions to actively challenge us. When a topic does become a bit harder you talk about it and it gets explained in detail.

“The fact that we have a weekly deadline … makes getting work done a lot easier, and to be honest, a lot more enjoyable. You’re not rushing things because you’ve been out and only have an hour to complete a task. A higher quality of work comes from that increased flexibility.”

A flipped classroom has helped Year 12 Ancient History students Matthew Masetto and Anthony Harb remember details about Ancient Rome and Greece’s Spartan society.

“The discussion part brings it all together,” Matthew said.  “It’s probably the most effective way to learn especially for Ancient History where there’s so much to remember. We do four topics, and with different stages in history it’s a bit hard sometimes, but this way you know the syllabus off by heart at the end of term.  The questions ask us to link information to sources and artefacts. By the time you’ve finished you have a structured response that you could easily put into an essay or any question.”

Anthony Harb said he gets his best result from the flipped structure.

“The work we do is really good because I’m a person who likes working more in groups,” he said. “You feel less pressure coming up to exams because you know the content really well.”


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