* F is for flipped

The flipped classroom and flipped learning have been around for a while now, but those terms continue to generate some confusion.  The flipped classroom has been somewhat controversial in that students watch videos or read online info at home and then participate in classroom activities which require that knowledge.

The rationale for this model of the flipped classroom is that school time can then be spent in creative applications of knowledge instead of its acquisition.  Sadly, the brain doesn’t work that way.  Front loading a stack of information is a sure way to overload the brain.  And for struggling students, attempting to assimilate new information after a LONG day at school is mostly futile.  Many of our at-risk students don’t have access to a computer or tablet.  One variation on flipped classrooms is for students to produce these videos for classmates to watch, a kind of “jigsaw” cooperative learning process.  Again, if the watching and learning process must occur after a long day, it’s usually counterproductive.

On the other hand, the flipped learning model is, to me, another way of describing authentic project-based learning.  Teachers establish content and appropriate materials but create a flexible physical environment for group and individual endeavors.  Students are provided rich opportunities for exploration and self-evaluation.  In this role, teachers are facilitators, not lecturers.  They must allow students to explore content by working with others (which can be noisy), provide continual feedback to guide the progress, and establish suitable evaluation procedures.  This kind of teaching requires skilled and experienced educators who know where their kids must be going and can support unique ways for them to get there.  I’ve seen this flipped learning modeled in classes of National Board certified teachers.  Flipped learning is no small task for teachers or students.

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* What is National Board Certification?

NBPTSWhat is National Board Certification?  I’ve been asked what this process entails and what impact it has upon teaching.

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) was organized in 1983 to address “a rising tide of mediocrity” in education (see A Nation at Risk for the archived document).   The actual certification process began in 1993; the organization added special education certification in 1995.  National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs) may qualify under 25 certification areas.  The following propositions are core beliefs of the National Boards organization and certification process.  They may sound rather simplistic, but I’ve written and edited hundreds of thousands of words about them!

  • Proposition 1: Teachers are committed to students and  their learning.
  • Proposition 2: Teachers know the subjects they teach and how to teach those subjects to students.
  • Proposition 3: Teachers are responsible for managing and monitoring student learning.
  • Proposition 4: Teachers think systematically about their practice and learn from experience.
  • Proposition 5: Teachers are members of learning communities.

In 2013, over 100,000 teachers in all 50 states were National Board Certified in at least one area.  There is only one special education certification, but it includes five specialty areas.  A candidate for certification must choose one of these:

  • Deaf/Hard of Hearing (birth to 21+ years). Teachers in this path work with students from birth to 21+ years of age with any degree of hearing loss, from mild unilateral to profound bilateral loss, in self-contained to home or generic education environments, and via multiple languages and communication modes.
  • Early Childhood (birth to 8 years). Teachers in this path work with students from birth to 8years of age with special needs. These teachers may serve families with children who have special needs in a family-centered approach to early intervention, children who are at risk for special needs, and children with a wide range of special needs.
  • Gifted and Talented (3 to 18+ years). Teachers in this path work with students with gifts and talents from 3 to 18+ years of age.
  • Mild/Moderate Disabilities (5 to 21+ years). Teachers in this path work with students from 5 to 21+ years of age with mild to moderate cognitive disabilities. The students served by these teachers may have learning disabilities, mild to moderate mental retardation, attention deficit disorders, developmental delays, autism, emotional disturbance, behavioral disorders, or health impairments.
  • Severe and Multiple Disabilities (5 to 21+ years). Teachers in this path work with students from 5 to 21+ years of age with a range of cognitive abilities, often accompanied by sensory, physical, emotional, and/or health impairments. The students served by these teachers may have severe or profound mental retardation, traumatic brain injury, uncontrolled
    seizure disorders, dual sensory impairments, autism, neurological impairments, physical impairments, and/or health impairments.
  • Visual Impairments (birth to 21+ years). Teachers in this path work with students from birth to 21+ years of age with visual impairment. The students served by these teachers may have low vision or severe to total visual impairment.

The certification process is extremely rigorous and challenging.  After being certified myself, I have mentored numerous teachers from a wide variety of certification areas, which has given me a decent overview of the process.  It takes almost a year to complete a portfolio, which includes videotapes and documented evidence of performance.  The portfolio is distributed to trained scorers around the nation; each section of the portfolio is reviewed by two or more scorers.  Finally, a teacher must take a comprehensive online assessment.  Teachers are notified of their scores in the fall of the next school year.  Some states provide financial support for the process; others may reward certified teachers with a bonus or salary increase.  Every ten years, NBCTs must renew their certification in order to continue as Board Certified.

The following information was copied from the NBPTS website:  Nationwide, nearly 50 percent of NBCTs work in high-poverty schools. They are also among the nation’s leaders in math and science. Since 2008, more than 30 percent of all winners of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching are NBCTs.  In 2008, a comprehensive meta-analysis of 11 studies conducted by the National Research Council concluded “the evidence is clear that National Board certification distinguishes more effective teachers from less effective teachers with respect to student achievement.”  Most recently, a 2012 study by Harvard University’s Strategic Data Project found that students of NBCTs in the Los Angeles Unified School District made learning gains equivalent to an additional two months of instruction in math and one month in English Language Arts.

I do believe the NB certification process promotes better teaching.  It requires much analysis of instruction, research-based practices, and self-reflection.  The process also requires significant stamina to complete while also teaching kids every day.