Coronavirus: Flipping The Classroom For Home Learning Can Be An Opportunity For Inclusion… Or Greater Exclusion

The current crisis is changing the landscape of education. In the second of our series looking at the impact of Coronavirus on schools and teaching, Professor Amanda Kirby discusses how it could be a blessing in disguise for neurodiverse learners

At this extraordinary time, we are potentially facing teaching children remotely for weeks and there are many questions to address. How will we make this a true learning experience for them provide the mechanisms to deliver in accessible formats? Is this an opportunity for more inclusive approaches or will it lead to further exclusion for some learners?

What are the potential challenges?

  1. This change has certainly not been planned so in most cases accessing computers for all and designing the delivery of lessons has not been put in place
  2. While technology is clearly a main delivery route IT skills and digital confidence will vary from teacher to teacher
  3. Internet connectivity may be difficult for teachers as well as learners
  4. Not all learners will have access to computers
  5. Not all learners will have an appropriate setting to learn from

We cannot assume that all teachers have the confidence or skills to teach remotely or the experience of having done so. Perhaps we need to start by considering how we can teach to all and not only to those who have the advantages of having parents who are digitally literate and confident are and have the means and time to support their children. This is a new learning paradigm. How do you connect with your learners? When do you connect and what is the expectation of the learner? Is attendance no longer a clear metric?

What is the flipped classroom?

Remote learning can mean a real opportunity for personalised learning. For learners with additional learning challenges this can be a golden opportunity to deliver true differentiation and help learners capitalise on their strengths.

Using flipped classroom approaches offers the potential for learners to seek out answers from their surroundings as well as from online sources and they can present their findings to the teacher in different formats. This can allow learners who have lower literacy levels or weaker writing skills to present information visually or orally.

It matters less that teaching methods are ensured than that the learning outcomes are achieved for each learner.

A key feature of the flipped classroom approach is to take into consideration the unique needs of each learner. This is rarely the key focus in a traditional classroom setting.

A pre-recorded instruction in flipped classroom can be given through an online modality (phone or computer) to help the learner listen to the concepts. Alternatively, the learner can read the guidance, or it could be spoken to them (using text- to- speech software).

The learner can listen to the instructions, several times if they want to, especially if they have working memory difficulties. Pre-recorded lessons or other digital learning content can be reviewed at home as many times as necessary and at a time that suits them. This can result in increased understanding. In a traditional classroom setting a learner may be reluctant to ask for information to be repeated several times especially in front of their peers. Learners whose first language is not English can translate information into their main language.

Learners also get more of a chance to prepare for a lesson in advance compared with a less controlled teaching setting. For those learners, for example with ADHD where maintaining focus and sitting still can be a real challenge, they are able to move around more freely. For other learners where group interaction causes anxiety, the ability to engage without the ‘camera on them’ can free them to be involved in greater discourse.

More of the time in a flipped classroom is directed at helping the learner with their assignments or answering their queries. This allows the teacher to stay more involved with the learner and focus more time on one-to-one mentorship as and when required.

Home working may also allow a more flexible start time to a school day and this may also be advantageous for the teenager learner with a changing circadian rhythm who could often be ‘asleep’ till 10 a.m. in a traditional school setting.

It has been recognised that most adolescents undergo a sleep phase delay, which means a tendency toward later times for both falling asleep and waking up. Research shows the typical adolescent’s natural time to fall asleep may be 11 pm or later. Because of this change in their internal clocks, teens may feel wide awake at bedtime, even when they are exhausted.

A pertinent quote by Carskadon: ‘Given that the primary focus of education is to maximize human potential, then a new task before us is to ensure that the conditions in which learning takes place address the very biology of our learners.’

It has been shown that ensuring adequate sleep can improve:

  • Memory & learning
  • Attention
  • Emotional regulation
  • Mental health and well-being, and even weight control

https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/backgrounder-later-school-start-times https://www.apa.org/pi/families/resources/school-start-times.pdf

So where do we start with this change in delivery?

How do you design content for a flipped classroom? How much do you need scaffold tasks i.e. breaking up the learning into chunks and then provide the tool, or structure, with each chunk? How much will you need to differentiate for your learners for example by allowing the learning outcomes to be presented in different formats or alter the tasks to be completed?

There are 6 key approaches that could be used remotely:

The standard inverted classroom: Learners are assigned the “homework”. This could be recorded lectures or reading materials relevant to the next day’s lesson. During class session time, the content is gone over again with the class.

The faux-flipped classroom: The flipped classroom for more mature and independent learners. In some cases, teachers provide some TV/video materials (The teacher can choose programmes being shown on television that day) and then spend some time with other learners.

The demonstration-focused flipped classroom: This is especially important when the learner needs to see how to learn a skill such as in a science class. The learner can watch the video as many times as they require. Screen recording software is useful for this.

The discussion-oriented flipped classroom: Teachers assign recorded lectures or reading materials. This could be TED Talks, YouTube videos, and other web or paper-based resources. Lesson time focuses on discussion and further exploration of the subject. This works for history or the arts.

A virtual flipped classroom: This has already happened in some colleges and universities where all lectures are videoed and placed on online learning management systems. This requires learners to attend tutorials rather than sit in a traditional lecture or class setting.

Flipping the teacher: While we are worried about creating extensive content at short notice the last model allows us to flip the narrative. This is where the learners make materials they can share with other learners and teach the class. We know that in 2019, 79% of UK adults (18+) owned a smartphone. When designing delivery routes perhaps think about smart phones. The video camera function means users can produce short videos or audio materials.

If you want to create materials for a flipped classroom this link has some really useful guidance. https://education.microsoft.com/en-us/course/8ebc6daf/overview

What about content and delivery modes?

UNESCO has published this excellent resource in response to the global impact coronavirus is having on learning. They have a list of learning platforms that allow not only smartphone usage but also for those with low bandwidth needs. Their list also includes of sites for self-directed learning content including free training such as Khan Academy.


The one certainty is that need to be prepared for change and a new ‘normal’ for the time being but this may end up being a disruptive time, changing the face of learning for future students.

Professor Amanda Kirby is a professor in developmental disorders in education. She has a specific interest in digital delivery and is the CEO of Do-IT Solutions. This provides screening and assessment tools for children and adults especially focusing on ascertaining the strengths of those who are neurodivergent and helping support challenges. See www.doitprofiler.com