Prerequisite Learning Design Knowledge
In the previous section, you analyzed information about your students and your objective. Now we are going to look at how working memory (the brain’s immediate experience) can be best utilized to improve learning in a flipped classroom. As you can see from the image at the top of the page, there are 5 aspects of learning that you have to initially consider.
Obviously, in order to learn, people have to pay attention, however, there are many distractions that can take students’ attention away. There are three aspects of attention that you have control over:
- Because people can’t listen and read at the same time, they often find it annoying when presenters read the text on their slides. If you are preparing a slide show as your flipped component, put key points and relevant images on your slides and write a script for uwhat you need to say. Don’t make your head the focus of the video unless you are using your image to teach a key point.
- People have trouble paying attention for more than 15 minutes. Flipping allows you to chunk content into more manageable pieces. If you are recording lectures, aim for 8-12 minutes per show and organize content around 1 objective at a time.
- Use questions. Our students have a Pavlovian response to being asked a question, so use questions to focus attention on what to look for in article and videos.
The more relevant content is to student’s current lives, the more focused their attention will be. Information that can be incorporated into current schema (an organized pattern of thought or behavior) will be easier to retrieve from long term memory. This is why you analyzed who your students are in the previous section. Some of the ways to improve relevance in a flipped classroom are:
- Tell patient stories – There are some excellent online resources such as Stories from the Saskatchewan Health Region.
- Ask students to remember a relative or friend with health issues.
- Begin illness scripts that students will build on over time. Start with the common diagnoses.
- Use graphic organizers that link what participants learned previously to keypoints they will learn next.
Novice learners don’t have the patterns that you have, so they need structures that help them see relationships. Once they have created schema of their own, the scaffolding isn’t as useful or necessary. Some examples of scaffolding are:
- Concept maps/graphic organizers/illness scripts
Content primarily enters working memory in 4 forms: images, sounds, movement and emotions. Movement is the most poorly understood of the input tools but writing, typing, drawing and manipulating instruments are common examples. Smell is less useful in classroom settings, but can be very relevant in clinical settings. When planning your flipped classroom, try to include at least two of the inputs in every activity.
V. Cognitive Overload
Cognitive overload is the barrier that stops information from reaching memory. As a rule of thumb, about 7 items is the limit of how much information working memory can hold at any one time. Beyond that point, either earlier steps, ideas and facts will be lost in order to access the new learning or the brain will stop paying attention and new content will not be retained. Fatigue and hunger decrease the amount of material accessed, which is why you need to know about students’ overall work load. If information isn’t accessed by working memory, it can’t be stored in long term memory. If students cram information for exams, it often doesn’t get processed into long term memory and is lost post-exam.
Design The Outside Class Activity
- Start with an objective or learning step that you would like the students to learn before class which requires them to memorize X. Spend some time thinking about how this objective might be best learned. (There are some ideas here.) Pick three or four methods that fit the objective.
- Set some criteria the method has to meet, such as cost, time to construct, technology availability, availability of outside resources, etc. and narrow the choices to two. Pick one that appeals to you (start small).
- Create the resource, considering the 5 points in the prerequisite section.
- Ask someone else to look at the resource with fresh eyes and give you feedback.
- Pilot the content and ask for student feedback.
Stay tuned for next post on Creating Videos and on Designing the Flipped Classroom Time.