Struggling with Flipped Learning? There’s An Element For That

Lead Features October 19 / October 16, 2019

 – Peter Santoro –

We’ve all heard the expression “there’s an app for that.” For the past 12 months in our Flipped Learning world, we’ve been able to say, “there’s an element for that.” For far too long, Flipped Learning was regarded by many as a “trend,” an “interesting fad,” a “pedagogical approach for lazy teachers” and many other inaccurate notions. For those of us in the trenches of Flipped Learning, we knew it was the (as Jon Bergmann describes it) “magic sauce” and the future of pedagogy. When the Global Elements of Effective Flipped Learning (GEEFL) had its debut 12 months ago, it addressed the concerns of the naysayers and provided a framework for practitioners of Flipped Learning.  

If it’s not broken?

In my experience, particularly in my school, there will always be naysayers. In the past, I’ve used the expression “50 years of tradition, unmarred by progress.” This, unfortunately, is quite common in education. The success of any new initiative in education is dependent on quality professional development for teachers. As more teachers embrace Flipped Learning and student achievement rises, administrators are taking notice. With the introduction of the GEEFL framework, there is a clear direction for professional growth and development.   

Reimagining Classtime

When I speak to teachers about reaching every student, they always ask me how I can possibly do that every day and how I keep my students engaged. I invite colleagues to observe how my classes work. Active learning is messy, and it is shocking to many teachers, but then they circulate the class and see the level of engagement of my students. The most common concern expressed by teachers is what to do with the extra class time that Flipped Learning provides. This is where the GEEFL truly supports teachers. Some teachers can immediately envision how they would use the extra class time, while others need more direction. The Evidence and Research elements give credibility to our Flipped Learning mission. These elements, as well as the entire GEEFL, are based on educational research from international leaders in the field of learning and pedagogy. The FLGlobal AALAS Global Standards Co-Chairs include Dr. Eric Mazur from Harvard University and Robyn Brinks Lockwood from Stanford University. 

As a result of being so involved with this community of educators, I have had access to the plethora of active learning strategies. With that being said, I have also learned a great deal from the GEEFL. It has helped me direct the mindset of my teaching practice. One aspect that is the most difficult for students to grasp is that embracing failure leads to deeper learning. This is such an important aspect of student growth. It promotes tenacity and grit, which will improve student confidence and achievement. I spend a great deal of time with struggling students. It is only as a result of Flipped Learning that I have that luxury of time in my classroom to help these students work through failure and achieve success. As I get to know my students better, and as they become more comfortable with me, they realize that I care on a level they have not previously experienced from other teachers. My students trust me to guide them through their struggles and come out with success at the end. In Angela Duckworths’s book, and her TED Talk: Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, she talks about her research into a person’s ability to work through obstacles to achieve success. Flipped Learning allows me to share the gift of working closely with students and help them find that grit in themselves. I also want to reinforce that we, as teachers, need to develop and practice our own “grit” to hang in for the long-term and help our students achieve all they are capable of achieving, even in the face of our own occasional failures.

Sharing what works

This school year, I have been given the opportunity to provide in-service sessions for professional development. As I speak with the educators attending my sessions, I can get to know them in a more in-depth way that helps me focus on which Elements from the GEEFL will help them most. It is a challenge to change someone’s mindset; however, I have found that relating the elements of the GEEFL to Reaching Every Student, and using the research behind the GEEFL, I have more confidence moving forward.

A significant aspect in education is teacher observations. The Elements are also a valuable resource for administrators doing these assessments. My Department Chair understands the challenge that teachers face when they transform their classrooms into active learning spaces. In his observations, he can now relate classroom activities to the GEEFL and see how teachers are transforming group spaces into engaging, active learning places where improving student achievement is the focus of everyone in the classroom.  

A proven roadmap

For many years, there has been a significant effort in education to base our instruction on evidence-based data. For example, in the state of New York (in the US), each teacher can get a question-by-question analysis of their students’ performance on NYS exams. Teachers use this data to modify instruction to improve student achievement. The GEEFL offers the same type of feedback assessment where we have research-based information to share as we move forward with our Flipped Learning message. Before we had the Elements, teachers and administrators who were on the fence about Flipped Learning, were able to justify their inaction by citing the lack of research-based evidence. The tremendous effort that was expended to compile the GEEFL was well worth the time invested. We can now move forward with the GEEFL’s research-based Elements with the confidence that we have research and evidence-based data supporting us. Happy first birthday, GEEFL, and here’s to many more to come.

Peter Santoro
Peter Santoro
I have been teaching High School Mathematics for 12 years. This is the fifth year I am “Flipping” and my third year with Flipped Mastery. In addition to two sections of Introductory Calculus, I also teach one section of Geometry and two sections of Mathematics Research Honors. In addition, I am the coach of the Garden City High School Math Team (Mathletes). I am a Founding Member of the FLGI International Faculty as well as an FLGI Master Teacher and a member of the FLGI Insanely Smart Panel on the innovative uses of class time.

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