Flipped PD, Cliché or Change Agent

Today I’ve had the rare opportunity (in the life of a school administrator) to spend a day hearing about, discussing, and sharing innovative ideas that can impact student and teacher learning. It has been energizing and thought-provoking to attend the Common Ground Conference (formerly known as MSET) in Baltimore, Maryland, and flipped professional development has been a hot topic of conversation.

After leading school-based and systemwide professional development initiatives, I’ve begun to define flipped PD as a shift from presentation to implementation. Educators tend to think about PD as a one – two hour presentation where an “expert” presents an idea. In fact, real professional learning takes place when we collaborate, put effective methods into practice, and refine classroom implementation. Learning takes place less in the sitting and more in the doing. Take my experience today for instance – what difference does it make if I watched an amazing presentation, but then change nothing to continuously improve instruction for our students?

In the National Staff Development Council 2009 report, “Professional Learning in the Learning Profession,” one of the key findings states:

“While teachers typically need substantial professional development in a given area (close to 50 hours) to improve their skills and their students’ learning, most professional development opportunities in the U.S. are much shorter…[A] majority of teachers said they had received no more than 16 hours (two days or less)[.]” (p.5)

A main cause for this disparity is the way that we think about professional learning. If professional development has to be considered as the time teachers are gathered together to sit and listen, then 50 quality hours is a very distant goal (and not necessarily one we should strive for). In contrast, think about how effective it could be to create the culture and structure where teachers are able to share ideas, try something new, and innovate collaboratively; that time, those activities would be considered professional learning. With this “flipped” mindset, how we achieve 50 hours looks very different. It’s not about adding days to the calendar, but rethinking how every day is spent.

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About the author

Nicole (@MsTuckerSmith) is CEO of Lessoncast Learning. Currently residing in Baltimore, Maryland, she's been an assistant principal, district-level leader, professional developer, consultant, adjunct professor, supervisor of parent support services, and - most importantly - a teacher. In founding Lessoncast, she believes the future of student learning depends on our ability to merge innovative best practices with classroom realities. Mother of two, she holds with utmost respect the awesome responsibility of educating someone's child. | Favorite Quote: “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” Mohandas Gandhi

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