Recently I was in Los Angeles speaking about the flipped classroom with educators and one of the participants, a middle school principal, came up afterwards to ask me how he could support his staff as they began utilizing elements of flipped learning. I rattled off a list of things off the top of my head and since then I have been thinking more deeply about how administrators should support flipped learning. Another driver for this is that I will be speaking this week to a group of administrators about the topic and I thought it would be good to write down my thoughts as I prepare for this session.
When Aaron and I started flipping our classrooms in 2007 we were fortunate to have a very supportive administration. Del Garrick was our principal at Woodland Park High School. He is the type of administrator who gives teachers the freedom to do what they think is best for their students. So when we embarked on this adventure, we had his full support. One thing he told us early on was that most change in schools takes about three years. The first year you are just trying new things. The second year you are working out the bugs, and by the third year the change is culture. This is exactly what we experienced as we flipped our classes.
So with this in mind: Here is a list of thoughts I have for administrators as they support and encourage their teachers to flip their classes:
Give Your Staff Extra Collaboration TIME!: Maybe the biggest hurdle in the implementation of the flipped class is time. It takes time to plan for the flip. It takes time to make videos. It takes time to flip the assessment. It is hard work. Is there a way you could eek out extra time for your teachers, preferably common planning time with those who are flipping? Flipping is best done when it is done collaboratively. Get creative in how you give them time. Get some subs for some days. Pay them extra money for late nights working. Do something to value all of the extra work they will be doing.
Provide Coaching or Find them a Coach: One of the greatest parts of the entire flipped class movement is the way in which teachers have collaborated with each other from across the globe. Relationships have been fostered through social media and folks who are flipping have not done this in a vacuum. They have flipped their classes with support from other educators. This is best done if you have experienced flippers in your building. If you do, give that teacher release time to be a flipped coach. If you don’t have this, then contact my non-profit (the Flipped Learning Network-flippedlearning.org) to assist with this. A great place for collaboration is the Flipped Learning Network Social Media Site: http://flippedclassroom.org
Students will not be sitting in nice neat rows quietly listening to their teacher. You need to realize that learning is often messy and loud. Even though the class may look a bit chaotic, dig deeper and look to see what is really happening in a flipped class. I know this won’t exactly fit the rubrics for all of the teacher evaluation instruments, but ask the question: Are the students engaged and learning?
Encourage your teachers: They are trying something new and with any new change, there will be struggles and difficulties. Encourage them as they struggle to implement change. People need to know they are valued, especially when they are stepping out and trying something different.
Act as a sounding board for your teachers: One thing Del did for us is that his door was open. We frequently had conversations with him about what we were doing trying to “figure” this whole thing out. We especially had rich conversations around the issue of assessment in the flipped class. We even disagreed on several occasions, and to his credit, he deferred to us as the professionals in the room. Thus, he did not dictate how we would assess our students.
Act as a buffer for your flipped teachers: With anything new, there are bound to be questions. Several of our parents were quite concerned about our classes. We answered many of the parent questions, but we know that Del often answered questions, which never made it to us.
Get the Tech Staff on Board: It is imperative that the teacher has adequate support from the technology department. Flipping does not cost a lot of money, but it works best if the IT staff is on board. You are the boss of the IT department. Make sure they are supporting what is best for your students. We were fortunate that our IT staff supported us the whole way, but I have heard horror stories about IT staff that says, “we can’t do that” far too many times.
Model Flipped Learning by Flipping Your Faculty Meetings: As I have stated in many posts about the flipped classroom is about asking one key question: What is the best use of my face-to-face class time? You as an administrator have face-to-face time with your staff as well. Think deeply about how you run meetings and how you interact face-to-face with your staff. Is there a way you could off-load some of the dissemination of information to things like emails or even videos so your faculty meetings are rich, engaging hubs of learning and discussion. For more information about flipping faculty meetings I would encourage you to look at the following two blog posts: