Flipped Learning

Leicester College

This project aimed to embrace flipped learning in GCSE English to make our students more independent learners and to improve the learning experience.

You can download a PDF of this report on the Excellence Gateway.


Leicester College is a Post-16 College with three large campuses based in the centre of Leicester. Due to the circumstances of COVID-19, we had to rapidly rethink the way we delivered GCSE English Language. We were only going to see the students for one lesson a week and they would work remotely another lesson. Prior to the pandemic, we had seen students for two 1.75-hour sessions. Due to social distancing, we were now only able to have 12 students per class. We wanted to use a flipped learning model to encourage learners to come to the session prepared in order to make the face-to-face sessions as effective as possible. We also wanted to achieve several other objectives:

  • increase students’ motivation by completing self-led tasks
  • help students to gain confidence in their skills
  • prepare the students better for their GCSE exams
  • develop other skills that could be transferred to support other subjects and the skills needed for the workplace.

By the term “flipped learning” we refer to learning completed prior to the class to prepare for material covered in the session.


The largest challenge we have with mandated GCSE resit students is their lack of involvement in the learning process; they tend to be passive learners. Coming from school, a typical grade 3 learner has been very much ‘spoon-fed’ and they have often lost faith in their own skills. Resit students often display signs of disengagement and lack motivation, often with no interest in pursuing the subject. They frequently feel entrenched in failure. Our job is to give them hope, self-belief and encourage them to engage, whilst taking the next step of assuming responsibility for their own learning.

Clear communication is the key to success with flipped learning and all tasks must intricately link to direct teaching activities, so students can see the benefit in completing the tasks.

We also wanted to match the pedagogy to the technology and new environment that we found ourselves operating in. We aimed to find an approach that would be effective if we were teaching remotely; seeing students in class; or using a blended model. Due to the uncertainty of working during a pandemic, we needed a flexible model that could be adapted quickly and effectively during these challenging times.


We planned to use a single digital platform which would also be used within their vocational studies. This would mean students were confident in knowing where to find material, how to engage in classroom tasks and upload collaborative tasks and assignments and generally, communicate electronically. By using the Microsoft Teams’ package, we set up a Class Notebook for each class, so it had its own collaboration area and assignments. We also used Teams Assessments (linked to Microsoft Forms) to check that flipped learning had been completed.

To start Phase One, we surveyed a small sample of students to establish their attitude to flipped learning (see Appendix 2 for the survey and appendix 3 for results). We then asked the students to read a text prior to each reading lesson that was sent as an assignment in Teams. An example of the text can be seen in appendix 4. They would then answer a short MS Forms-based quiz which would check their understanding. Appendix 5 shows the type of questions that were used. By doing this, all students would be starting the class at the same point, whilst students who found reading more challenging could read the text as many times as they liked, to gain a clearer understanding. The students had the opportunity to research unknown vocabulary and for more difficult 19th century texts, could gain an understanding of the context. They also had total control over the pace of the flipped learning work.

In Phase Two, the project was expanded to include the writing lesson. We sent learners an assignment in Teams with a short video to watch relating to the upcoming writing lesson and, again there was a short MS Forms-based quiz to confirm understanding. Appendix 6 shows an example of this. We then completed a second survey referring to both reading and writing flipped learning. See Appendix 7 for questions and Appendix 8 for results. Adaptations were then made, or will be made, based on these results.

Research showed that schools that had been successful with delivering flipped learning had good parental support, (Moore, 2014). We decided to address this, and help parents understand what we were trying to achieve from the outset. Therefore, we sent out a letter early in Phase 1, informing parents that the student was required to read the text before each class in order to be prepared for the lesson.

Professional Learning: Evidence of changes in teaching, learning and assessment practices

One of the results from the staff survey

One of the results from the staff survey

We have changed our delivery model for 2021-21 based on the success of this project. We have realised that smaller groups are the only way to achieve the results that we desire. By embedding flipped learning into our model, we can keep the class sizes at the desired number of 12, for face-to-face sessions.

At the start of the year, we had three teachers who were following the flipped model. As the year progressed all of the team embraced the model with ten teachers across three sites working hard to help students adapt to this this style of learning. We have also supported the Functional Skills team to see how we can help them switch to using flipped learning next academic year.

The model has increased the interaction between students and teaching staff. Students feel comfortable messaging the teacher via Teams if they have questions, so there is far more communication and support being given between classes.

Another result from the staff survey

Another result from the staff survey

Teachers have reported a much greater level of student confidence, earlier on in the academic year, as the students tackle the texts and have become more engaged learners.

The obvious barrier was that some students would not read the text and not engage with the process. These students would then be asked to read it quickly at the start of the lesson, while the teacher moved ahead with the cohort that had read it, preferably with something more interesting such as a YouTube clip or a Kahoot quiz which helped to conclude that completing the pre-reading task had its benefits.

Evidence of improved collaboration and changes in organisation practices

In terms of equality and diversity, the opportunity to see the text before the class is particularly beneficial for students with dyslexia or other support needs. Next year, we are planning to support this further by making the recording of the text available at the start of the year, while learners find their feet and settle.
By developing a routine where we were asking students to use the same skills and essentially complete the same task each week, but with a different text, we helped to build students’ confidence. They understood what to do and how it then helped them in class.

Constantly sharing our outcomes as a team, adapting what we were doing and supporting each other with more challenging classes meant that we were able to work together to tackle any potential issues.

Microsoft Teams has proved an excellent platform, with useful upgrades being released regularly. We have had learners working on a variety of devices so the advantage of Teams being available as an app, has enabled nearly all students to engage. The chat facility has proved invaluable in establishing a relationship based on trust.

Class Notebook has worked well for most, but some students have not got the technology to access this so we have adapted, using Teams’ messaging or email instead to accept remotely completed work. We have plans to extend the use of Class Notebook in the next academic year, as this year we feel that we have not used it to its full potential because staff have had to deal with so many other changes during a pandemic.

We completed a survey of the GCSE English teaching team to understand how they found flipped learning, the positives and the negatives and to share any challenges they had encountered. See Appendix 9.

We had support from Gateshead College, who had successfully used flipped learning in their maths department. Their passion and belief in this model helped some of our more cynical staff to start to see that this was a viable option. We had a training session with Gateshead, where our staff had time to discuss their concerns and ask questions of teachers who had made this work.

Evidence of improvement in learners’ achievements, retention and progression

Some students did struggle to engage. It is hard to say if this was due to the sections of remote teaching and the impact of a pandemic in general, or if this was because of the flipped learning. More detail of our individual case studies can be found in Appendix 10 – Case Studies.

The students that we followed as case studies have shown improvement.

Overall, teachers have found flipped learning invaluable in reducing student anxiety levels, preparing students for what they will learn in class and improving their independence, thus preparing them for work. It has also helped in terms of behaviour, as anxiety is often expressed as poor behaviour. The newer writing quizzes included answers so that students know where they went wrong, and this is something that we aim to do for the reading quizzes next year.

The reduction in anxiety levels was an unintended bonus of the project. Being in a pandemic meant that an even higher number of students than normal were stating to their vocational department that they were experiencing anxiety. The quotations below are typical responses from learners who struggle with anxiety:

‘I feel less anxious because I understand what will come into the lesson and to not have to worry about it.’

‘I feel less anxious in lesson if I do pre-learning.’

Other positive comments made by students were:

‘Yes. 100%. It’s made me a much better writer and reader.’

‘Yes. I felt I have improved on my reading and writing skills compared to beginning of this year.’

‘Yes. because I don’t like getting given a text and then getting questions asked face to face because it puts me on the spot and I never used to do it before so since I started doing it it’s made me feel like I understand the work/writing.’

Most teachers confirm that in the session where the students have completed the flipped learning then more progress is made in class and students frequently complete the planned work.

Learning from this project

What went well:

  • Seeing the students face-to-face until Christmas, allowed the teacher to build a relationship with them so when the lockdown was imposed, we understood the students and how to get the best out of them. This really worked in our favour when we wanted them to continue coming to class prepared.
  • Less confident students could access the work as many times as they wanted prior to the session.
  • Students gained in confidence and came to lessons better prepared. This confidence also started much earlier in the year than usual.
  • Students developed transferable skills for the future.
  • Surprisingly, in some classes, attendance was better than in previous years.

Even better if:

  • If you start all groups with the flipped learning approach from the beginning of the academic year, it is easier to get the students in the habit and embed it in. We started some groups and then added others, as we could see results. Next year it will be part of our culture from the first day we meet the students. All our materials will be adapted to incorporate the flipped approach.
  • All teachers need to be firm from the outset with students who do not complete the work prior to class. The teachers who took a firm line got the students responding well. We need to work on supporting teachers to take this firm line. Next year, staff will be competent and confident with the digital platform and flipped learning, which should positively impact the flipped learning process.
  • The main reasons we found for non-engagement were that students could not get past seeing this as ‘homework’ so did not want to do it. They are completing full-time courses in addition to English (and sometimes maths) and are therefore under pressure from their curriculum area. Many do not have the time management skills to manage their studies: or do not see the value of achieving a GCSE. We believe all of these can be addressed by working on their mind-set and supporting students with overcoming these issues.