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Some persons may be confused by the title of this article. Others may be visualising the word flipping in a literal way, as they do not have positive emotions towards Continuing Professional Development (CPD). Nevertheless, CPD is a reality for all teachers in the UAE, whether you are in the private or public education sector.

The importance of developing oneself professionally cannot be overstated. With the constantly evolving trends in education, teachers more than most are very aware of the need to stay current. However, where we begin to have a problem is in the delivery of the CPD.

Have you ever complained about having to attend training sessions after school, which were mandated by the powers that be? Yes, I am referring to those obligatory training sessions which have been arranged by the school or the council on a topic, which they believe is of relevance to you and one they think will do wonders for your practice.

Teachers are mandated to do these training sessions at the end of the school day when all they really want to do is get out of school or use the time to prepare for the next day’s lessons. Instead, they are made to sit through a theory filled hour, which bears little relevance to what they are doing on a daily basis. Let me hasten to say that this is not the case in every school and I am sure there are schools in which the sessions are both thought provoking and extremely relevant to the teachers’ daily practice, but in the schools and councils where this is not the case, I would like to suggest that flipping CPD might be the answer.

There has been a lot of talk about the flipped classroom. In a flipped classroom the students first study the topic by themselves, typically using video lessons prepared by the teacher or third parties. During the class time, students apply the knowledge by solving problems and doing practical work.

Flipping CPD could work in a similar manner. Teachers are given access to a series of presentations on various topics through video presentations accompanied by additional resources and reading texts where necessary. They are also given time to implement what they have learned in their classrooms. The training sessions after school then become an active time of discussion on what worked well and what could be done differently. Teachers then get a chance to speak with colleagues, gain ideas, co plan and strategise. They leave the session with something practical that they can take and immediately implement in their classrooms.

The person who would typically be presenting the content in the training session will now take on the role of facilitator and guide, offering helpful hints and tips to the teachers throughout their discussions. This could result in less after school sessions, giving the teachers the time to plan their work to suit their lifestyle. Additionally, this would also allow them the freedom to choose when to focus on the content of their professional development. The teachers would have to had watched the video and have done the required work in order to participate in the discussion and implementation of the concepts.

There is no perfect system and flipping CPD does have its drawbacks. There is the fact that not all teachers would have done the required work and so discussions could lag. Similarly to  a flipped classroom, the videos and materials can be made available for those who need it on the day. There could be problems with technology but these problems would have to be dealt with as they arise.

If we are proposers of active learning and independent learning for the students, then we should begin with the teachers. Let the teachers take ownership of their continuing professional development and flip CPD.

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 By Leisa Simapili