When I started out as a teacher, over 15 years ago, I was what might be categorized as “traditional.” I gave PowerPoint lectures, assigned homework, and supported my students to perform confirmatory labs demonstrating what I had already told them was true in the lecture. I was seen as a “good” teacher. Evaluations from administrators, along with anecdotal comments from students and parents, supported this label. But something didn’t feel right. My students were not all demonstrating mastery on assessments, and I didn’t feel like I was connecting with and supporting each student every day. About five years into my teaching career, at the annual Colorado Association of Science Teachers’ Conference in November, I learned about Flipped Learning at a presentation by Aaron Sams and Jon Bergmann. The general idea of Flipped Learning is that students need support on the more challenging aspects of learning (application) and can receive the direct instruction parts (lecture) on their own time. While this model has evolved over time, it started out as an emphasis on doing exploratory and application-like activities with students in class (labs, practice problems, etc.) and providing students with the information, either as an introduction or wrap-up to the lesson, through video for students to watch on their own time. Feeling like this might be a way to better meet the needs of my students, over the holiday break, I revamped my entire Chemistry course, making videos of all my lectures, writing a grant to secure some technology, and preparing to launch my Flipped Chemistry course upon return to school in January. Much to my surprise, students did not readily embrace this change in the way I had hoped. I received comments such as “you’re not teaching me,” and parents started complaining to the administration. I learned a lot from that experience. Change takes time and must be well thought out and planned. Stakeholders, in this case students, parents, and administrators, needed to be brought into the planning and needed to understand the purpose and motivation behind the change. And most importantly, I needed a community of other teachers to exchange ideas with, share challenges with, and receive support from. I had decided to implement this change without a network of support, and without consulting others to determine possible roadblocks and challenges. When we pursue the path less taken, it can often feel scary and lonely. Finding individuals who share similar choices can often be reassuring and motivate us to push past moments of difficulty when we believe this uncharted path really is the best one for us. This is why community is so important, especially in education.
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Shannon Wachowski; Cultivating community. Phys. Teach. 1 December 2022; 60 (9): 794–795. https://doi.org/10.1119/10.0015305
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