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To Flip or Not to Flip: The Three Pillars of an Educative Experience

“I am not a teacher, but an awakener.” – Robert Frost

What is “flipped instruction”?When trying to understand what it means to flip instruction, I must admit, I’m left scratching my head. I get the need to shift from a teacher-led, lock-step, traditional approach to instruction, but there are so many moving parts when it comes to the day-to-day decisions that students and teachers make in trying to reach learning objectives. Let’s begin with a definition:

“According to Arfstrom, cofounder of the Flipped Learning Network, “FI is a pedagogical approach in which direct instruction moves from the group learning space to the individual learning space, and the resulting group space is transformed into a dynamic, interactive learning environment where the educator guides students as they apply concepts and engage creatively in the subject matter” (As cited in “An Introduction to Flipped Learning”, para 2).

A shift from direct instruction to “individual learning space”
Let’s assume that direct instruction (DI) is possible at the beginning, middle, and end of any learning sequence (i.e., series of tasks, etc.). Is the issue that direct instruction too often comes at the beginning of the learning sequence, then dominates throughout? What about inserting DI when needed, like a just-in-time instructional scenario? Simply getting away from DI avoids the question of why DI is being used in the first place.

“Individual learning space” is also an interesting concept. Let’s assume a time pre-COVID-19 and accept that most students have some technologies that allow them to interact with content and classmates in a variety of places and at a variety of times (both in and outside the classroom). In most cases, individual learning spaces are controlled by the learner (not the instructor). Yes, the instructor can assist learners to be more aware of how their learning spaces are working for them (or not), but most of the control comes from the individual learner. Bringing awareness to one’s individual learning space says little about whether or not instruction, learning, or the classroom has been “flipped”.

The purpose of flipping instruction…
The purpose of any educative experience (flipped or not) is to promote critical thinking and a learner’s emotional intelligence. Whether you subscribe to Bloom’s Taxonomy or Wiggins & McTighe’s (2005) six facets of understanding, the goal of any educative experience is to incorporate a variety of performance verbs that learners should perform (show evidence of) over time.

Newsletter Issue #1

Top Ten Links Coming Across my Socials…

Language Log » Synchronicity (

Language Log » Equal representation in the halls of quackery (

How a Hybrid Education Could Shape the Future | World of Better Learning (

Interview with Kris Jagasia, CEO of Off2Class | EFL Magazine

The Grammarphobia Blog: Ask, and it shall be given : Beloved Gym Bubbe: Translanguaging.

A thing about ‘normal’ | Seth’s Blog

After A Year Of Remote Classes, Teachers Are Meeting Students For The First Time – MindShift (

UW universities lowering costs by using public domain textbooks (

Sections of a Thesis Manuscript

Thesis Manuscript Checklist

As you begin the semester, copy-and-paste the checklist below to your personal page in . As you complete your thesis paper throughout the semester, 1) leave comments (notes) regarding questions or concerns about the section and then 2) check off each item as you complete it.

  • [ ] Title page (Unit III)
  • [ ] Approval page
  • [ ] Abstract (250 words) (Unit III)
  • [ ] Table of Contents (Unit III)
  • [ ] List of Tables (Unit III)
  • [ ] List of Figures (Unit III)
  • [ ] Title of work title (Unit III)
    • [ ] Introduction paragraph (250 words)
      • [ ] Hook
        • [ ] Famous quote (citation not required)
        • [ ] Essential question (citation not required)
        • [ ] Interesting fact or statistic (citation required)
      • [ ] Context of the problem
      • [ ] Thesis statement (Unit I)
    • [ ] Review of related literature (body paragraphs after the introduction paragraph) (2,000 – 2,500 words) (Unit I)
      • [ ] Proper level II headings (two-to-four)
      • [ ] MEAL plan (or PEE) for proper body paragraph development
      • [ ] Review organizational patterns at all three levels (i.e., coherence)
        • [ ] Level II headings align with thesis statement. (Phase I)
        • [ ] Topic sentences align with level II headings. (Phase II)
        • [ ] Evidence sentences with each body paragraph align with respective topic sentences. (Phase III)
      • [ ] Review connectors at three levels.
        • [ ] Connecting paragraphs (Phase I)
        • [ ] Connecting sentences (Phase II)
        • [ ] Connecting clauses, phrases, and words within sentences (Phase III)
      • [ ] Check mechanics
        • [ ] Capitalization, spelling, etc.
        • [ ] Proper use of punctuation
        • [ ] Grammar and vocabulary
    • [ ] Final paragraph of the literature review referred to as a “transition” paragraph
      • [ ] Restate and reword thesis statement as stated in the introduction paragraph.
      • [ ] Restate and reword the problem and state the purpose of your study.
      • [ ] Introduce your research questions (if a qualitative study) and/or hypothesis (if a quantitative study)
      • [ ] Closing statement
  • [ ] Method (Unit II)
    • [ ] Participants or subjects
    • [ ] Instruments
    • [ ] Design, procedure, and data analysis
  • [ ] Results (Unit III)
    • [ ] Tables and figures
    • [ ] Statistical presentation
    • [ ] Effect size and strength of relationship
  • [ ] Discussion (Unit III)
    • Evaluate and interpret implications by comparing and contrasting to the literature review
    • [ ] Levels of analysis
    • [ ] Application and synthesis
    • [ ] Conclusion paragraph
      • [ ] Restate and reword thesis statement.
      • [ ] State significance, relevance, or big idea of overall thesis.
      • [ ] Closing statement or famous quote
  • [ ] References (Unit I)
  • [ ] Appendix (Unit II)

Thesis Template

Flipped Learning

Closed vs. Open

A slide I created for a talk presented back on May 25, 2018 at UPTC 2018. The talk was related to teaching practice in the English language learning classroom, using my own definition of flipped learning:

Flipped learning is a framework in which interactive learning environments involve both synchronous and asynchronous communication and online and offline delivery of content and human engagement in a way that achieves short-term and long-term goals which are both personal and collective.

Thesis Seminar: Week 10 Recap

What if the data I’m collecting do not answer my research questions?

If you are collecting data that do not answer your research questions, consider the following:

  1. Do an intervention.
  2. Choose different participants (e.g., teachers).
  3. Choose different groups (i.e., from either the same teacher or another teacher).
  4. Discuss schedules with a school administrator to better understand upcoming events that could hinder the data collection process.
  5. Discuss the situation with your tutor to get some advice.

How to Triangulate Data Sources


In this episode, I discuss triangulation when doing qualitative research. Newsletter: How to Triangulate Data Sources – Benjamin L. Stewart ( 

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Adding Validity to Qualitative Studies

For those who are taking Thesis Seminar, the topic today relates to triangulating your data sources. Triangulation applies to qualitative and mixed-method studies and involves collecting two or more types of data to better understand what you are researching.

Some examples of different data sources that might apply to your study include the following:

  1. classroom observations (board work, teacher behaviors, student behaviors, classroom discourse, etc.) – required by all students.
  2. teacher interviews
  3. stimulated recall
  4. student interviews
  5. teacher focus groups
  6. student focus groups
  7. administrator interviews
  8. administrator focus groups
  9. teacher questionnaires
  10. student questionnaires
  11. administrator questionnaires
  12. parent interviews
  13. parent questionnaires
  14. parent focus groups
  15. student work (i.e., assignments, homework, projects, handouts, etc.)
  16. document or content analysis (i.e., school policies, curriculum, syllabus, lesson plan, handbooks, manuals, etc.)

From the above list, some data sources will be more appropriate than others. Your job as the researcher is to determine which combination of three data sources will best answer your research questions.

What order should I follow to collect my data?

The order in which you collect your data will depend on your research questions and the participants you have chosen for your study. Ideally, you will want to avoid influencing the participants as much as possible. If you have chosen your participants purposefully, you should have some idea that their current teaching practice is likely to provide you the data you’ll need to answer your research questions. If this turns out to be the case, then you will want to choose the data sources and the appropriate order to collect your data so as not to influence or reveal too much about your study to the teachers, students, administrators, etc. Realize that as you get into your study and you begin applying questionnaires, interviews, etc. that naturally the participants may become more knowledgeable about your study. Again, the idea is to attempt to not influence them more than you possibly can.

There might be some cases where teachers are likely to not provide you the data you need to answer your research questions. In this case, you’ll need to consider doing an intervention. An intervention is when you intervene in the study by working with the participants in a way that offers suggestions or solutions so they are more likely to provide the data you need to answer your research questions. For example, when working with a teacher, you might suggest a teaching technique, technology, etc. that will help achieve your research objective. The trick is to intervene as little as possible or gradually increase the intervention until they can perform as you intended. Once you have chosen to do an intervention, realize that what you discuss with the participants (e.g., teachers) is also a data source. What you suggest to the teachers and how they reply is a key part of the study which would later then be compared to your classroom observations, subsequent interviews, etc.

Regardless of whether you do an intervention or not, triangulate your data sources when doing a qualitative study. Avoid presenting any data unless you have at least one (preferably two) other data sources to compare it to.

Assessing Literature Reviews


In this episode, I discuss three ways I assess literature reviews: comments posted to a Word document linking to pages in, Grammarly, and a (provisional) grade. Newsletter: Assessing Literature Reviews – Benjamin L. Stewart ( 

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For those taking Thesis Seminar, I have completed feedback for your literature reviews at this point in the writing and research process. The types of feedback you will receive are as follows: comments listed in Word, writing issues detected by Grammarly, and a percentage grade.

Comments Listed in Word

The comments in Word are by far the most useful forms of feedback, in my opinion. Often, I will include a link within the comment where I suggest you go to find more on the topic: Literature Review Guide, M.E.A.L. Plan, Introduction Paragraph, Transitional Paragraph, APA Guide, and Thesis Statement, among others. Usually, I will post a comment once, expecting that you then search for any reoccurring instances of the same error to fix on your own. A good practice is to find one case where I have suggested a change to your text, let’s say on the topic of words to avoid, and then find additional words to avoid from the Literature Review Guide and locate perhaps other instances where changes to your text might be necessary (i.e., undetected cases where words to avoid were being used).


Grammarly is a mixed bag. On the one hand, it does a decent job detecting some obvious writing issues such as subject-verb agreement, passive voice, punctuation errors, etc. On the other hand, simply relying on all the suggested changes would be a grave mistake when writing an academic mistake and could actually worsen the final draft. Also, there are cases where I leave comments in Word that relate to structural or organizational changes and require a rewrite before any Grammarly check would be useful. Consider the following three scenarios to determine which would best apply to your own case:

Scenario #1: You receive a Grammarly check of your text along with my comments in Word and you determine there are sections that need to be reorganized. You take into consideration the issues detected by Grammarly when you restructure or reorganize and rewriting your text.

Scenario #2: You receive a Grammarly check of your text along with my comments in Word and you determine that the organization is fine, but changes to your mechanics are necessary. You check one-by-one each writing issue detected by Grammarly and determine if a change is needed, first taking into consideration comments that were left in Word.

Scenario #3: You do not receive a Grammarly check of your text, which is more than likely because there were enough changes needed to the text’s overall organization that a Grammarly check would be of little use.

Regardless of the three scenarios listed above, Grammarly checks can be conducted upon request throughout the writing process.

Percentage Grade

Each of you will receive a PDF file of your Word document submission with my comments along the right side of the text. The PDF file name will have your name, an underscore, and a number: 80 indicates 80% (or 8 on a scale of 1-10), 90 indicates 90% (or 9 on a scale of 1-10), etc.

Thesis Seminar: M.E.A.L. Plan (paragraph development)


In this episode, I discuss paragraph development using the acronym, M.E.A.L. (plan).

Paragraph Types

When writing a thesis paper, there are three different types of paragraphs to consider: an Introductory Paragraph, a body paragraph, a Transitional Paragraph, and a conclusion paragraph. When writing a typical five-paragraph essay, the same types of paragraphs apply except for the transitional paragraph. An introductory paragraph, transitional paragraph, and conclusion paragraph all include a thesis statement or the main idea of the entire thesis.

Body Paragraph (BP) Development

Like an essay or literature review, a BP has a beginning, middle, and end. Think of a BP as a “mini essay”. Each paragraph should develop one main idea, describing what, how, why, when, where, with whom, etc. about a single main idea. A section of a literature review contains a series of main ideas that is organized in a logical fashion: topical, categorical, process, etc. (See Organizing Your Argument). Thus, BPs are organized within each of the two-four sections of a (2,250-word) literature review in a way that builds an argument related to the section title (level II heading) that relates directly to the thesis statement (or the main idea of the entire essay).

Consider the acronym, M.E.A.L., as in MEAL plan, when developing a body paragraph. The MEAL Plan does not apply to an introduction paragraph, transitional paragraph, or conclusion paragraph.

Main Idea (Original idea-no citation): When developing a body paragraph (BP), each sentence serves a particular purpose. A BP typically begins with the main idea of the paragraph, called, “the topic sentence”. A reader should be able to get the gist of the meaning of the text by reading only the topic sentence of each BP. It’s common for English language learning writers to find it challenging to develop a topic sentence to begin each BP. Sometimes a topic sentence can be determined before developing the BP, while at other times, the topic sentence is unclear until the entire BP has been written. Either way, a topic sentence should begin each BP and express clearly the one idea (or claim; See Toulmin Method in Organizing Your Argument).

When developing a topic sentence (the main idea of the BP), there are a few things to keep in mind. 1) Try to avoid using copula verbs, the most common being the verb “to be”. As stated earlier, the topic sentence is a claim, a position, an assertion, a proposition, an opinion, etc. that represents one idea. Avoid expressing facts as a topic sentence. 2) A topic sentence should not be too general nor too specific. A topic sentence should be more specific than the thesis statement and section title (level II heading) and more general than the evidence sentences within the paragraph that express examples, details, facts, statistics, etc. To make a topic sentence more specific add prepositional phrases, relative (adjective) clauses, and subordinating (adverbial) clauses. 3) Avoid using personal pronouns in the topic sentence and instead (re)state its antecedent (i.e., the noun the personal pronoun represents). 4) Avoid questions and imperatives when writing a topic sentence. As a general rule, avoid all rhetorical questions throughout your text with the exception of perhaps an essential question in the Introductory Paragraph. 5) Avoid transitions to begin a topic sentence: introductory phrases, sentence connectors, and beginning a sentence with a subordinating clause.

Evidence (Not an original idea: citation required): When developing a literature review, the evidence (sentences) will be the citations used to support the writer’s original ideas. When developing the results and discussion section of a paper, the evidence will be the findings that result from having analyzed collected data. A good rule of thumb is to present the evidence immediately after the main idea of the paragraph (i.e., the topic sentence); that is, the second sentence of the BP. After presenting the first piece of evidence in a BP, then it’s at the discretion of the writer how evidence sentences and analysis sentences are to be stated.

Analysis (Original idea-no citation): The role of an analysis sentence is to connect the evidence to the main idea of the BP. As the writer, ask yourself the following:

  1. What is the importance of the evidence as it relates to the topic sentence (main idea of the paragraph)?
  2. What does the evidence mean to the reader of your text?
  3. How do you as the writer interpret the evidence as it relates to the main idea?
  4. How should the reader interpret the evidence in lieu of the main idea from the topic sentence?

Think of the analysis sentences as a comment, explanation, compare-and-contrast, synthesis, etc., using the writer’s critical thinking skills to interpret and express the point of the evidence as it relates to the main idea of the BP. Analysis sentences can also be used to connect ideas to other parts of the thesis paper that have already been discussed. It’s the writer’s responsibility to express why the evidence relates back to the main idea. An analysis sentence should always come after the evidence it is mentioning. Stated another way, evidence sentences should always precede an analysis sentence.

Link (Original idea-no citation): The linking sentence connects the main idea of the current paragraph (i.e., topic sentence) with the main idea of the next body paragraph and should be the last sentence of the BP. Properly including linking sentences provides flow and connects ideas throughout the section. For this reason, it’s recommended to avoid transitions to begin topic sentences as stated earlier. As an alternative, the final sentence of a BP could also serve as a summary, especially in cases when a BP concludes a section.

MEAL Plan Coherence

Since each BP sentence serves a particular purpose, the organization of how each sentence is stated can be the difference between a coherent and incoherent paragraph. Here are a few examples of BPs according to the MEAL plan (* indicate incoherent BPs) – click on the comments to see further explanations:

  • EMEAL (NO)
  • MEAEL (NO)

Transitions within Body Paragraphs

Avoid using any one type of transition (e.g., sentence connectors). Instead, mix it up a bit and include introductory phrases and subordinating clauses to being sentences within a paragraph. Avoid transitions to begin a paragraph, however.

Paragraph Length

Think of paragraph length in terms of sentences first. Typically, BPs with five-eight well-constructed sentences will have a proper length. If a paragraph has 225 words or more then, it might be necessary to separate it into two or more paragraphs.


Attribution: Intro/Outro music: Benjamin Tissot (also known as Bensound)

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