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Finding Common Ground

A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and leadership coach, Peter DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. Former superintendent Michael Nelson is a frequent contributor. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

Take the Partnership Approach to Flipped Leadership

By Peter DeWitt — July 16, 2014 5 min read
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“To engage in dialogue is a countercultural act. It is, however, also a sign that we truly respect our partners. Dialogue is talking with the goal of digging deeper and exploring ideas together.” Jim Knight

In Unmistakable Impact (2012), Jim Knight focuses on the partnership approach to professional learning. He writes that, professional development can inspire teachers and leaders to change practices or try new ones, but they don’t follow through when they get back to their classroom or school. Even presenters with the best intentions, do not always have an impact on change. Knight says (2011), “Jake Cornett and I (Cornett & Knight. 2009) looked at over 200 studies of professional development and found that one-shot traditional workshops rarely change professional practice.”

For years, we spent so much time going to conferences where we learned so many great strategies, and only used a few of them at best. It’s not really a surprise I guess. Schools are busy places. Teachers and leaders going in thousands of different directions on a daily basis, so when they return to their environment after professional development, the ideas get lost before they ever get implemented.

Great ideas die before the implementation stage.

Unfortunately, in a conference or workshop setting participants are with other likeminded participants, but when they go back to their own setting, they are usually alone. We need partners to bring us to the next level. We need impact partners (Knight. 2012) to help guide us. They can provide us with the information we may have missed. It’s impossible to remember everything we learned in a workshop.

Knowing this, I need some help.

Flipped leadership seems to be an idea that is catching on. The other day I posted 5 Reasons You Should Flip Your Leadership. The response was awesome. School leaders were Tweeting that they planned to use this in the new school year, at the same time that others are Tweeting what they have tried, and what apps they use.

Reading Jim Knight’s work makes me worry that school leaders will go back, and an idea they were once excited about, will fall off their list and die before it ever lives. If educators who are on Twitter are really using the flipped approach to leadership, I think we should share this information with each other. I created a Hashtag for Twitter so we can share our ideas together.

#fliplead will provide a space where we can share our ideas. What works? What doesn’t? For example, some of us use the Touchcast app to make videos because it is user-friendly, while others may use something entirely different. Some leaders created videos for staff that were 10 minutes long, while others made videos that were less than 5 minutes. There are leaders who created videos for staff, but never thought about doing it for parents. They need help getting started.

#fliplead will be a place where we can share videos in one place so our colleagues have a common area where they can see exemplars of what it means to flip leadership.

In order to join the hashtag, which is open to anyone on Twitter...is to actually get on Twitter. So, you must:

1. Join Twitter

    • Create a username that identifies you.

      • It can be your name or your school

2. Begin following educators you know are on there

3. Search #fliplead to see what resources are available

    • If it’s empty, Tweet something out using the hashtag.

If you are on Twitter, and want to share your resources, wisdom and advice, use #fliplead when Tweeting.

Flip the Old Idea

There are many positives to a spin on an old idea. Yes, flipped leadership seems new but many of us have been flipping our leadership for years and didn’t even know it. We send out research-based articles, opinion blogs, inspirational videos, and other information to staff before we meet in person.

Flipped leadership is about engaging students, teachers and parents in ways that will help tighten the school community. And given the changes that seemed forced upon us that we have all seen in the past few years, we need to circle the wagons in our schools.

We need to make sure we are being both transparent and informative, and making the changes we feel are important...not just the ones that state leaders suggest. Leaders need to make sure they are maximizing their time with staff, and they must make sure they are partnering with parents, even if parents may disagree with them. The worst thing that can happen in a school is when a majority of parents say that they don’t know what goes on within the brick and mortar.

I believe that those of us who have flipped our leadership, and believe it is worthy of doing all year every year, have an obligation to help our leadership colleagues who want to begin the process but do not understand how to do it. I believe we should share our mistakes and our expertise. It’s the only way to help this idea of engagement become stronger.

No one of us are more important than all of us” is the saying that floats around when it comes to professional learning. One idea is great but when it is shared, dissected, and debated by others it becomes stronger and must more engaging. Enough connected educators, and those who want to become more connected, use Twitter. BUT, many leaders and educators are not using Twitter to its full potential, and #fliplead will suit three purposes. It will help newly connected leaders see the benefits of Twitter, help them find a PLN, and will teach them how to flip.

Jim Knight is right that ideas die because we do not find impact partners to help us make changes. If you really want to flip your leadership, connect with others who are already doing it, and learn from them.

Connect with Peter on Twitter.

To view Peter’s EdWeb Webinar on Flipped Leadership click here.


DeWitt, Peter (2014). Flipping Leadership Doesn’t Mean Reinventing the Wheel. Corwin Press. Thousand Oaks, CA. Part of the Connected Educator Series.

Knight, Jim (2011). Unmistakable Impact: A Partnership Approach to Dramatically Improve Instruction. Corwin Press in partnership with Learning Forward. Thousand Oaks, CA.

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The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.