What if we flipped faculty development?
Last fall, I facilitated a pre-conference workshop at the Teaching Professor Technology Conference in Atlanta. The title of the workshop was, “Don’t Waste a Minute of Class Time: How to Use Focusing Activities in the Flipped Classroom.” Faculty participated in ten different focusing activities throughout the 3-hour workshop, so it was a very engaging and interactive session. All of the participants were involved, engaged, and on task.
But, it’s what we did in the last 30 minutes of the workshop that made the biggest difference.
That’s when I flipped it!
Here’s how I flipped faculty development
In the last half hour of the workshop, I gave the participants an assignment. I challenged them to work in groups to “create a resource for your colleagues who want to learn more about focusing activities.” With this one activity, they were required to recall and summarize what they learned, synthesize the content both within and beyond their disciplines, and develop a resource that will be helpful for their colleagues.
Notice the focus on the higher level learning outcomes with the intention of creating something. It’s the same model we apply in our classrooms when we design student-centered learning experiences. We ask our students to work collaboratively, apply course content, and analyze information together. Then we assign a task or project which requires students to create or produce something to demonstrate mastery of course content.
Same model. Different audience.
Of course, the faculty in my workshop were not being graded on this assignment, but I increased the stakes when said I would be publishing their projects on my blog (with their permission) and writing about this experience in this Faculty Focus article.
Before I share all of the projects they created, let’s take a moment to consider why you might want to consider flipping a faculty development event. If you coordinate faculty development programs or if you’re a faculty member who has asked been asked to lead a workshop for your colleagues, consider flipping your session to increase engagement and improve learning.
5 Benefits of Flipped Faculty Development
From my perspective, I stepped to the side and walked around the room offering ideas and answering questions as needed. It was an excellent assessment strategy for me since I could identify the areas of content where faculty were confused or the places where I needed to offer more guidance to help the groups complete their projects. It also allowed the participants an opportunity to self-assess their learning. When asked to create something based on the workshop content, they reviewed their notes, asked their colleagues questions, and sometimes asked me for clarification. Flipping faculty development allows both you and the faculty participants an opportunity to assess learning beyond the scope of an end-of-workshop survey.
I have to admit that this audience was engaged right from the start of the pre-conference workshop. Everyone asked questions, shared ideas, and offered advice throughout the session. But, when I flipped it and challenged them to create a project together, the level of engagement changed. In some groups, leaders emerged. In other groups, deeper discussions of the content continued. A couple of groups spent time brainstorming and mapping out different plans. Members of group 10 grabbed their notes and headed into the hallway to record a podcast. Faculty who attend professional development events are already motivated to participate. When you FLIP it, you allow them the opportunity to take it to the next level, leverage their expertise, and show their creativity.
Values faculty experience and expertise
Faculty members bring SO MUCH experience and expertise to the professional development space. If you’re not giving them the chance to exchange ideas and share, then you’re missing out on a potentially invaluable opportunity. When you FLIP it, you’re giving faculty the space to offer ideas, ask questions, and share stories. They realize they’re not alone and they’re not the only one who is struggling with this particular challenge. The members in group 1 were both interested and curious about how to create infographics when one of their colleagues took the lead and showed them not only how to do it, but the tools she recommended to make the process less intimidating when you’re just beginning.
Encourages conversation within and across disciplines
I get excited when I see an audience that includes faculty members from a variety of disciplines. Math, Computer Science, Nursing, Education, Criminal Justice, Law, Pharmacy, Culinary Arts, Biology, Economics…all in the same space at the same time discussing the same topic from a completely different frame of reference. It’s such a privilege to share this moment with such a diverse and talented group. And when we’re all looking at an issue related to teaching and learning, but we’re examining it based on our areas of expertise and experience, that’s when there’s more potential for learning. That’s what group 11 did when they created a handout integrating Math and Nursing. When you FLIP It, you give your participants the opening they need to share their perspective, compare similarities, and examine differences when it comes to teaching in any discipline. Your participants will leave with more than just a few general recommendations from the speaker.
Modeling active learning and best practice
Probably the best benefit of flipping faculty development is the ability to demonstrate how active learning works. Don’t just tell them how to engage students. Show them. Put your faculty members into the role of being a student. Give them something to DO together. It could be as simple as filling in a worksheet as a group or as complex as creating a project together. Then, ask yourself how to make the learning visible. What can your participants do to show their interpretation or understanding of the content? This is exactly what I did when I flipped faculty development and assigned the projects in my workshop. I asked faculty to go beyond discussing or summarizing the content. I challenged them to create something I could share online. By doing this, I involved them in the process and showed them how to integrate flipped and active learning strategies into their classes. If you decide to FLIP it, give your participants the time, space, ideas, and support to do the same.
Showcasing flipped faculty development projects
And now, I’d like to share the projects created by the faculty members who attended the pre-conference workshop. Here are the projects from three of the groups.
Click to download Group 11’s handout featuring strategies you can use in math and nursing to focus students’ attention.
Click to enlarge Group 1’s infographic summarizing the 10 focusing activities we practiced during the workshop.
Want to see all 11 group projects?
Click the image below to download the packet featuring all 11 projects.
If you facilitate faculty development events or lead workshops for your colleagues, I’d like to challenge you to FLIP it! I hope these ideas inspire you to think about the different types of projects your participants can create together. They can be simple, low-tech, high-tech, or anything in between.
If you do decide to FLIP it, share your projects and experience with me. I’d love to hear how you did it and what advice you would offer to others who are thinking about flipping faculty development.
And if you’re looking for more information about what focusing activities are and how they can help your students connect the pre-class to the in-class work, grab your copy of FLIP the First 5 Minutes of Class: 50 Focusing Activities to Engage Your Students (available in e-book, print, and Kindle formats).