#rEDFE Empowering students’ to find their own way through the trees

#rEDFE Empowering students’ to find their own way through the trees


These notes are based on my presentation delivered at the inaugural researchED Further Education and Vocational Conference held on Saturday 3rd December 2016 at BSix College Hackney London.

Engaging learners through the flip learning method and discovering that there are other ways to deliver land navigation techniques


As a lecturer in adventure activities within the further education sector I am always looking for innovative ways to assist learners in acquiring skills. Whilst using established methods to teach land navigation techniques I am constantly looking at new ideas and developments in teaching this subject. Attending the “Understanding the Art of Flip Learning” seminar at Loughborough University on 2nd September 2014 #flipart14 provided evidence that the flip learning teaching method engaged learners and produced improved outcomes. Five researchers all from a higher education background presented their findings at this seminar on the value of flip learning. The information that follows is based on the presentations from:

Prof. Simon Lancaster University of East Anglia

Dr. David Dye Imperial College London

Dr. Jeremy Pritchard University of Birmingham

During this seminar I was also introduced to a method of teaching through ideas (concepts) rather than teaching to a recipe or to a set of instructions. I found this particularly interesting as it may help to reduce the copy and paste internet sources students use to describe various land navigation functions such as obtaining a six figure grid reference and how to obtain a bearing on a base-plate compass. Coming back enthused I looked at ways in which I could introduce both methods in my delivery to students studying land navigation as part of an Edexcel Level 3 BTEC Subsidiary Diploma in Public Services. There were 56 students on this course and throughout the research stage these students were utilised to test findings in both theoretical and practical land navigation activities.

Flip learning

In essence, “flipped learning” means that students gain first exposure to new material outside of class, usually via reading or lecture videos, and then use “class” time to do the harder work of assimilating that knowledge, perhaps through problem-solving, discussion or debates.


Why flip?

The traditional teaching method in HE is the lecture and this is a didactic process which provides a baseline knowledge and understanding both of which are low levels on Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning with the process being passive not active learning. After the lecture students are then encouraged to improve upon this with personal research. However, for flip learning the students attain this base-level before the lecture through completing pre-learning activities leaving the lecture time free to apply this learning. To enhance knowledge flip learning in the HE environment is achieved through students learning through concepts not a set of recipes (ideas v instructions).

Putting flip learning into practice using a HE science module as an example

To ensure that flip learning embraces the learners a task needs to be drawn up which inspires students to look afresh and seek out unseen/unknown problems and suggest solutions on how they might be solved.

Task: Develop a better steel for a road bridge in an extreme environment

Objective: Stuff matters (to the student)

Assessment – link to module’s criteria and on-line content needs to support this

Context – provide a realistic work related scenario

Vocational interaction – skills needed for work in future as a scientist

Results provide evidence that flip learning was found to increase:

Engagement – encouraged wider reading

Performance – grade profile improved

Promoted ownership!

All above provide benefits in future careers as a scientist: “I felt like a real scientist” were remarks by students. I was impressed with this statement and I wanted to make our students feel like real navigators! During the presentation I put forward Roald Amundsen as an example of a competent land navigator as he led his team to the South Pole, the first humans to get there. His team looked at navigation problems on the way back to base with locating supply depots. These had food and fuel, and it was essential for their survival that they found them. They solved this problem by using a new land navigation technique they developed and every supply depot was located without difficulty and the result was all the team arrived back to base safely. This is in contrast to Scott and his team who had made it to the South Pole a month after Amundsen but had problems locating their supply depots on the home bound route with the result that everyone perished. Amundsen’s technique is still used today under the term aiming off. Amundsen is certainly an excellent example of a competent land navigator.


Overall flip learning works in HE taking the following into consideration:

  1. Concept (ideas)
  2. Active learning
  3. Vocational interaction – real issue
  4. Frame the challenge – why they need to know?
  5. Unseen/unknown problems – how are these solved?
  6. On-line interaction – videos on VLE with Q & A

With this underpinning students will hopefully have a “Lasting understanding” and a “Proper understanding.”

Flip learning what I did for Edexcel Level 3 BTEC Public Services:

Using the above summary I devised the following:

  1. Move from teaching recipes to concepts
  2. Active learning and introducing low level practical sessions in preparation for assessment during two full day navigation events – walking and orienteering
  3. Vocational interaction – navigation skills in a public services environment
  4. Framed the challenge – how do we become a competent navigator?
  5. Posed unseen/unknown navigation problems
  6. Generated on-line content via college VLE and Scoop It curation

Link to Scoop It curation: http://www.scoop.it/t/land-navigation

Developed the 4 D’s of Land Navigation model

Teaching through concepts and the development of the 4 D’s of Land navigation Model 

Ideas regarding the key themes of land navigation were based on requirements for an effective navigation system noted by Professor Kate Jeffery in Navigation News Sep/Oct 2014. The key themes being: Where are we? Where are we going to? Which way are we going? How far is it?

These became the 4 D’s: detection, destination, direction and distance.

They then formed the set of concepts. Critical characteristics of these concepts were then formulated and these were then discussed with students and they provided comments. A summary of these characteristics were then defined through personal research and student interaction. The next stage involved developing, refining and collating these critical characteristics.

The 4 D’s of Land Navigation Model – concepts with their associated critical characteristics

4ds-of-navigation-jpegThe 4 D’s of Navigation Model’s concepts integrated into a course delivery scheme (BTEC) – concepts located in bottom left hand corner


Did using flipped learning techniques work?

  1. On-line interaction through VLE with Q&A and links to Scoop It curation only partially successful with 50% of students actively engaged over the entire unit time frame – September to January
  2. However, these students achieved higher grade profiles than those that did not fully engage in pre-learning
  3. This evidence suggests a link in student initiative and their on-going development of independent learning techniques but ……
  4. Result could also relate to students personal interest in topic
  5. Positive on-line feedback with these active learners provided information to develop the 4 D’s navigation model.

Did delivery using concepts work?

  1. Utilising concepts was largely delivered in session time either classroom based or during practical outdoor activities
  2. Nothing like this on the internet so effectively primary research undertaken by both teacher and students – no copy/paste
  3. Land navigation concepts and critical characteristics were developed through student engagement by face to face discussions this resulted in a perceived ownership with 100% involvement
  4. Performance – students developed real life solutions to unseen/unknown problems during practical navigation activities
  5. Used experiential learning method based on concepts they helped develop
  6. This interaction provided evidence for the 4 D’s Land Navigation model to be included in future delivery scheme

Scholarly activity

An article based on the development of the 4 D’s Land Navigation model was published by the Institute of Outdoor Learning in Horizons 73, Spring 2016

Title: Land Navigation – Coaching Concepts


Also I presented findings at the Nottingham Trent University’s Trent Institute for Learning and Teaching (TILT) Conference held on 5th July 2016



‘Understanding the Art of Flip Learning’ seminar held on 2nd September 2014 at Loughborough University #flipart14

Walter Parker in Concept Formation http://teachinghistory.org/teaching-materials/teaching-guides/25184

Professor Kate Jeffery ‘Navigation Networks in the Brain’ published by the Royal Institute of Navigation in “Navigation News” September/October issue (2014)

More on concepts http://cmap.ihmc.us/docs/concept.php

Students studying the Edexcel Level 3 BTEC Subsidiary Diploma in Public Services