Are You Overlooking the Obvious?

Special / May 16, 2019

–Terra Graves–

In April, I gave you my answer to the “So what?” question I asked when looking at one of the research articles shared in Jon Bergmann’s Top 10. Here’s the link in case you missed it. The goal here is to provide K-12 teachers* with a practical application for what the research has found. Otherwise, what is the point of research?

*This month’s piece is geared toward administrators and the brave folks who facilitate professional learning for teachers and administrators.

The Research

A case study in the Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice did a “Double Flip” where they flipped the professional development of professors. The case study found the teacher gained confidence in these methods and student satisfaction ratings increased. from the May, 2018 issue of FLR

The Big Idea

Modeling. Modeling. Modeling. What better way to teach teachers and administrators about Flipped Learning than to use Flipped Learning with them so that they can experience it from the learner’s perspective? The courses we teach in the 21st Century Learning Department (Washoe County School District, Nevada) are online, face-to-face, or flipped. Teachers (like students) WANT more and more options for how they learn. With long days at school, after-school commitments, family time, etc., the last thing a teacher wants to do is spend 15 hours sitting in a class. Except for highly-technical learning, most content can be delivered entirely online, or the best of both worlds–the flipped model. Time is precious for everyone. Administrators: How many staff meetings could have been an email? Professional learning providers: How hard is it to keep teachers focused during professional learning classes after they’ve just spent the whole day teaching? There is a better way!

The Action

Administrators

I remember when I was in the classroom, and we had a weekly staff meeting. These were usually 30 minutes before the first bell. This sacred part of every teacher’s morning should NEVER be interrupted. For teachers, on staff meeting days, they need to show up an additional 30 minutes early to get to their inevitable last minute things like making copies, parent phone calls, grading, insert here your choice of 50 other things teachers do before the first bell. It throws the entire day off for the teacher, and most likely for the students as well. While this is not the intended outcome for most administrators, it happens more than you probably know. After-school meetings elicit similar concerns from your staff, such as “I have so much to do…I’m too tired to pay attention…This better be important.” A surefire way to contribute to your staff feeling burned out is to continue commandeering their time for things that could have (and should have) been disseminated differently. Today’s the day to change how you do staff meetings! Check out the resources below to help you get started.

Professional Learning Providers

What’s good for the kids is good for the grownups! I’ve taken hours and hours of professional learning classes, and I’ve facilitated hours and hours of professional learning classes. When I am in the role of the learner, I’m the worst critic of the instructor. Did you notice how I used the word “instructor” instead of “facilitator”? There is a huge difference between the two. An instructor does just that: instructs. To me, this means they talk at me in an effort to impart their wisdom into my passive, butt-in-the-seat self. These types of classes are usually called “trainings”; another word that makes me cringe. Am I a dog that needs to be trained? And, ironically, this flawed approach to information dissemination describes the vast majority of education today. A “facilitator,” on the other hand, literally means “one who makes things easier.” Flipped professional learning allows instructors to become facilitators. Just like with kids, adults want to have more control over the learning process and the products of learning. Everyone wants choice. Everyone wants to feel their time is respected. Everyone wants to have different ways to consume content. Don’t make me come to class and spend 20 minutes reading or working independently; I can do that at home. When I come to class, the activities I participate in should maximize that precious time I am investing away from my family and other commitments during after-school hours. Don’t contribute to teacher burnout. Take a look at the classes you facilitate in the traditional face-to-face method and create two lists.  

For example:  

Activities for the Individual Space Activities for the Group Space
  • Watching a video
  • Reading an article
  • Taking a quiz
  • Reflection
  • Discussions (better in person, but certainly acceptable in the online environment)
  • Creating a product (individual assignment)
  • Active application of the learning
  • Creating a product (with a partner or small group)
  • Debates or discussions which require synchronous participation to be effective
  • Problem-solving
  • Brainstorming

 

If your classes do not have a variety of activities and/or you just have a 120-slide PowerPoint that you “deliver” instruction from and your participants just take notes…it’s time to rethink those classes. Ask yourself, “Would I enjoy taking my class in its current format?” Your answer to this question will be your guide.

The Resources

Administrators

Professional Learning Providers

After reading this column, I hope that the “So what?” you might be feeling after reading research studies becomes a “Now what?” feeling, and that innovative research becomes a call to action. And when you hear that call to action, I hope you will get lots of thank yous from your staff or your class participants because you showed them how much you value their time.   






Terra Graves
Terra Graves
Terra has been an educator for over twenty years. She is the Project Coordinator/Administrator for the 21st Century Learning Department in Washoe County School District, NV. Prior to this position, she taught elementary and middle school, supported novice teachers as a full-time mentor, served as an Ed Tech Specialist, and a Program Specialist in the 21st Century Learning Department. Terra is Flipped Learning 3.0 Level-II Certified and a founding member of the FLGI International Faculty.




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