On January 14, 2013, my school held its first “Flipped Faculty Meeting” (FFM). Just as the “flipped classroom” model seeks to relegate rote content delivery to non-class time and make more efficient use of face-to-face (F2F) time in class, the idea of the flipped faculty meeting – at least as our school has pursued it thus far – is twofold:
- shift rote information delivery to an electronic format (e.g., email) to be consumed outside of the meeting
- make our faculty meeting time meaningful for the professional learning of each staff member
That second point is open to wide interpretation, of course, and just like there’s no wrong way to eat a Reese’s, there’s no wrong way to flip a faculty meeting (or at least, there are several right ways). The option our school went with, at least this time, was to have the Jan. 14 meeting function as a mini-Edcamp, in which teachers could select from a variety of workshops on topics generated by staff and facilitated by our colleagues.
One major difference between our FFM and an Edcamp, of course, is that Edcamps are 6-8 hour events, with self-selecting (read: voluntary) attendees and plenty of time to develop workshop sessions. We, on the other hand, had just one hour for our FFM, and all faculty members were required to attend. The time issue especially meant that a lot of pre-planning had to go into this so we could all hit the ground running at 3:45pm and have our experience go as smooth as possible. Here’s how we did it:
At a faculty meeting in October, our principal asked the faculty to think about what it was we felt we needed PD/training/more time spent on. Our staff of 150-200 was divided into breakout groups, and each group discussed amongst themselves and put individual topics down on index cards.
Our School Improvement Team (SIT) met at some point since, reviewed the index cards gathered from the faculty, and identified common themes/strands. From there, they turned the common themes into ten areas (which would later become our topics for the FFM).
With this information, I created a survey so attendees could indicate which session they’d like to attend. It’s worth noting here that the Edcamp ethos of “the rule of two feet” applied here – if attendees did not feel a workshop was meeting their needs, they were free to go to another one; however, we asked people to complete the survey simply so we could get an idea of each session’s attendance beforehand (and if we’d have to split any into smaller groups, as we did for one workshop, or cancel any due to lack of interest, which we also did).
We also created a separate Google Doc for each session, which would be used as a brainstorm/scratchpad for attendees prior to the FFM sessions. We felt that the development of essential questions beforehand would be instrumental not only in guiding the conversations, but also in getting us off and running as early in the hour as possible.
For the inaugural FFM, SIT members (and I) agreed to facilitate the sessions. From the time I rolled out the idea of the FFM to the whole faculty some time in December, I have been talking it up and reiterating at every turn that this is not “sit & git”; it is a collaborative conversation and/or workshop environment.
Finally, the SIT created signage that indicated where each session would be held. There would be no large group meeting to start off the hour; we all just came in from our afternoon duty and got to where we needed to be. Efficient, no?
On The Day
After bus duty, we all went our separate ways and got to work. Our principal and the district Director of Instructional Services toured the building and dropped in on all the sessions. I can’t speak to the quality or direction of all the conversations from first-hand experience, of course (I was facilitating in a computer lab), but the preliminary chatter I overheard in the hallway on the way out was all positive.
We surveyed our faculty members toward the end of the hour, and the results were overwhelmingly positive. Of 63 respondents, 54 indicated that the format met their needs, 7 said it did not, and 2 said “Yes and no”. Positive comments generally centered around the following themes:
- It was great to have time to discuss what we feel is important
- It was helpful to see what other teachers are doing to inform our own practice
- The format lent itself to productive discussions in small groups
- Time to brainstorm with colleagues was beneficial
We also got some good suggestions for future sessions, including:
- Smartboard training
- Vertical subject area articulation between grades
- Reading strategies
- “Share a Center”
Some constructive criticism revolved around the following themes:
- Nothing offered pertinent to my subject area
- Time allotted was insufficient
- More variety of topics needed
- We need an “expert” in this area to guide us; not enough expertise in the room to fully develop conversation (primarily in regard to the new Common Core State Standards)
At this point, it is my understanding that the administration would like to hold another FFM sometime in February. I’m all for that, as long as that gives us enough time to reflect on the strengths of the format and work on areas in need of improvement. Personally, I would like to see this model employed for building-level (or – dare I say it – district-level?!) professional development days at some point in the future, perhaps in a way that more closely models an actual Edcamp (multiple sessions throughout the day). I also think that as people get more comfortable with the format, we may see more volunteering to facilitate conversations – several people indicated on their surveys that they would indeed be interested in doing so next time!
As of now, I still have not sat with the principal, assistant principal, or SIT to do a proper post-mortem on the FFM, but informal conversations with all have been positive. If nothing else, I hope this post can serve as a model to school leaders who want to make more efficient and productive use of their faculty meetings. In 13 years as an educator, I have never attended a faculty meeting and received information that couldn’t have been better (or quicker) delivered as an email or a memo. I’m not saying that it’s never appropriate to share information in that forum, but I don’t think it should be the default function of the meeting. Let’s use that time together to collaborate, share ideas, and tackle some of the more challenging questions of the day together. Teaching can be isolating enough as it is, so let’s make better use of that time to interact with each other instead of always just sitting and listening, together, alone.