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Flipped learning: Time to reconsider how to implement the Common Core

By Jonathan Bergmann 1/29/2014 Flipped learning Standards

Are you ready for the Common Core State Standards?

Over the past few months, I have asked a number of teachers this question, and few of them feel prepared. Many have attended training sessions on the new national standards but don't feel up to the task of implementing them. For most teachers, it seems like one more initiative being thrust upon them.

I have examined the new math, English and science standards, and I am encouraged that they really do challenge students to go deeper and use higher-order skills. But the problem is most teachers have been preparing students for the old state tests. Make no mistake: Teaching to the new standards requires completely different teaching methodologies than teaching to the old standards. Where the new standards focus on deeper thinking and unique situations, the older state tests focused on facts and skills.

A common way to prepare teachers to teach the higher-order thinking skills (HOTS) required by the Common Core is to instruct them about the new standards and then leave them to themselves to figure out how to implement them. This is a flawed approach. Just learning what the standards are is not enough. My fear is that teachers have been so focused on skills and facts that they have not had the opportunity to teach HOT skills — and thus have no framework to prepare them for the shift that is coming.

Enter flipped learning.

By now, most educators have heard of flipped classrooms in which students watch informative videos at home and do their "homework" in class. But at its heart, flipped learning actually describes a longer-term, more deliberate process.

Of the thousands of educators who have flipped their classrooms, most spend about one year following the basic flipped model — let's call it "Flipped Class 101." All students watch the same video on Tuesday night and all do the same activity on Wednesday in class. But this model reflects only the first stage in the process. After the first year, teachers realize they can use the extra face-to-face class time to take their students deeper.

During the second year of flipping their classes, teachers start implementing what I call flipped learning. In this second iteration of the flipped class, teachers apply strategies like mastery learning, project-based learning, inquiry and other forms of deeper engagement — the skills that lie at the heart of the Common Core State Standards.

There are other ways to move a teacher from "content disseminator" to "deep learning expert," but flipped learning provides a simple and elegant pedagogical methodology that is transforming the classrooms of thousands of teachers across the globe.

The diagram below illustrates the range of teacher preparation for the coming shift:

All teachers lie somewhere on this continuum.

The teachers on the right are already preparing to students to think and solve problems on their own. These are the "rock stars" who don't necessarily need flipped learning. They have discovered how to teach deeper learning skills on their own, often in spite of the educational system.

The teachers on the left are those who primarily deliver content and practice skills with their students — the "old standards," I call them.

I believe the vast majority of teachers lie further to the left on the diagram, and they need a simple process to help them reach deeper levels of learning. So how do we move teachers towards higher-order thinking and deeper learning strategies? One powerful way is to train them to flip their class and help them progress toward flipped learning.

Instead of conducting simplistic training on the Common Core, we should use the flipped class model to move teachers toward a more learner-centered, inquiry-driven classroom. Then they and their students will be more prepared for Common Core — and for wherever their educational journey takes them.

What do you think?

Do you, as a teacher, feel prepared for the Common Core? Do you see the flipped learning as a way to provoke your students to think deeply?

Jon Bergmann is a teacher, flipped learning pioneer, radio show host, educational change agent and co-author of Flip Your Classroom and Flipped Learning: Gateway to Student Engagement. Check out his blog at jonbergmann.com.

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