Let Your Flipped Learning Teachers Lead the Way

Uncategorized / August 22, 2020

– Maureen O’Shaughnessy, Ed.D – 

At the end of an insanely difficult school year, school administrators admitted that the status quo in schools cannot continue. COVID-19 has ripped back the curtain. The illusion of mighty schools serving masses of students has been shattered. Education may never return to the assembly-line model of decades past. While many schools are doing more of the same this fall, but with more technology available, that’s not good enough. School administrators with Flipped Learning teachers in their schools have seen a glimmer of hope, as these teachers have most successfully navigated the shift to remote learning. Flipped Learning classrooms are engaging and student scores are as strong as ever. Let’s leverage Flipped Learning to enhance learning NOW and beyond the pandemic.

Time to put our attention on active learning

School administrators: you’re my people; I know your challenges, but listen up. Teachers: please share the thoughts below with your most responsive school leader. 

School leaders–we know you are dealing with how to start the school year and keep learning moving forward in the time of COVID-19. Risk management. Steps to reopen. Writing new policies. Implementing new procedures. Are we taking each adult’s and child’s’ temperature at the start of each day? Hybrid teaching in cohorts? Contact tracing? I am struggling with the same questions and feel your pain. Our role often seems to take us away from the very goal of schools–to support each and every learner in reaching their potential. But not this time. Amid this crisis, our attention is focused squarely on health and safety. 

You have an AMAZING resource at your hands. You have a Flipped Learning teacher in your building who seamlessly shifted to online/remote learning. One who has been getting impressive results and parent and student raves for quite a while, since long before this pandemic. And this teacher has access to Flipped Learning training and a worldwide network of Flipped Learning teachers to support your school’s efforts.

Time for a candid reality check

School leader: YOU are the one with the training in systems and power to allocate resources to grow this resource. Don’t settle for any rationalizations that stop you from developing a more learner-centered approach in your school. We are decades and decades behind in making meaningful change in our schools. But now, disruption has been thrust upon us and there’s no time to waste. Take the focus off of limiting external pressures and get to the priority of each school: empowering learners to own their learning. Learner-centered schools work! They reduce discipline issues, increase test scores, lower mental health concerns. We know you value all of these positive outcomes. So let’s embrace this shakeup and get passions flowing to create learner-centered change! 

While you are grappling with the unknowns of this health situation, empower your teachers to become trained in Flipped Learning–a tool that will serve them remotely or face-to-face. In principal training, you gained insights in systems thinking. You probably get evaluated in accreditation visits on engaging your various stakeholder groups, a key aspect to systems. Here is a simple (but not easy) list of how you can engage your five key stakeholder groups to enhance your school’s focus on learners. While Flipped Learning is not the only way to do this, it is definitely not a resource to overlook.

  1. Give teachers a voice and reason to innovate
    • Involve teachers in the conversation on powerful learning from the start. Instead of a top-down mandate for school improvement, spend a faculty meeting with teachers participating in a “world cafe collaborative dialog around questions such as:
      • Why would we want to become more project- and learner-centered and to increase student agency?
      • What training or support would you need to help your classroom become less teacher-directed and infused with higher-level thinking?
      • What type of teams could the school create for peer support and synergy around a learner-centered focus?
      • What passions would you like to share that contribute to a more learner-centered school?
      • What is one simple change you would like to make in your classroom to empower learners to have greater voice and choice in their learning?
      • What can I do, as the school administrator, to facilitate your growth and transition to this innovative approach to teaching and learning?
    • DON’T STOP HERE! Include your Flipped Learning teacher in the small team of teacher leaders who will become the follow-up team to address each key initiative. Select teachers for this team who are open-minded and able to give up teacher-directed control of the classroom. Make sure they understand the priorities of reaching every student, engaging students in active learning and high-level thinking. These should be your most dynamic teachers–ones with a passion that makes them willing to let go of the old for the betterment of their students and learning.

Provide this team with release time/stipends, regular planning and check-ins, so that the energy generated can continue and result in teacher-driven school enhancement, not overburdening and burn out. YOU are the only one who can create the space for innovation to be fully supported. Make supporting teachers in becoming more learner-centered a priority!

  1. Give students choices in their learning.
    • Involve students in the learner-centered conversation. Dedicate an advisory period to asking students: 
      • What do you like most and least about school? 
      • What changes would you suggest? 
      • What passions do you wish could be woven into your learning? 
      • How could you each be a part of the solution?
    • Start to add “Learner-Centered” to your classroom vocabulary. Ask students to help define the concept. Look at the nationally-recognized Framework for Teaching. Ask students their opinion on how Cluster 4/Students’ Intellectual Engagement might be enhanced.
    • Discuss student agency with your students. Prompt them at the start of each unit for ideas to increase the ways students have “voice” and “choice” in their learning. Encourage teachers to adapt and slowly add in more student agency. Most students will have general ideas. Be sure to note the feedback from students who have the specific experience of flipped learning making that positive difference by giving students voice and choice. 
    • DON’T STOP HERE! Determine a pair of teacher leaders to collate the student data and share with the faculty. Pick the top two ideas to implement, letting the students know they have been heard. Provide release time/stipends, regular planning and check-ins, so that the energy generated can continue and result in student-driven/teacher-supported school enhancement. Encourage these teachers to work with a few of the school’s student leaders each step of the process. YOU are the only one who can create the systems-driven space for innovation to be fully supported. Make listening to students and acting on their ideas, with teacher support, a priority!
  1. Re-evaluate tasks and roles with your administration team.
    • We want transformational leaders. Hold a half-day retreat with your administrative team. Often our administrators are so engaged in transactions that they can’t explore transformations. Ask your executive staff:
      • What strengths would you like to more fully bring to your role?
      • If you could offload two responsibilities to create time to support teacher innovations, what would those be?
      • What training do you need to better understand student agency and learner-centered schools? 
      • How can we regularly build time into our roles to continue this conversation and make innovation an ongoing priority at our school?
      • Invite in your Flipped Learning teacher to explain what they do and provide results in terms of test results, parent and student feedback, testimonials, etc. Let this be ample time for your administrative team to understand the subtle nuances that make successful Flipped Learning a HUGE tool for creating a learner-centered, active learning culture. (And also to understand that if rushed or poorly implemented, this initiative could end poorly.)
      • Start to add “Learner-Centered” to your team vocabulary. Be sure to define the concept. Look at the nationally-recognized Framework for Teaching. What does your team think about the Cluster 4/Students’ Intellectual Engagement standard? How might they raise the bar on this vital component to classroom learning?
    • DON’T STOP HERE! Determine an administrator to lead each priority and provide them with dedicated time and regular check-ins so that the energy generated can continue and result in administrator-supported school enhancement. Give your Flipped Learning teacher release time to work with the administrator in charge of active learning. YOU are the only one who can create the space for innovation to be fully supported. Make this a priority!
  1. Invite your specialists to explore ways to push-in to the classes and engage more fully.
    • Meet with your school specialists. Ask them:
      • What strengths would you more fully like to bring to your role?
      • Where would you begin to push-in and co-teach, and why? What can we start now as a pilot?
      • How can we regularly build time to discuss this pilot program and who do we need in this conversation?
      • How can we reorganize some of your existing responsibilities to make this happen?
      • If you could offload two responsibilities to create time to be in the classroom co-teaching and increasing student agency, what would those be?
    • DON’T STOP HERE! Determine an administrator to lead this specialist-infused initiative and provide dedicated time and regular check-ins so that the energy generated can continue and specialists are supported in being in the classroom and meaningfully engaged–serving students in context. This co-teacher can help with the differentiation of instruction and mastery learning that happens in Flipped Learning classrooms, and share the tools organically with other teachers. Consider providing Flipped Learning certification for your specialists–it will give them more tools to support and reach each learner. YOU are the only one who can create the space for specialist-in-the-classroom innovation to be fully supported. Make this a priority!
  1. Survey parents to understand their hopes and concerns and how they might help.
    • Parents have many ideas. Begin with a parent survey. Explain your desire to enhance the learner-centered nature of your school. Explain student agency. Then ask:
      • When your student graduates from our school, what skills do you most want them to have gained?
      • When does your child most feel like they have a voice at school? Least feel this?
      • What are three suggestions for ways we could increase student agency?
      • Has your child experienced Flipped Learning? What impact did this have on student agency?
      • How can YOU be of support to this school initiative?
    • DON’T STOP HERE! Make a commitment to the parents/guardians so you can continue the energy generated. You need to state this commitment (to take baseline data from students and teachers, to report back at the end of the semester, to provide the needed planning time for teachers, administrators, and specialists). It will hold you accountable and give you leverage. YOU are the only one who can create the space for parent voice in innovation to be fully supported. Make this a priority!

System change takes a systems approach: engaging ALL key stakeholders, reallocating resources, trusting your team, and dogged hard work over the long haul. The community of educators at the Flipped Learning Global Initiative, FLR magazine, and Flipped Learning certification courses are here to help on this important journey. Of course, so is your Flipped Learning classroom teacher. YOU are the change agent your students have been waiting for. YOU can help them take responsibility and ownership of their learning. YOU can empower teachers, administrators, and specialists to build this learner-centered culture. You can listen to parents to further this cause. You can take the Flipped Learning resource that is right under your nose and support its infusion throughout your whole school. Whether we are back in classes, teaching remotely, or a hybrid of the two, Flipped Learning is the tool that will keep students learning. Let’s do it! Our kids are waiting!

Maureen O'Shaughnessy
Dr Maureen O'Shaughnessy
Maureen is the founding director of FLGI’s flagship flipped school, Leadership Preparatory Academy, a 6-12th grade micro-school with campuses in Seattle and Kirkland, WA. She also founded a micro-school in the Andes and a school-within-a-school in a large suburban high school. A fierce and dedicated mother, Maureen is passionately determined to create schools that work for ALL learners. Her K-college teaching has focused on gifted and at-risk learners, and includes leading and creating a community of learners for the Washington State Kaplan online Academy. Dr. O’Shaughnessy is a career educational innovator and school leader who has served in seven international schools and stateside. Her masters and doctoral work focused on systems, educational innovation, and the dilemmas that face innovators. She has served as an accreditation lead for AdvancEd and WASC and is the author of Creating Micro-Schools for Mismatched Kids. Maureen is Flipped Learning 3.0 Level-II Certified.

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