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January 1, 2014
Vol. 56
No. 1

Mastering the Flipped Faculty Meeting

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LeadershipTechnology
"The very notion of faculty meetings makes even some of the best teachers cringe," writes William Sterrett in Short on Time (ASCD, 2013). "Asking the staff to convene at the end of a busy day is something that any school leader should carefully consider."
Tricia Scott, principal of St. Edmond's Academy in Wilmington, Del., agrees. Having tired teachers engage professionally is a challenge, says Scott. Although she couldn't change the time of her faculty meetings, she set out to make them more engaging. At the beginning of the school year, Scott flipped her first faculty meeting—and she's been using the model since.
Just like flipped instruction, flipped faculty meetings clear the way for more meaningful face-to-face time by frontloading one-way information (video, e-mail, screencasts, etc.) for teachers to consume beforehand to allow for deeper discussion during a faculty meeting.
Jon Bergmann, one of the pioneers of flipped classrooms, says "The big question is, What's the best use of face-to-face time? My argument would be it's not talking about the hat policy or fire drill procedures."
"A principal rambling through a laundry list of managerial items in a meeting is no different from a teacher passing out a dreaded 'word find' worksheet to his or her class," writes Sterrett.

The Dissemination Game

To get away from what Bergmann calls the "dissemination game," Scott communicates frequently with her staff through her blog and the school's intranet, and she has teachers do "prework"—watching a video or reading an article and writing a blog response to it—before meetings. Scott leaves comments on the blogs, and at follow-up faculty meetings, teachers form mini-discussion groups to review the responses.
Initially, Scott tried to cover both the managerial and professional development elements of a faculty meeting in the videos she created. "That was too much," she says. Now, she focuses on PD and instruction. One of her recent videos set teachers up for a professional development day on flipped instruction by walking them through the prework and showing them where to access resources on the topic.
Like Scott, Peter DeWitt, principal of Poestenkill Elementary School in New York, knew his faculty meetings were in need of an overhaul.
"Years ago, I would go into a faculty meeting and deliver a district message," says DeWitt. "I literally remember reading e-mails to staff to make sure that we [the principals] stuck to the same district message at all three elementary schools—and I personally hated that with every fiber of my being."
For more "authentic" meetings, DeWitt tried his hand at flipping nearly two years ago. He began creating short, five-minute videos on focused topics, such as the Common Core State Standards and evidence-based observations. Although teachers are expected to watch the videos ahead of time and reflect on their learning, DeWitt also reviews them in meetings as a discussion prompt.

Reclaim Your Time

Whereas flipping can make faculty meetings more meaningful, it has other benefits as well. Melinda Miller, principal of Willard East Elementary School in Willard, Mo., uses the method to save teachers time. "I used to have a faculty meeting for almost everything we wanted to communicate," she says, but flipping changed that pattern. Sometimes, her flip replaces the need for a meeting entirely, and other times, it shortens the length of a meeting. Although she only flips periodically, Miller keeps open lines of communication with staff between meetings. "Nothing is off the table," she says.
Flipping also affected the frequency of St. Edmond's faculty meetings. Instead of gathering weekly for 45 minutes, Scott's staff now meets biweekly and participates in a professional development day once a month (which is occasionally flipped, too). Not surprisingly, her teachers also value the concept.
"We used to take a meeting to introduce an article, go over key points, and then begin a discussion," says Scott. Now teachers have more time to reflect on a topic, practice it in advance, and share resources with one another. The result has been richer in-person meetings with more reliable teacher participation, Scott adds. "I get a lot of feedback from teachers that I didn't get before."
Although flipping doesn't have to replace in-person meetings, it should at least enhance them, says Steven Anderson. As the director of IT for the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school district in North Carolina, he uses the model weekly with his IT staff. Instead of team meetings, Anderson holds team "learning time" every Friday afternoon from 1:00 to 4:00. Any information that doesn't require discussion is shared in advance through e-mail, blogs, the district website, or screencasts. The "reclaimed time" gives his staff the opportunity to review goals, engage in professional development, participate in webinars, and enhance skills and products to better serve teachers.
Anderson advises principals to use their own reclaimed time for learning and suggests trying the unconference model (an unstructured, participant-driven approach to professional development) or otherwise letting teachers shape the content. Whatever you do, just "make sure you're not filling the time with another meeting," Anderson cautions.

What's in a Flip?

To facilitate the flipped portion of a faculty meeting, principals have a number of tools at their disposal—Screencast-O-Matic, TouchCast, ShowMe, Padlet, VoiceThread, Jing, Google Docs, and Edmodo, among others. DeWitt uses Prezi and TouchCast to produce videos and then uploads them to YouTube. Scott also uses the TouchCast app to record videos with her iPad.
When producing a video or screencast (a recording of your computer screen), you don't have to be Steven Spielberg, says DeWitt. "Your video doesn't need to have special effects and explosions—it's really just providing teachers with information." (To learn how to create a screencast, check out Bergmann's step-by-step tutorial in the March 2013 issue of Educational Leadership.)
Flipping doesn't necessarily have to include video, however. It can take Miller up to an hour to write a script, gather images, and edit the content for an original video. "I'm saving my teachers time, but I'm not saving myself time," Miller admits.
A flip can be as simple as e-mailing information to staff before a meeting or posting it to a blog. Principals don't have to reinvent the wheel, experts say, because plenty of content can be sourced from the Internet. The method of delivery and the tools used are secondary to the substance, says Anderson. "Ultimately, the content of the flip is what's most important."
Miller adds that to buy in, teachers have to see value in the flipped content—and know how it relates to their classrooms.

Find Your Purpose

"The whole philosophy [of flipping faculty meetings] is very open for interpretation," Miller continues. "It just depends on the style of the administrator. I've seen administrators talk into their webcam for 15 minutes, and I've seen short, quick, informational videos. I don't think there's a right way."
"People think flipped faculty meetings are a set-in-stone idea," adds DeWitt. From watching a video to reading an article ahead of time, "flipping is anything that's going to maximize the discussion at the actual meeting."
Principals who have tried the model agree on at least one thing: whether you blog your flip, post it online, send it in a video or screencast, or display it in bright digital letters on the Goodyear Blimp, you need to have a purpose for doing it in the first place. Principals should be able to identify the "andragogical reason" for using the method with adult learners, says Bergmann. "Don't just introduce this because you think it's a cool idea. Do it because you want to help your staff."
Regardless of your approach, the success of a meeting (flipped or not) comes down to teacher perspective. To determine if you're on course, Sterrett suggests asking yourself a simple question: "If I were a teacher, would I want to attend this meeting?"

Eight Guidelines for a Seamless Flip

  1. Be concise. Keep videos under five minutes and stick to a script. Even if you're blogging or using a tool like Google Docs, the flipped portion should be short and to the point.

  2. Remember that content is king. Ensure that the flipped information is engaging and relevant to teachers' practice.

  3. Prepare for an unintended audience. Create videos with the expectation that your superintendent—or your school's most difficult parent—is watching, says Melinda Miller. Maintain a positive tone and save criticism for private meetings.

  4. Source your flip. Free PD-related videos can be shared from ASCD, Teaching Channel, TeacherTube, TED, and other websites.

  5. Have a game plan. Set clear expectations from the beginning. You can incorporate accountability measures by having teachers comment on videos or respond to a blog entry, but don't make flipping punitive in any way, advises Jon Bergmann.

  6. Reevaluate often. Seek regular feedback from teachers and be prepared to change your approach if something isn't working.

  7. Shake it up. Flip sparingly and alternate the tools you use. Flipping shouldn't "become something teachers can ignore," says Peter DeWitt.

  8. Maximize your in-person time. Don't just fill your reclaimed time with another faculty meeting. Let professional learning and collaboration drive the agenda.

 

Flipped Faculty Meeting Videos

Visit www.ascd.org/eu-jan14-videos to see videos of flipped faculty meetings from principals Peter DeWitt, Tricia Scott, and Melinda Miller.

Sarah McKibben is the digital managing editor of Educational Leadership.

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