When I started teaching 12 years ago I wanted to connect with my students and inspire them to love my subject area. That first year – yep it was a fail. Fortunately I had a mentor who told me the first year is about you the teacher, not the kids. Still – I felt bad. As I learned more about education, the idea that kids learn best in small work groups made sense to me. So the journey to transform my teaching began with table group work building into learning teams. I read everything I could get my hands on – and organized my kids into teams of four students, designed a feedback rubric for them to use, came up with titles and assigned responsibilities for each member of the team. It was better, but I was still living at the front of the room lecturing and kids were still – as my English teacher in Sweden described it “little sausages to be stuffed with knowledge”!
I kept searching, because my students were learning and were interacting but weren’t motivated to love Biology (my subject area), and I felt the lack of that passion feeding me as the teacher to go further and deeper into my subject area. I focused my research on motivation and discovered Daniel Pink’s book “Drive”, he inspired me to want to create a classroom that increased the intrinsic motivation of my students to learn. His research showed that intrinsic motivation increases with choice – the freedom to have some control over what they are doing. Achieving this kind of classroom became my objective and the focus of my research to discover how other teachers were attempting to achieve this objective as well.
Actively participating in the NSTA Bio Listserv at that time I was interested in reading every question posted and every response particularly focused on how to present material and keep students engaged. Jon Bergman was posting to the listserv at that time and presenting his and Sam Aaron’s early version of Flipped Learning. The question was posed to Jon about organizing curriculum/lessons to determine what to use for the flipped learning and to fill in the class work time. Jon referenced Kathie Nunley’s Layered Curriculum. I was in lesson planning nirvana! Here was an experienced biology teacher who was writing lessons that were driven by adolescent brain development, and wanting to increase motivation by offering choices! I dove in….