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Flipping Bloom: What Flipped Learning Can Mean For ESL Students

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By Susan Gaer

I have thought about writing this for quite some time. What is flipped learning? In 1948 Benjamin Bloom developed Bloom’s Taxonomy. This taxonomy determined learning. There were six tiers to get through and students needed to progress through the first tier before moving on to the second, and so on.

Curriculum design was based on this conceptual model; learners had to go through each tier before moving on. It was almost impossible to get through all six levels in one lesson. The taxonomy became the way we learned and objectives, curriculum and even most recently SLOs (student learning outcomes) reflected this. In the 1990’s, Lorin Anderson, a colleague of Benjamin Bloom, revised the taxonomy to six tiers and changed the nouns to verbs.


But essentially nothing had changed. In 2000, three professors from the University of Miami conducted research on the “Inverted Classroom”.


Their conclusion was that taking the lectures out of the classroom and into the Internet, allowed for more learning. Due to the lack of publicity, few people heard of this research. You Tube wasn’t born until 2005, and when Jonathan Bergmann and/or Aaron Sams came up with the term flipped learning in 2007, it went viral.

What flipped learning does, is to turn the taxonomy upside down to  look like this.

bloom_pyramid-2-300x321 If you start with the creating, the remembering will naturally follow. We do this in ESL classes all the time. This model can be particularly useful for ESL students as class time is used to explore and apply ideas and practice language with their peers.  Fill in the blank activities, videos, grammar points, and writing revisions can be done at home.

This can create a more interactive, student-centered environment, with students having prepared vocabulary and background information before the lesson.

It is by no means a short cut. The flipped model requires preparation in terms of recording video tutorials or researching appropriate media resources to meet the proficiency level of ESL students. However, there are many publisher textbooks which are utilizing a large number of these resources with their lessons. These resources are ideal to use in the flipped classroom. Ultimately this would allow for more interaction time in the class.

My thoughts are that you start with the creating and the learning will follow. That is what “flipped learning” is to me. So I am all for it! What are your thoughts?

The Community College level workshop at CATESOL is on “Flipped Learning.” We invite you to join in on the discussion on Saturday from 1:15-2:15 at San Diego Town and Country Resort.


MindShift post Flip This: Bloom’s Taxonomy Should Start with Creating – May 2012

Susan Gaer is an ESL Professor and Basic Skills and Instructional Technology Coordinator at Santa Ana College School of Continuing Education.

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