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Flipped Professional Learning in K-12: A Crash Course

Professional Learning

You know how creative learning strategies help your students learn. You see the benefits when students absorb teaching outside of classroom time, then come together with teachers and classmates to practice and apply what they’ve learned. Trying (and sometimes failing) in a safe place solidifies the lesson.

“Flipped learning” is clearly good for students. Why don’t we offer it for our teachers?

Flipped learning: a crash course

Flipped professional learning for teachers is the equivalent of flipped learning for our students. In a flipped learning model, teachers can learn on their own time. They explore whatever information, courses and educational experiences they want (or need) — based on personal goals, evaluation results or areas for growth.

But it doesn’t stop there. The key to a flipped learning model is following up with practice and collaboration.

The flipped learning cycle

  1. Self-reflect based on feedback and evidence of practice.
  2. Identify areas for growth.
  3. Engage in an initial learning experience that provides information and assesses retention.
  4. Set goals and create a plan to apply selected skills, techniques or behaviors you believe will have the most impact on students.
  5. Share your plan with others — a principal, instructional coach, mentor, department or PLC. It’s often helpful to get feedback at this stage.
  6. Implement your plan.
  7. Self-reflect — how did it go?
  8. Provide evidence of your implementation to others — this may be a video of classroom instruction, or perhaps a classroom observation.
  9. Meet with others to whom you’re accountable to reflect and get feedback on your implementation so far.
  10. Reflect, Plan, Act, Do… then repeat. It’s the cycle for continuous improvement.

Using this cycle over time, you can transform skills, techniques or behaviors into more effective instructional practices. This is evident through observation, feedback from others and student outcomes that reflect growth.

Is flipped learning just another instructional fad?

You might be tempted to think that. But in fact, flipped learning is simply a form of blended learning. And blended learning is here to stay, because — when implemented well — it makes the cycle of learning more possible and more effective.

Providing targeted, personalized content for all of the teachers in your district is a huge task. Often, districts are so strapped for time and money that they’re limited to covering their own core initiatives, leaving it to teachers to seek out additional, more personalized learning. But thanks to online learning, you can offer targeted content to many different people — without taking up valuable time during the school day.

New to a topic? Then it’s often best to explore that information at your own pace. Teachers can explore coursework, online lessons, videos and eBooks in the order that works best for them — and at a pace and time that fits into their schedule and learning style. Once they’ve absorbed that information, they’re ready to take it out for a spin — putting it into practice and getting feedback from peers, mentors, coaches and observers. This is where blended learning shines.

Evidence suggests that teachers like it, too. In 2015-2016, Montour School District in Pennsylvania started the Montour Learning Network for EdTech and Innovation. Using a flipped learning model, teachers and staff pursue individual learning opportunities while collaborating to support each other. The result? Montour saw a 600% increase in participation in digital professional development.

Flipped learning for individuals, coaching and mentoring, and large groups

When we think of a “flipped” form of blended learning, we often picture groups of learners, like students. But it’s ideal for individuals as well. A teacher, for example, could use the steps outlined above to address areas for improvement that have been identified in a classroom observation. And it can also be used by mentors or instructional coaches — even by principals who may use flipped learning to support professional development initiatives for their entire building.

The concept is simple but flexible. And the benefits are nothing to brush off: time that would have been required teach a workshop can now be reclaimed (saving money on substitute teachers) or used for collaboration and application.

What would it look like to apply some of these ideas to professional learning? To move past the sit-and-get workshop? To find creative ways to provide the kind of learning opportunities each individual teacher needs and wants? Let us know your thoughts on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook.


About Rachel Fisher

Rachel Fisher brings fifteen years of expertise in eLearning and online content development as well as over a decade of experience working exclusively with K12 including online and live curriculum development. In addition, she served in the classroom teaching 6th and 7th grade science.