As the end of the year and IB exams approach, I’ve had a number of conversations with other IB teachers about the difficulty of teaching the whole of the Higher Level course properly. Despite the recommended teaching time for the course being 240 hours, I have never met a teacher at any school who gets this amount of classroom time to teach the course.
This led us onto talking about how we coul get around this issue. It seems obvious that the only way to do it is to require the students to do a lot of the initial learning independently. Asking students to just read the textbook is not generally effective as they often don’t do it or don’t properly absorb the content. However, there is now a huge amount of content online, in the form of YouTube tutorials, TED-Ed videos etc.. I have dabbled with using these in the past and I know that some of the more motivated students seek them out anyway. However, in my conversations wiht other teachers, we concluded that using these was essential to be able to teach the course properly, as well as teaching the students how to work independently in this way.
I know flipped classrooms are not a new concept, but it seems to me they are not yet widely used. With the number of quality video tutorials available, such as those produced by Khan Academy etc, classroom time can be freed up to practice application of and transfer of knowledge rather than learning the content. Of course, the other benefit of YouTube tutorials is that they can be paused or watched repeatedly to help understanding.
I don’t believe that just asking students to watch the videos would in itself be a particularly effective strategy. Just as with reading the textbook, some students need a push before they will consistently engage with this kind of independet learning. This is a great benefit of TED-Ed, where you can attach questions, notes and other resources to the videos.
I don’t think the IB are ever going to reduce the number of classroom hours of teaching they recommend, and I doubt the school year will be getting longer anytime soon, so teachers who have to prepare students for these terminal exams are just going to have to find ways of more efficiently delivering content. I believe that this is probably the way forward – getting students to learn the initial content independently and using class time to practice applying that new knowledge. To a certain extent, maybe we are “wasting time” by teaching new concepts from scratch in the classroom – they are usually exaplained just as (or if not more….) effectively in the videos. Our main role then is to help them make connections and apply their knowledge in different contexts in the classroom.