Maximizing PLC time to flip your class

Maximizing PLC time to flip your class

Collaboration is key to improving professional skills
Aaron Sams and Jonathan Bergmann, former educators, are considered pioneers in the flipped-class movement. They are co-authors of Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day.

Recently we have been talking with a number of people about how to best implement flipped learning, and one hurdle mentioned over and over by teachers is that they do not have enough time.

Many feel overburdened already and the prospect of significant change in their classroom seems daunting. Asking a teacher—who has papers to grade, kids to meet, parents to call, lesson plans to create and school initiatives to implement—to do one more thing feels like too much.

But we believe that, at most schools, there is time built into the schedule that can be used to help teachers flip their classes. Many schools have professional learning communities (PLC) and time is set aside for groups of teachers to collaborate, to work on district initiatives and be agents of change in the schools.

We propose rethinking PLC time. During our school’s PLC time, we developed common assessments, analyzed student data and studied Common Core State Standards, among other topics. Many of these are great tasks which help students achieve, but we think there is a better way. Our experience is that most large-scale educational reforms have really not significantly changed teaching practices.

Teachers helping teachers

Two years ago Jonathan was helping a couple of fourth grade teachers create their first flipped-class video. They were going to make an instructional video about long division. He overheard the two teachers discussing the best way to communicate long division to their students.

A few minutes later, the teachers were ready. They then presented long division to their students in a manner that was better than it would have been had they done it alone. This collaborative interaction, and other instances like it, have shown that when teachers collaborate to create flipped-class videos, there are several benefits, including:

  • Collaboration creates better content. Time to discuss best practices and teaching strategies is something that is lacking in many schools today. The spontaneous, four-minute conversation we referred to earlier needs to be commonplace and intentional. When collaboration is part of the expectation of lesson preparation, we have seen teachers rise to the occasion and create amazing content that has helped all of their students.
  • Quality and excellence. Since the videos will be posted online, teachers tend to do a great job creating them. Teachers take more time and thought creating an instructional “flipped” video because the audience could be larger than their classroom. They know the video may be viewed by students in other classes, parents and teachers.
  • Reflection. We have observed that teachers are more self-reflective when creating collaborative flipped videos. They have a video record of their teaching. They often view their own videos and critique their lessons to determine how they can improve the next time.
  • Creating the videos will give teachers a reason to use technology. Many teachers have not seen the benefits of using technology and have not completely bought into the notion that something with buttons and lights will fundamentally change education. Frankly, they are right. We need to start with good pedagogy and then add the technology to support sound teaching practice. Let’s give teachers a reason to want to come to the technology training.

Change is hard

One of the roles of school leaders is to be an agent of positive change, yet administrators can sometimes struggle to convince their staff of the need for change. The flipped-classroom movement has been a grassroots effort led by teachers, and thus has significant buy-in from the rank and file.

Simply giving teachers support and time to create shared video resources for their students could be a key to facilitating significant improvement in our schools.

Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams, former educators, are considered pioneers in the flipped-class movement. They are co-authors of Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day.