Jul 18 2013

From Flipped Classroom to Flipped PD

Blog profiles how one Minnesota school district trains its teachers with video and personalized coaching.

There’s no shortage of talk in K–12 schools about the benefits of the flipped classroom. Across the country, ambitious educators have spent chunks of their summers thinking about how video and other technologies can help students get the most out of their time in school.

But who said the perks of the flipped classroom were exclusive to students? For instance, could teachers in need of professional development (PD) benefit from a similar approach?

In a recent article on Education Week’s Digital Directions, writer Robin L. Flanigan examined how one Minnesota school district uses a flipped classroom model to train its teachers to use technology.

What it looks like: Flanigan’s story highlights the work of Kristin Daniels and Wayne Feller, a pair of technology-integration specialists for the 8,500-student Stillwater Area Public Schools.

“Known as job-embedded coaching in educational leadership circles, flipped PD offers face-to-face support and personalized online resources, such as how-to videos on using interactive-whiteboard software or the iPad's multi-tasking bar,” explains Flanigan, who says that Daniels and Feller meet with "200 classroom teachers and specialists in small groups each month for structured, two-hour coaching/training and workshop sessions that focus on individual projects.”

Rather than develop a static PD curriculum that is carried out across the district, Daniels and Feller emphasize “context” when working with teachers.

"We don't come in dictating what [teachers are] here to learn and work on," Daniels tells Education Week. "When they realize they're being given time to think about what they want to be doing, and to grow at their own pace, they're absolutely relieved. And there's been a remarkable shift in attitude toward personal growth because of that."

The power of video: To complement the efforts of Daniels and Feller and their customized peer-to-peer workshops, Flanigan reports: The district produces four types of educational videos for educators and other participants, including administrators, to watch on their own time when learning about technology in schools: (1) tutorials that detail the district’s most popular classroom technologies, (2) videos that respond to a particular incident or problem within the school or district, (3) videos that demonstrate common best practices for using technology, and (4) videos created “on the fly” to answer specific off-the-cuff questions that might arise during training.

Does it work? All signs point to yes. Feller tells Flanigan that his district has witnessed a notable rise in the number of multimedia projects that teachers have attempted with students since the flipped PD model was introduced.

The numbers bear him out.

Teachers who participated in the district’s flipped PD program were sent an end-of-year survey, the results of which were reported on by Education Week. Teachers favored the flipped model over other PD approaches when considering several areas of professional growth, including collaboration (35 percent), transfer to classroom use (37 percent), overall professional growth (42 percent), help with design projects (47 percent), practical knowledge (53 percent) and skills (55 percent).

Has your school considered the benefits of flipped PD to train its teachers? Tell us about it in the Comments section.

For more, including a great infographic on the findings, don’t miss the full Education Week article.