Episode 25 Reaching Every Student with Jon Bergmann

Jon Bergmann is considered a pioneer in the Flipped Class Movement. He is leading the global flipped learning movement by working with governments, corporations, and schools. He has worked all over the world and is the author of seven books including the bestselling book: Flip Your Classroom which has been translated into 10 languages. He is the founder of the global FlipCon (now RESCon) conferences which are dynamic engaging events which inspire educators to transform their practise through flipped learning. Jon also co-founded the Flipped Learning Network, a non-profit organization which provides resources and research about flipped learning.

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Dan: Hi everyone and welcome to another episode of the effective teaching podcast. Today I am interviewing John Bergmann. John can you  just tell us a little bit about what you’re currently doing cause I know things have changed for you lately. 

Jon: Yeah. So I’ve got this weird privilege that, you know,  had this crazy opportunity, really humbling opportunity to travel the world, tell people about how Flip Brain changes everything. And I really felt that I was called back to the classroom. So here I am standing in my classroom,  where I teach five classes, every day to students. And, enjoying every minute of it. 

Dan: That’s so good to have someone who is such a leader, to actually then step out of that in one sense, to get back into the classroom, to actually put into practice all those things you’ve been teaching us for so long. Can you tell us a bit about where you see the future of the Flip Learning going? Cause I know recently we talked about you changed the name of it, for example, into Reaching Every Student. 

The future of flipped learning

Dan: So, where do you see the future of Flipped Learning going from where it is at the moment? 

Jon: Yeah, I mean, at the heart of good learning, I think all of us, all of your listeners know the heart of good learning always comes back to the one key word. I would say, relationships. If kids don’t know that you care, they won’t care, what you know, right? So it’s important to connect with students. And so the most powerful thing about Flip Learning by far is definitely the opportunities, the additional time that you have, where you can connect with students. And to me, that is the heart and soul of what makes Flipped Learning work. 

Dan: It’s definitely been my experience with Flip Learning. I noticed when I started doing it, my relationships with my students got a lot deeper. I really knew where they were at and what their next steps were, and I knew more about just their personal interests and stuff as well. 

Jon: Yeah, you get to know, not only, I mean, certainly you get to know their cognitive understanding or lack thereof, but also you get to really get to know who they are. There’s just additional contact time and additional contact time leads to interesting conversations. 

It’s like yesterday I had some students, we were having a conversation and, you know, Mr Bergmann is very unaware of popular culture. I’ve always been this way. And they were talking about some singer and I said, “So who is this person?” And they said, “Really Mr Bergmann? You don’t know who that is?”. I said, “Yeah, and there was this guy coming through recently. His name was K Something West”. And they said, “Who’s K West? Oh, Mr Bergmann, you don’t mean Kanye West.”

So I couldn’t remember what this guy’s name was, he’s apparently a very famous singer. 

Dan: Yeah, he’s a bit a little bit famous I would say yes, but not necessarily for good reasons though, I don’t think. 

Jon: Well, I don’t keep up with that stuff. 

Keys to a more effective flipped learning classroom

Dan: So, what do you think are the key things that you need to do in a Flipped Learning classroom to make it more effective? 

Jon: Well, a key is that you know, you’re, you’re moving the direct instruction to the individual space where the students are gonna interact with it. You know, could be introduced to the content that you can use class time to apply, analyze, and it’s just flipping Bloom’s taxonomy on its head, right? Apply, analyze. When I rethink what class time looks like, that’s the key to the whole ballgame. And that’s what makes it effective. That’s why the research, there’s tons of research now that basically says, look, learning works works. That it works, works. It works at Harvard medical school and it works at small little community colleges and it works at primary schools, you know, in science and history and math, social studies and, engineering and nursing and you name it, it works.

So research says it works. And I think the reason it works, actually, I would argue there’s two reasons that it works. Number one, relationships we’ve talked about already. And number two, it provides active learning. You know, active learning wins. So that’s the key to making, that’s why this thing happened. It works. 

Dan: Okay. So if we’re getting narrowed down to something our listeners can do in the classroom, what is the most powerful thing that they could really do in a Flipped Learning classroom? 

Jon: So this is what I do everyday is I have what I call Mastery Checks. So I’m not just doing flipped and being flip masters, so my students have to match the concept before they move on.

But there’s the, the key to this is that we have lots and lots and lots of small individual, small groups and one on one conversations. So a student has watched a video, for example, and done questions around that are harder. Like a kind of application or analysis level on Bloom’s sticks on it.

We’re going to sit down and have a conversation and to make it work with large classes. It’s a group of me and three or four kids. And then we’re gonna go around and we’re gonna have them ask me a question. And as they ask me a question, I quickly know who gets it and who doesn’t. Right?

Or who has misunderstandings and misconceptions. And then we have some of the richest conversations. Yeah. Just today, I just had some great conversations with  the topic we’re studying in our geology classes, flooding. And I now live in Houston Texas, and Houston Texas two years ago had a horrible flood. It was another hurricane that went through and dumped 50 inches. I don’t know what that is in centimeters? 

Dan: About 120, or something, isn’t it?

Jon: 120 centimeters, it was a horrible thing. And all their homes were flooded. These kids get flooding, and like you can’t imagine. So we had just had some great conversations about some of the causes of the flooding and they, they understand this on a visceral level, to understand it at the scientific level now really I  saw tons of “ahas” happening one-on-one in small groups, not just sort of the big class discussion where the eyes roll back.

This is all because they’ve already done the pre learning. There were some, some cheesy videos that I made about how floods happen and etc, etc, but now they start to apply it and see it. 

Dan: Yeah. I’ve got to say, one of the things that I did quite early on with my Flip Learning classroom too, is actually to try and make sure I set aside in my week at least one lesson, pretty much, where I would go through my class and do you know those one-to-one interviews?

I mean, I had small classes when I was flipping, but yeah, I could see that really, it just gives you so much more insight into your students. I found that just really gives you those, Oh, this is why this is where you’re stuck. Let me, let me fix that for you, or let me help. Let me help you with that and let me at least tell you how you can go about starting to work on those things.

Creating lifelong learners

Dan: So, can you talk to me than a bit about how you see a Flipped Learning and those kind of one-to-one or one-to-two or three, meetings actually creating lifelong learners? 

Jon: Well, the thing that’s happening is, is that’s creating curiosity and curiosity. If we don’t have curious people, then we got problems. So I really see this as an activator towards lifelong learning. Cause they’re just curious. Kids are curious by nature, and this is giving opportunities to even be curious, but also to have a kind of an adult conversation with somebody. Right? So I got high school students who are, you know , 17, 16, 15, 16, 17 years old. And, for them to have an adult conversation with somebody about something, you know, related to what they’re learning about is so powerful. And that’s, that’s the kind of worker that we want, right? Who’s a lifelong learner when they go out into this world where their jobs are gonna change seven times.

I mean, their whole careers will change seven times. I think as the research I’ve seen recently, this is desperately needed in our schools. 

Dan: Yep. Yeah, definitely. One of the reasons why my podcast focuses so much on the lifelong learners is because I see it basically as what’s needed.

Like when we’re talking about preparing students for their unknown futures. Basically, if you teach them how to learn and won’t matter what that future is, because whatever confronts them or whatever problem it is, if they know how to learn, they can go and do that learning themselves to overcome those problems.

Jon: Yeah. I think it’s here, regardless of what I think you need a context and it’s, you know, I teach science, you know, physics and geology right now, but very few students are going to want to be geologists or physicists. They’re going to go on and do whatever they’re gonna do. But if we could teach them how to learn, then we’re setting them up for the future.

Master checks

Dan: Yeah, definitely. So can you then provide our listeners with just one thing that they could do today or this week that would have a great impact on their students in their classrooms? 

Jon: Well, and I just go back to what I said earlier. Do these Master Checks, you know, as you said that you did, carve out at least one day a week. I mean, I do it every day, but, carve out some time where you have a chance to sit down and chat with every student maybe, and it doesn’t have to be one-on-one. It can be one-on-three, but in small groups at least, and have critical questions and then dialogue and you are going to be like totally blown away by what they do and probably also what they don’t understand. This could probably be a combo deal. If you do that, it’ll change your perspective. It will change how you think about schools change, how you think about your kids. A game changer. 

Questions to ask your kids

Dan: Can you give us a couple of examples of the critical questions that you’d like to ask your kids when you have those meetings.

Jon: So it’s kind of lesson by lesson. So try to think of sort of application level questions. So it’s not just say, define this, but why. I guess the big thing is why did this happen? And so like, you know, one of the problems as we talked about flooding is we have some dams here in Houston and the dams hold back something, and I tried to say,  do the dams hold back?

And of course they always say water, but water isn’t the only thing I want them to get to the point. In this conversation to realise that there’s also sediments or dirt, if you will. And then as the rivers fill up, they make the reservoirs shallower, which then creates big flooding problems if you don’t dig the dirt out.

And it took, and that was kind of my end goal to get them to that stage, and I wanted them to kind of come up with that on their own. So I was asking leading questions to get them to that point. That was the big objective for them to see. 

Dan: That’s cool. I like that. Like just you’re thinking about flooding and dams. I’m just like, when you asked a question, some of the things that went in my mind too with these like, you know, it’s holding about life too, cause it’s what water feeds life and also carries with it so many micro-biome and, yeah, the animals that live in it as well, which I imagine would also affect a lot of your geographical landscape that you’ve got out there, if you’ve got lots of really big dams  like that, just I’ve just, see I like to learn. That’s my problem. 

Jon: That’s not a problem.

Dan: John, thank you so much for giving up your time. I know you’re busy. I know you’re actually still at school, thank you so much for that. I really appreciate you giving up your time. I know that you’re generally, overly busy. Especially now that you’re not just running this learning around the world, but you’re also back in your classroom doing what you love to do. That’s fantastic. 

Jon: Well, it’s been great chatting with you. 

Dan: Thanks, John.

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