6 ways to get teacher buy-in for flipping a school

By Jonathan Bergmann 6/26/2017

The flipped learning movement has grown exponentially in recent years. Project Tomorrow’s 2015 Speak-Up survey found that 28 percent of administrators say flipped learning is having a significant impact on transforming learning and teaching in their districts. Seventeen percent of elementary schools, 38 percent of middle schools and 40 percent of high schools are implementing it with “positive” results.

One of the great strengths of the flipped class movement has been its grass-roots nature. It is a rare school that I visit where there aren’t one or two teachers flipping their classes. Most teachers who have adopted the model have done so it in small pockets. It’s great when teachers feel the freedom to innovate and do what’s best for their students. This bottom-up approach has been powerful. However, bottom-up innovation can sometimes reach a point where it will not flourish unless there is thoughtful and systemic change.

Though flipped learning can be executed by one teacher in a class with little support from administrators, it’s not ideal. It’s time for schools, and especially school leaders, to set up systems that ensure maximal success for teachers.

Flipped learning has reached the tipping point, and it’s time to think about it on a larger scale. Flipped schools now exist in pockets around the world, and when a whole school adopts the model, the resulting synergy is phenomenal. I’ve worked with most of these schools, and the transformations are remarkable and should be copied. For schools to scale flipped learning, there are six factors to consider. At the top of that list is teacher buy-in.

Convincing teachers that they should embrace change is critical to scale flipped learning. If teachers don’t see the value inthe model, the rollout will stall. I’ve seen teachers sabotage flipped learning by a variety of means.

In one school, about a dozen teachers were flipping their class with good results, and a small group of teachers started rallying students against the method. These teachers feared change,  saw the method as a threat and attempted to squelch it. Their efforts stalled change and created animosity between teachers.

This underscores the necessity of getting all teachers to, at a minimum, support the teachers who are embracing change. As I have worked with schools, I’ve found some successful ways to get teacher buy-in:

Start with a few. It’s not wise to launch a whole-school flipped initiative all at once. Not every teacher is ready to flip right away. Begin with a small group of dedicated teachers who are ready for change.  

Ensure teachers understand the model. Many teachers have an incomplete idea of flipped learning. I’ve found that once the model is explained well and presented in a such a way that isn't overwhelming, most are quick to embrace it.

Get high-quality training. Flipped learning is an easy method to get wrong. Though a simple model, there are proven research-based practices that ensure a quality rollout. The Flipped Learning Global Initiative has created a research-based certification program that many schools have used to jumpstart flipped learning.

Create a cadre of flippers. I worked with a school that got its initial cadre of flipped teachers together, and when the principal introduced them to me, I told him we had the wrong group. All of the teachers were 20-somethings who seemed good with technology. I told the principal we needed a few teachers with gray hair. It’s imperative that your initial cadre of flipped teachers include an older teacher who is respected by the staff and, ideally, is 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!”  

‘Right’ educators trump ‘right’ content area. Should a school focus on flipping a specific content area first? Though this seems like a good strategy, it’s more important to start with the “right” teachers – the ones who 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.

Provide tools, support. 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 to implement the model successfully. I’ve worked with a group of 30 teachers from one school over the past two years, helping them implement flipped learning.

During my most recent visit, I visited classrooms and shared with teachers who were not in the cadre. I was pleasantly surprised that flipped had spread beyond the initial group and had infiltrated the school. The teachers in the cadre implemented well and now the rest of the faculty is jumping on board.

While getting teacher buy-in is the most important factor to consider when flipping a school, it’s not the only factor. Successful flipping also requires technology, pedagogical change, teacher evaluation, learning spaces and parent buy-in.

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