Flipping Professional Development

Anonymous 3 Comments

Last week I worked with almost 100 educators from my district in the area of flipping the classroom over a period of two days.  These two sessions were lead by well-known "flipper", Brian Bennett, another colleague of mine, Brian Bobbitt, and myself.  It was a fantastic two days and there was a lot of excitement.

Being a part of these sessions allowed me to really think about the way we do professional development.  I must admit, I enjoyed the second day a lot more than the first day. It's not that the first day was a bad day and not because I was called out an hour early because my wife went to the ER for what turned out to be a kidney stone (She's fine now by the way).  I think the second day went better than the first day because of a small adjustment we made to the schedule based on feedback and our own personal observation from the first day.

The first day we started off talking about the philosophy and rationale of the flipped classroom.  We spent about an hour presenting on the purpose of the flipped classroom, the misconceptions of the flipped classroom, and what we would be covering during the day.  It was the same type of presentation I had done several times at different conferences.  However, it was mainly Brian and me talking and then fielding questions.  I found myself thinking throughout that first hour that we were talking way too much and we were demonstrating the very reason why I am a proponent of the flipped classroom.  I even leaned over to Brian at one point and mentioned that it was very ironic that we were up here talking as much as we were.  It really slowed the morning down and I think brought down the energy.  Now, it was still a good day and we got great feedback from our participants but I left knowing it could be better.

We had a day off between sessions and we communicated through email about what we wanted to do differently.  Quickly the idea was given that we needed to shorten the first hour and give more time for our participants to collaborate.  Brian Bennett shared with us a shorter presentation that he had given at another conference.  I asked him if he could make a video of that presentation that I could email out to our participants to view before they came the next day.  This is what he made in a matter of 30 minutes:

The next day when we began we did a quick formative assessment to see who had watched the video, had discussion about the content, and we were off and running.  It helped us add another hour of collaboration time because we flipped a portion of the day.  It also helped us demonstrate the power of flipping a classroom.  I heard several comments of appreciation because of the time we gave our participants to collaborate.

One of my favorite conversations I had the second day was with a group of instructional coaches and administrators from my district and how they can flip professional development.  One of the biggest complaints I had as a teacher and one of the biggest complaints I hear working in professional development is that we don't have enough time to work.

I personally experienced traditional PD this past Friday in a session for a leadership cadre that I belong to in my district.  I sat in a session with around 70 leaders from my district and listened to two webinars on the common core.  Both webinars lasted close to an hour and I was bombarded with information.  There were several times when those who presented the sessions stopped and waited for questions.  Eventually there were some questions but not as many as you'd think. I am sure I would have had questions if my brain wasn't about to explode from my week at work and all the information they had just given me.  I kept thinking to myself, just like I did on the first session on the flipped classroom that I had lead earlier in the week, there has to be a better way.

What if those of us who work in the area of professional development begin to flip our PD sessions?  What if, instead of listening to those sessions live, I could have had access to those sessions ahead of time, listened to them (at least once), digest the information, and then brought questions with me to the meeting?  Then the two people who presented the sessions could have still video conferenced in with us, and we could have have had a better conversation.  I just kept thinking to myself, "Here we are, some of the best educators in my district in the same room, and we're looking at computer screens."  The next day we applied what we had learned in some very meaningful activities.

Here is how I could see professional development done "flipped classroom" style:

  1. The presenter making a video presentation of the material they would be presenting at the PD session.
  2. Participants would watch the video ahead of time.
  3. Participants would come the PD session with questions or maybe a completed task.
  4. Then the participants would be engaged in a collaborative session with an expert, instead of the "sit and get" session most of us teachers are all too familiar with.
Now I know there would those that wouldn't watch the videos, just like there are in a flipped classroom.  However, I think that we would find most teachers would come to the sessions prepared.  All I know for sure is that when Brian, Brian, and I flipped our PD session on the flipped classroom, all I heard over and over again were participants who appreciated the time to collaborate with each other and to have experts near by when they had questions.  


  1. Brett,
    Great post. Flipping PD (especially in terms of edtech PD) goes right along with the idea of TPACK (Technological, Pedogical, and Content Knowledge) and focusing on learning tech through doing rather than just "sit and get". The website is http://www.tpck.org

  2. Love it. These are some great resources. I would like to see admins formalizing the flipping of professional development.

  3. Good thoughts.
    We have been working on a model of Flipped Prof. Dev. It is going great for us. You may have seen my article on Getting Smart. http://gettingsmart.com/cms/blog/2013/01/7-steps-to-flipped-professional-development/
    Maybe we could talk sometime. :)I am lconley86 on Twitter if you want to connect. I'm always glad to have great educators in my learning network.