After five years of teaching, Todd Nesloney was tired of endless tests and worksheets.
He was ready to give up on teaching until a fellow educator told him about the flipped class, where students watch short video lectures from their teachers at night and do an activity during class the next day. This different pedagogical model inspired him and breathed new life into his teaching career.
Jonathan Bergmann, who came up with the idea of the flipped class in the 2006-07 school year with fellow teacher Aaron Sams, said, "That's a good place to start, but we want teachers to go beyond that." Now the flipped class is giving way to flipped learning, which allows teachers to leave the front of the room and go deeper into learning with strategies such as project-based learning, inquiry and games, Bergmann said.
As education leaders consider bringing flipped learning into their schools, flipped learning practitioners suggest at least six steps to go through with their staff to make sure everyone is equipped to implement it.
1. Research flipped learning
First off, schools should identify why they want to flip learning, understand what it means and learn what type of investment they'll need to make, said Brian E. Bennett, a former teacher who now works with TechSmith on the education team. Without this type of research, schools won't have a clear idea of how classrooms need to change, and that will lead to roadblocks.
"What flipped learning is asking people to do is reconsider their beliefs about teaching and learning at a very core level," Bennett said.
2. Visit flipped learning classrooms
While research is great, schools really need to see flipped learning in action in nearby school districts. Every year, teachers across the country host flipped days, and educators can observe them and talk with students to hear their perspective.
These visits show flipped learning as it really is, with the typical behavior and grade issues that teachers experience in any class.
3. Learn with others online
Social media, listservs, wikis, blogs and video conversations allows teachers and administrators to talk about their experience with flipped learning so they can learn from each other, Bennett said. While the teaching profession tends to adopt the attitude that learning stops after college, Nesloney sees the value of connecting online throughout the year.
"As educators, we're professional students, so we should always be learning," said Nesloney, who is a 2013 White House Champion of Change honoree.
As part of a state mandate to improve learning, Nesloney became the new principal and has hired new staff at the fourth- and fifth-grade Navasota Intermediate School in Texas. This summer, he started flipping professional development and gave his 16 teachers a series of voluntary online learning challenges. But thanks to social media and blog posts, about 1,600 people from seven different countries decided to learn with them.
4. Talk about how pedagogy will change
While technology platform training can be a part of professional development for flipped learning, it's more important to talk with teachers about how they teach, how students learn and how the pedagogy changes, Bennett said. Instead of starting with the technology, his workshops ask teachers to identify their goals and then which technology tools can help accomplish their goals.
He suggested that schools avoid creating training workshops on specific products and instead focus on producing something, such as a video or newsletter, for a specific reason. For example, Bennett started flipping his classroom because his students struggled with chemistry homework, and he decided to create homework-help videos to address that problem.
5. Model flipped learning
By modeling how flipped learning works practically in the classroom, consultants and teachers can team up to figure out what works, and workshop leaders can support teachers as they experiment with flipped learning.
It's also important for administrators to model flipped learning themselves by flipping their faculty meetings. This gives teachers an opportunity to experience what flipped learning is like from a student perspective and frees up face-to-face time for deeper conversations about good pedagogy.
6. Assign a coach to work with teachers long-term
One-off training workshops don't work, said Bergmann, who is an educational consultant along with Sams at Turnabout Learning LLC. Instead, he recommends a more longitudinal strategy that includes multiple days of having an outside expert work with educators and bringing in an education coach to support them as needed.
When schools don't have the budget to hire someone, they can look at getting a grant that will cover some of the cost. A South Dakota school received a grant, which paid for two days of training from Bergmann and Sams, along with a year's salary for an instructional coach and extra money for teachers who were flipping.
Four key hurdles often trip up school districts when it comes to flipped learning, Bergmann said:
- changing the teachers' thinking;
- bringing everyone up to speed on technology and making sure the infrastructure supports it;
- time to learn; and
It's important to address these hurdles early in the process and learn from other people's mistakes without reinventing the wheel. And ultimately, schools should remember that the goal is to promote deeper learning in class and make better use of face-to-face time.