Start Flipping Out! Changing Professional Development

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When we first issued laptops to each of our high school students in 2011, we knew teacher training would be an essential part of a successful implementation. If done right, we had an exciting opportunity to model technology integration and engage our teachers as active learners. Together with our principal and the curriculum coordinator, I was able to implement our flipped professional development model--here’s how it worked.

The Plan

Early in our planning process, we realized that the technology preparedness and knowledge bases of our teachers varied widely. We wanted teachers to take charge of their learning and be active learners before, during and after professional development sessions, so to make sure we were meeting each of their needs, we decided to ask them directly, “What do you need in your classes with your students?”

When we asked teachers ahead of time what they needed in terms of PD, we discovered that many of them weren’t really sure. Many teachers had a general idea of their needs, but not specific tools. For example, which web tool would be useful as a quick assessment or exit ticket at the end of class? We needed to bring this information to them, and by using their ideas, we created agendas of what would really help them in the classroom.

To utilize everyone’s time well, we gave each department its individual PD agenda, complete with login and password information, so everyone was on the same page with what to expect and prepare. By doing this ahead of time, we (the curriculum coordinator, principal and myself) were “flipping their session” to improve upon the traditional PD, where participants usually have no idea what will be happening in their sessions until they arrive. This preparation created a certain amount of teacher buy-in and interest before the session.

The Content

The next step in flipping our professional development sessions was the content. Knowing how much information to share in the assigned time is a key component to successful PD: I would use the rule of “less is more,” although I often struggle to implement this idea, since I get very excited about technology integration and want to give teachers as much exposure as possible in an allotted time. I had to limit the content to a few items to allow teachers the chance to be doers while I was the guide on the side.

To enable continued learning, teachers are given live links to videos and tutorials on their visual agenda, allowing them to access everything in one or two clicks of the mouse, again saving time and placing the learning in their hands.

The Follow-up

By following up with teachers through quick exit surveys after the flipped PD session, we continue to model tech integration. We were pleased to see overwhelmingly positive responses. Teachers especially appreciated how flipped PD is presented in small, two-hour chunks, focuses on their needs and allows them to be active doers.

For many years teachers have been “presented to” in traditional PD sessions. Through flipped PD sessions, teachers are given the opportunity to be active, engaged learners. I know it can be hard to convince others to try new ideas and new technology, but it often only takes one person sharing their passion for learning to bring about fantastic changes. 

NOTE: This article is part of EdSurge's Fifty States Initiative (representing the state of Arkansas). 

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