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We flipped professional development and our teachers loved it

By Aaron Sams and Justin Aglio
September 12th, 2016

A district built a learning network for teachers and saw PD participation increase 600 percent

The best teacher professional development happens in collaborative learning communities.

Learning cultures have no doubt shifted for students in most K-12 public schools. With new one-to-one initiatives, blended learning, online courses, project-based learning, one could argue that students are now more prepared than ever before for the 21st century. But what about teachers?

How are teachers learning to operate as professionals in the 21st century? Most teachers rely on traditional professional development methods like guidebooks on curriculum implementation or face-to-face. lecture-style settings, the gist of which is “Tell me something and maybe I will do it.” Other teachers, though, strive for more dynamic personalized learning opportunities (like the ones our students receive). So, how is it that we are preparing our students for the 21st century with a sense of urgency, but when it comes to quality learning for teachers, many school districts do not practice what they preach?

There are many theories of why we use words like collaboration, creativity, and communication with students, but we judge and evaluate our teachers with words like individual assessments, standards, and individual accountability. Maybe it is the fault of a “system” that places high expectations for teachers to teach 21st-century skills, but only be evaluated on 20th-century learning outcomes.

The reality is that when teachers move away from the front of the classroom and hand some of the control of the learning process over to students, students become more active learners. The process of learning moves to the forefront, and the act of obtaining points or scores takes on a lesser role. The more teachers interact with students individually, the more informal, formative assessment can take place. Also, struggles that can lead to students simply giving up on their homework can be diagnosed and corrected by the teacher, allowing the student to progress in his work and ensuring understanding of the material.

In a flipped class, the first benefit comes in the recovery of class time. We recognize this to be true for our students, so how can we apply this same principle to professional development?

Next page: The platform that flips PD


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