Applying F-L-I-P to Professional Development
Four tips to change the way you help your staff grow. By Kristin Daniels and Aaron Sams
Flipped learning has become all the buzz in progressive education circles. As it has become more popular, some educators have gone beyond the basics to create dynamic classrooms, while others are confused about what exactly flipped learning is and how to implement it correctly.
For flipped learning to be effective, it must have a solid foundation. It’s common to talk about the four pillars of flipped learning, concepts created to establish a universal language and reflect the best practices of effective flipped classrooms. Below, we examine these pillars and describe how to best use these methods with your staff.
Teacher expectations about professional development are changing. Access to digital content is allowing educators to push forward with their own curiosity and collaborate with like-minded peers. Just as a student needs the flexibility to learn in various locations, environments, and groupings, teachers need these options as they grow professionally. Do you need to summon the entire staff to the library or multipurpose room for the latest sit-and-get from your expert of the month, or can you allow some flexibility?
In addition to flexible spaces for learning, teachers need flexible times. Seat time and contact hours need to die a swift death. Outcomes and demonstration of learning are all that matter. Respect the professionalism of teachers by allowing them to determine when they can complete their PD. Technology integration coaches can provide time during the day to work with teachers (before or after school) in large or small group sessions. In addition, access to individualized coaching is critical.
What makes certain companies enjoyable places to work? Many companies, like Google, which provides creative and social outlets for staff members, have a strong sense of corporate culture that promotes employee satisfaction. Similarly, William “Rob” Roberts, assistant superintendent, human resources, with California’s Hacienda La Puente school district, starts every meeting by enthusiastically celebrating school, student, and teacher successes and encouraging all to participate in the “awesomeness” of the school. Small but intentional decisions dramatically affect the culture of an institution and are essential in stimulating staff to want to grow and develop. Too often, professional development is something that is done to a teacher for the sake of compliance rather than something that is done by a teacher to be a “better part” of a great organization.
The use of digital content in educational settings has been on the rise due to the increased access to entry-level video creation tools and cloud-based hosting options. As with a flipped classroom, the purpose of using intentional content in professional development is to shift instruction out of the whole-group setting and into the control of the adult learner, where time and pace can be adjusted to best suit the needs of the individual. By “flipping” your PD, you can provide teachers with access to various content that has been created or curated by district or school lead learners. Consequently, face-to-face time can be reserved for things like celebrating, discussing, or collaborating that are better accomplished when everyone is in the same room. This simple yet significant change sends a clear message regarding the desired professional culture: Take ownership of your professional growth, be respectful of time, and value time spent together.
If you decide to explore using digital content with your staff, consider the following:
Minimize barriers. Teachers are almost worse than students when it comes to doing work outside of designated seat time! It is critical that accessing materials is easy. Create a one-stop shop for teacher resources. Whether this is behind a password-protected LMS or a simple site designed to organize resources, create one place for them. Then send the resources link in an e-mail every time you want teachers to access a resource.
Provide variety. Exposeteachers to new ideas or best practices through a variety of digital content. Make sure to include resources from both within the district as well as from larger, reliable content providers. Maximizing the expertise of your existing staff will increase morale as well as the longevity of your organization. Include different types of resources: short videos, blog post, best-practices article, and so forth.
Working as a successful teacher in an information-rich world requires continuous professional learning, especially learning about pedagogical models that take advantage of the opportunities we have due to common technology and access to information. In general, this has not been incorporated into the classroom. This is not to say, however, that teachers are not exploring opportunities and challenging themselves to redefine teaching and learning in this new world.
The professional educator pillar is centered around the personal and professional reflection that is required to make significant changes to our roles as educators. There is no better way to do this than to surround yourself with a strong and active professional learning network. Administrators have a great opportunity to create a growth mind-set culture with their staff, beginning with the modeling of their own professional learning through a PLN.
The flipped learning community is active and growing. Monday night #flipclass chats began in 2011 on Twitter and are still active today. The flipped social-learning community has grown from 2,500 educators in 2011 to more than 20,000 today. But feeling inspired and confident to tackle new ways of teaching and learning require serious discussion. The opportunity to network with forward-thinking educators happens at regional events and conferences, like FlipCon 2015 (flippedlearning.org/flipcon15), the Flipped Learning Network’s eighth annual conference. Bringing together teachers who are finding new and innovative ways to ensure student success, the conference boasts more than 100 sessions, from those focused on first-time flippers to others on higher education. There is something for everyone.
Kristin Daniels is the innovation coordinator for Cambridge-Isanti Schools in Cambridge, Minnesota, and a board member with the Flipped Learning Network.Aaron Sams is chair of the Flipped Learning Network and the founder of FlippedClass.com.