By Jon Bergmann
Sometimes students do not always communicate accurate information to their parents about what is happening in school. If a child is struggling in class, he often looks for something/someone to blame. Flipped learning can often be cited as a cause for those students. Some students will tell their parents, “My teacher is not teaching anymore.” Others will say, “I cannot learn in that system.” In addition to this is the reality that for most parents, the idea of flipped learning is new and many can be skeptical. Thus, it is imperative to communicate to parents why the school is embracing the flipped model.
Creative Communication Strategies
Flip your Back to School Night
Have teachers flip back to school night (curriculum night) by creating short videos for parents to watch before the event. Then during the back to school night, have a discussion about the benefits and implementation of the model.
Host a Traditional Meeting
I worked with a school which embraced flipped learning and they set up a series of meetings with parents. During the meeting, they explained what flipped learning is, why they chose to implement it and their next steps.
Flip Community-School Meetings
School leaders often meet with parents and community leaders. Instead of making content presentation the focus of the meeting, flip the meeting. I will explain more about how to flip a meeting in my next article.
The key is to find ways to inform parents about the new model and, as they become aware and informed, they will become your strongest supporters. This is no different than if a school changes the bell schedule or the bus routes. Get the larger community behind you. Many schools and teachers have used my post Five Reasons Parents Should Be Thrilled Their Child is in a Flipped Classroom available from jonbergmann.com
What Message Should You Send in these Communications?
Now that you have a communication strategy, what should be the message you send about flipped learning?
Tell parents that teachers will spend less class time giving information and more time helping students with difficult concepts. Their kids will have more one-on-one time with their teacher.
Parents all remember being in ‘that class’ – the one where they either could not follow the teacher or were bored out of their minds. Let them know that flipped classrooms are different. They are active places of learning and students will be more engaged in class.
Make sure you also address the following foundational questions:
- How will students access the content?
- What expectations are there for families regarding technology?
- How long will the videos be?
- How many flipped videos do they anticipate students watching per week?
- Why is the school embracing the flipped model?
In short, communicate, communicate, communicate. You can never communicate enough. Be clear, be consistent and be relentless.
Getting teachers convinced that they should embrace flipped learning is the most important step. If teachers are not sold on the model, the roll-out will most likely stall. This is not that different from other systemic changes in schools. I have seen some teachers even sabotage flipped learning by a variety of means. In one school I worked with, approximately a dozen teachers were flipping their class with good results, and a small group of teachers started rallying students against flipped learning. These teachers feared change and saw the flipped class as a threat that needed to be squelched. So, how do you prevent your whole program from going up in flames?
Start with a Few
It is not wise to launch a whole-school flipped initiative all at the same time. Not every teacher is ready to flip right away. Begin with a small group of dedicated teachers who are ready for change.
Who Should be in the Initial Group?
I worked with a school who got their initial cadre of flipped teachers together for me to train. When the principal introduced them to me, I turned to the principal and told him we had a problem – all of the teachers were young twenty-something teachers who were good with technology. I told the principal that we needed a few teachers with gray hair. It is imperative that your initial cadre of flipped teachers include somebody who is an older teacher and is well respected by the whole staff. Ideally, this older teacher will also be a bit hesitant with technology. Because if this older, tech-phobic teacher can flip, the rest of the staff will conclude, “If he/she can do it, I can do it!”
What Subjects Should the Cadre Teach?
I am often asked if a school should focus on a specific content area first. Though this may seem like a good strategy, I think it is more important to start with the ‘right’ teachers; ones that will successfully implement the program. Every time I share with a leadership team I ask them to identify the right teachers, and they can always come up with the list. However, if there is one department which is more ready for change, it is sometimes smart to get flipped focused there. The fear I have with this approach though is that the teachers in the other departments might see flipped as something just done in a specific content area and not see it applying to their subject area.
The Best Way to Spread the Flipped Class
Since you want to spread the flipped model beyond your initial cadre, the best way to do this is to have the initial cadre flip well. Give them the tools and support for them to successfully implement the model. Over the past two years, I have worked with a group of thirty teachers from one school and helped them flip well. In my most recent visit, I had a chance to visit classrooms and share with teachers who were not in the cadre. I was pleasantly surprised that flipped has spread beyond the initial group and now most teachers are at least partially flipping their class.
How to Influence Teachers
In 2007, Dr John Diamond, an education professor at Harvard University, did a study of what influences teachers to change. He concluded that teachers’ primary reason for change was listening to other teachers. Second was internal motivation and third was students. Maybe the secret to change is to get teachers to think the flipped class is their idea and then let it spread.
Make Sure Teachers Understand the Model
I have met so many teachers who learn that I am a pioneer in flipped learning and immediately tell me why flipped learning will not work in their situation. They mention access, student lack of homework completion, technology hurdles and so on. But what is almost always clear is the teachers have an incomplete idea of the flipped class model. I have found that once the model is explained well and presented in a such a way that is not overwhelming, most are quick to embrace it.
Flipped Learning is not that Radical
For those who fear giving up control of content and curriculum, I share that student-centered learning is only half-right. Flipped learning is a balanced approach to learning in which the teacher can still hold onto content, while at the same time having more choice and a more student-centered class. The idea of simply recording a teacher’s lectures does not seem like that big of a step. I encourage you to either read or re-read this series (available at www.jonbergmann.com), on why I feel student-centered education is only half-right.
Change is Hard
There is no magic formula for convincing teachers, but this step must be done! I probably should have made this the first article because if teachers are not convinced, then the program will fail. So, get your initial group together, provide support and before you know it you will be a fully flipped school.
Jon Bergmann is one of the pioneers of the Flipped Class Movement. Jon is leading the worldwide adoption of flipped learning by working with governments, schools, corporations and education non-profits. He is the author of seven books, including the bestselling book Flip Your Classroom, which has been translated into 10 languages. He is the founder of the global FlipCon conferences, which are dynamic engaging events that inspire educators to transform their practice through flipped learning.