Skip to Content

Professional Development Gets Flipped

Not just for students anymore

Since the early days of flipped classrooms, where instructional content is learned outside of school and homework is completed in class, educators, have taken advantage of this learning model to spur their own development.

Stillwater Area Public Schools in Minnesota is an example. Classes there flipped in the 2011 – 2012 school year. Soon after, school officials realized teachers could also benefit from the learning style.

Speaking in a video called “Flipping Professional Development: No teacher bored in the background” back then, Kristin Daniels, who at the time was a technology and innovation coach, said, “I look at the teachers…and I know some of them are not getting it. I know some of them are bored. And I know some of them have completely checked out.”

The move to flipped classrooms was an attempt by the Stillwater district to encourage educators to check back in.

Other districts have followed suit.

The Montour School District, just outside of Pittsburg, Pa., flipped its professional development two years ago to better connect with teachers. So far, the change has been well received.

Montour Powers Up

At the Montour School District, technology has reached new heights. A new elementary school houses learning spaces that allow students to collaborate with peers and teachers, and think creatively. Montour Elementary School includes an Upcycle Makerspace where students repurpose hard-to-recycle material. The school also has a Minecraft Education Lab that incorporates the game into student learning, and boasts the “world’s first” Brick Makerspace powered by LEGO Education

solutions. The area is designed to enhance students’ spatial, fine motor, social, language, and creative skills.

Montour High School is also pushing against boundaries with its Tech Lab that includes four large well-equipped makerspaces. From within a full-dome planetarium students explore planets and constellations, and create their own shows. The high school is also home to a lightboard studio, where teachers can create video lectures and directly interact with handwritten notes and diagrams while facing the camera.

All this new technology isn’t just thrown onto an educators’ laps. Training is provided, and flipped professional development is one of the ways the new information is digested.

Beth Hobbs, a third-grade teacher and a Minecraft global ambassador, joins hundreds of educators worldwide in monthly Skype conferences to learn how to include the game and other technology into her lesson plans.

“Recently, Minecraft Education Edition released a Chemistry World which has been the hot topic of conversation,” says Hobbs. “We all have been very excited for our students to explore the Chemistry World and create a foundation for Chemistry Education in an engaging manner. I love to hear how other Mentors are using these lessons and more in their classrooms.

Doug Macek, a 26-year veteran physics teacher at Montour High School, prefers flipped learning over traditional professional development.

“We’ve all been there before, where you sit through professional development only to find it’s not what you thought. Or, it’s of no help,” Macek says. “The freedom to choose the type of professional development I need, from an electronic-based session with a repository of interactive videos or a live presenter, that’s one of the greatest things about flipped PD.”

Flipped Learning Here to Stay?

Most likely, but for Justin Aglio, director of K–4 academic achievement and K–12 innovation for the Montour district, it’s important to note that flipped professional development happens to be “one of our tricks in the tool bag.” Aglio is nationally recognized within the technology and innovation arena.

“My job as an administrator is to listen and support our teachers, who are hungry to learn and grow because they love our kids. We want to be responsive to them and give them the tools they need. Right now this is what’s working best for our students and teachers. A year from now…we could be using holograms,”

Educators know there’s no magic bullet or one-size-fits-all model to teaching and learning. Industry experts, such as Learning Forward, a nonprofit membership association that leverages professional learning to ensure every student has an equal opportunity to learn at high levels, suggest that flipped professional learning, like other professional-learning models, works best when the content is clearly aligned with the goals of the professional learning.

“If ‘flipped learning’ is being used with students, it’s valuable for teachers to experience it as well,” says Stephanie Hirsh, executive director of Learning Forward.

NEA Flips, Too

The national association recently converted what were a series of face-to-face only trainings into a blended model that includes online modules, the asynchronous groups found on NEA’s edCommunities, and Zoom, an online platform for hosting live meetings.

Through NEA’s Early Career Learning Labs, small groups of early career educators get help from online virtual coaches. In this virtual space, a problem is identified and the group works to identify potential solutions, try out solutions, and reflect on what might work best.

“Our time is so thin,” says Macek. “We don’t like to do anything that we don’t see as being of value or productive...and that’s why choosing your own avenue to go down is so important.  

Published in:

Published In