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  • A Shift in the Teaching Paradigm


    Welcome to the new school year! As the Curriculum and Instruction Committee chair for the New Jersey Association of School Administrators, this year’s work will support the theme, Success as a Choice, set by the NJASA President Gary McCartney. 

    Thinking about this choice theme, I reflect on one choice the Ocean City School District made two years ago. Our School District chose to apply as a teacher evaluation pilot school district. We selected to use Charlotte Danielson’s Framework for Teaching model because of our work with the constructivist approach to the teaching-learning process. The pilot results indicated that if we focused on the teacher practice of engaging students in learning (Domain 3, components 3b, 3c), the student achievement side of the summative rating equation could be positively impacted. With that understanding, our efforts concentrated on those instructional strategies that mentally engaged our students; as Danielson describes the “minds-on” activities.

    Administrative observations indicated many engaging classrooms. One instructional strategy showing positive impact is the “Flipped Classroom.” The flipped classroom strategy reverses the traditional approach of teaching. Note taking and teacherflipped classroom

    lecture is done at home via on-line tutorials, usually developed by the teacher or from other resources. Assignments, usually given as homework, are completed now in class. Students work in small groups, collaborate and have meaningful discussion with their peers, which also helps to develop their interpersonal skills. The majority of the classroom time is used to engage the students and have them actively involved in the learning process. 

    With smart phones and mobile devices, students have the ability to watch the tutorials on their own terms. Students can take notes at their own pace and can rewind the instruction as many times as necessary to understand the taught concept. Students work towards mastery of the material with a support network of fellow students and their teacher. These two features of the flipped classroom enable students to achieve that "a-ha moment.”

    For the teacher, the benefit is having more time to challenge the advanced students in class and having time to assist students who are struggling. The teacher can best utilize class time to sit with an individual or small group of students, answer questions and discuss methods of problem-solving. The teacher is also able to observe effectively student progress and give immediate feedback. One of our math teachers, who has been instrumental with initiating this strategy, commented, "It's so satisfying to observe students discussing problems and the strategies to solve them. I’m having such a great experience reinventing my teaching. My classroom is a space where true discussion, collaboration and a student-centered environment are prevalent.”

    This approach is seen as a positive by some of our parents as well.  In fact, a former doubtful parent shared her thoughts.

    "I have to admit, when I first learned of the flipped classroom, I was somewhat skeptical. I can now sing the praises for this wonderful concept. Our children are no longer sitting in a classroom taking notes; they are actually getting "IT".  Bravo to you for bringing this wonderful concept to OCHS!"

    The flipped classroom is a shift in the teaching paradigm.  It is a choice that our School District believes will lead to more student success. It is transforming our math classrooms from the information distribution centers to a place where more ideas are exchanged and explored and two-way dialogue is the norm. Now, this is student engagement!

    Please come to the New Jersey School Boards Association Convention in October to learn more about the Flipped Classroom and lessons learned from one of our teachers.

    Have a successful school year!