The complexity of the classroom is overwhelming for a pre-service teacher. Inclusive learning, differentiation, classroom management and rich content knowledge are challenging enough to achieve simultaneously for experienced teachers let alone pre-service teachers. As I reflect on my own educative experience, I wonder where improvements could have been made. Questions left hanging by nervous parents, or even their absence, and ‘hit or miss’ instruction that either empowered or disillusioned me were at the forefront of my reflections. Some of the most fruitful experiences of learning came later from self-paced autonomous learning, and the sharing of insights gained from these investigations. The proliferation of digital resources has meant that students need only know what they need in order to pursue a particular direction. Similarly, parents can also reduce their anxiety through the exploration of these digital resources with their children. Such a shift in learning lends itself well to the experiential and emerging pedagogical approach of the flipped classroom.
There is no universal academic definition of the flipped classroom since it is an emerging pedagogical approach and the research is not exhaustive. For the purposes of this article, the flipped classroom is defined as inverting what is done inside the classroom and what is done outside the classroom (Abeysekera & Dawson, 2015; Lage, Platt, & Treglia, 2000). The idea is to provide a suite of options for students to use in learning. The instructor focuses on the desired outcome, and the students choose the best means to reach it (Lage et al., 2000). Bishop & Verleger (2013) claim that the flipped classroom consists of two parts: interactive group learning activities inside the classroom, and computer based individual instruction outside of the classroom.
This article explores the link between parent involvement in their child’s mathematical education and the student’s achievement in mathematics. Parental attitudes and parental content knowledge are two areas that are explored more deeply. Since there is more expectation for parental involvement at home, the flipped classroom approach is unpacked and suggested as one way to encourage greater parental involvement. The flipped classroom approach is explored more deeply through the lenses of inclusive and autonomous learning.
PLACING THE TOPIC AND THE LITERATURE
The net of literature was cast wide given the scarcity of research on the flipped classroom. Definitions and case studies are borrowed from primary, secondary and tertiary settings in locations inside Australia and abroad. Parental involvement articles are easier to source for the Australia primary school although larger scale research is sourced from abroad.
The justification for the literature can be simplified into the following sequence:
- Parental involvement is seen as a major influence in a child’s education.
- The flipped classroom demands that students become more autonomous and self-directed through greater content investigation outside of the classroom.
- The parents can play a larger role in facilitating the outside classroom investigation, and they can be supported by digital and interactive resources.
ATTITUDES AND KNOWLEDGE OF PARENTS
There appears to be much consensus amongst researchers that a child’s home environment and parental involvement have a significant effect on their mathematical attitudes and achievement (Balli 1998; Desforges and Abouchaar, 2003; Parsons, Adler & Kaczala, 1982 as cited in Sheldon & Epstein, 2005). Merttens (1999, as cited in Pritchard, 2004) sees a parent’s role as crucial to learning, describing it as “the single biggest factor in children’s educational success” (p.479). One of a pair of themes identified through the literature is parental attitudes towards mathematics, which is seen to extremely influence a student’s performance in mathematics (Hall & Davis, 1999; as cited in Pritchard, 2004). In a study by Pritchard (2004), parents claim that prior school mathematical experiences are a significant factor in forming attitudes. When these attitudes are negative, children are at risk of inheriting the same beliefs. Civil (2001; as cited in Muir, 2012) reinforces this claim when she identifies issues amongst parents such as lack of confidence, of feeling inadequate at mathematics, and of feeling alienated. We can unpack these ideas further and separate them into two main sources of friction: a disparity between the mathematics taught today and the mathematics learned by the parent; and, the lack of content knowledge possessed by the parent as mathematics increases in complexity through the years (Sheldon & Epstein, 2005).
As educators, we have the ability to influence and ease both sources of friction by providing support to parents through the activities we send home with their children. A study in the U.S from Sheldon & Epstein (2005) revealed that providing mathematical information and ideas to families was the most effective way to improve student mathematical achievement. This information comes in two forms: teacher-designed interactive homework; and, homework assignments where students communicate their mathematical ideas and thinking to family members. No comparable wide-scale studies have been undertaken in Australian or New Zealand; instead, general resources are made available to encourage parent participation in mathematics education (Muir, 2012). Moreover, Muir suggests that parents would be more willing to be involved in their child’s mathematical education if they fully understood the mathematics along with knowing more about current mathematical pedagogical practices. If we can empower the parents to understand the content and modify their attitudes towards mathematics then we can hope to see a positive shift in the learning of the child. We will now transition to an exploration of the flipped classroom, a rudimentary and experiential approach, in an attempt to promote a parent’s active involvement in their child’s learning.
INCLUSIVE LEARNING AND AUTONOMY PROMOTED BY THE FLIPPED CLASSROOM
Conventional classroom formats place much pressure on the teacher to cater for all students in their class. Teachers are encouraged to use a range of teaching styles in order to reach their audience. A more inclusive classroom environment, such as the flipped classroom allows students who do not learn best in the traditional format to learn in alternative ways (Lage et al., 2000). One of the perceived benefits of the flipped classroom is that of self-pacing of content. Abeysekera & Dawson (2015) highlight that self-paced preparatory work might better manage working memory than that of traditional instruction. This leads to students becoming more active participants in the classroom, as they are seeded with content. Critics of the flipped classroom argue that it reduces student creativity with a return to behaviouralist practice, and that students may not complete the required work before class. The scene is even pricklier for primary school students, as homework is not as prevalent as it is in the middle to senior years of schooling. But if we do move some instruction outside of the classroom, we can then call on our parents to learn alongside their children. Educators can then tailor or differentiate the content to suit the level of the individual, and the teacher can resume the role they perform most competently: facilitator (Abeysekera & Dawson, 2015).
Lastly, the literature surfaces autonomy as another perceived benefit of the flipped classroom approach. ‘Learning environments created by the flipped classroom approach are likely to satisfy needs for competence, autonomy, and relatedness and this entices greater levels of intrinsic motivation’ (Abeysekera & Dawson, 2015, p. 10). The flipped classroom approach focuses on placing the student at the centre of the learning process. Students are expected to uncover material themselves away from the classrooms, and actively contribute to collaborative group environments inside the classroom. While the flipped classroom approach suggests an efficient model to challenge traditional classroom settings, research is thin on the subject. Most papers are based on single case studies, and little has been explored in a primary school setting. To adopt a flipped classroom approach to a primary school setting, all instruction cannot be moved to outside of the classroom. Rather, we can explore the components of the flipped classroom approach such as pre-class activities, post-class activities and self-paced videos, and integrate these into our instruction and guidance (Abeysekera & Dawson, 2015).
This article has attempted to highlight ways to improve a student’s mathematical achievement through greater parental involvement. Parents claim to feel unsupported, and incompetent at or incongruent with current mathematical strategies, which can become an influencing factor on the child’s mathematical attitudes, beliefs and outcomes. In order to support parents at home, the flipped classroom is suggested as one way to engage parents with their child’s learning. Other student learning benefits of this approach include learning that is more inclusive and tailored to their needs, learning that demands more autonomy from the student and learning environments that allow the educator to focus on expert facilitation. Since there is no uniform academic definition on what the flipped classroom entails, current research is unable to be standardised and generalised given the inconsistency, small scale and depth of studies. As Abeysekera & Dawson (2015) note, ‘the flipped classroom approach is under-evaluated, under-theorised, and under-researched’ with the little research that has been done relying on designs that are not particularly rigorous (p. 3). This article sees this as an exciting exploratory area, which can be a real challenger in shaking up the traditional classroom format.
Abeysekera, L., & Dawson, P. (2015). Motivation and cognitive load in the flipped classroom: definition, rationale and a call for research. Higher Education Research & Development, 34(1), 1-14.
Bishop, J. L., & Verleger, M. A. (2013). The flipped classroom: A survey of the research. Paper presented at the ASEE National Conference Proceedings, Atlanta, GA.
Lage, M. J., Platt, G. J., & Treglia, M. (2000). Inverting the Classroom: A Gateway to Creating an Inclusive Learning Environment, 30.
Muir, T. (2012). Numeracy at home: Involving parents in mathematics education. International Journal for Mathematics Teaching and Learning(25 January 2012), 1-13.
Pritchard, R. (2004). Investigating parental attitudes and beliefs in mathematics education.
Sheldon, S. B., & Epstein, J. L. (2005). Involvement counts: Family and community partnerships and mathematics achievement. The Journal of Educational Research, 98(4), 196-207.