Flipped peer observation leads
to job-embedded teacher learning.
Emily Dolci Grimm, Trent Kaufman,
and Dave Doty
Midway through her 12th year of teaching social studies, Maria found herself reflecting on an ongoing challenge: her stu- dents’ struggle to cite evidence from non- fiction texts. She was pleased that students
in her United States history class regularly volunteered to
share their opinions on topics the class was studying. It was
obvious, however, that most of them struggled to use their
reading to inform these opinions.
With the district’s heightened focus on literacy, Maria
had spent years learning literacy strategies at schoolwide
professional development days. She’d discussed these strategies at department meetings. Yet back in her classroom,
with 25 pairs of tired eyes staring at her, she found that her
use of the practices varied. After months of implementing
the new strategies, Maria felt stalled. “How can I improve
my implementation of these practices while teaching in isolation?” she wondered. “I need another colleague or two to
help me examine what I’m doing in my classroom.”
Why Traditional Professional
Development Falls Flat
Maria’s frustration is common. We’ve heard the same thing
from teachers in elementary and secondary schools, from
new teachers and veterans: Most professional development
experiences fail to affect what teachers do in the classroom
each day. Traditional professional development provides no
shortage of strategies and resources. Yet, these approaches
fall short of improving instruction for three primary
n Teachers have little say in what they learn. Too often,
teachers aren’t involved in selecting the topics or focus of
professional development sessions. As a result, the content
may not speak directly to their daily challenges.
n Transferring learning from training to the classroom is
difficult. The variables of the classroom—students, content,
time of day—add a level of complexity to implementation
that cannot be fully explored in a training setting.
n There are few opportunities to practice and refine strat-
egies. Teachers are left to apply their learning in isolation.