THE Answer to What Ails Education with Jon Bergmann
October 25, 2022
THE Answer to What Ails Education with Jon Bergmann

Research and experiences allow us to consistently develop new best practices for teaching and learning. What worked last year may not work this year, for a multitude of reasons. And what we thought worked years ago clearly isn’t what’s best for our kids. So we get to shift what we’re doing to ensure we’re giving all our students what they need in order to flourish. (If only all educational decision-makers would get on board!)

Jon Bergmann, this week’s podcast guest, is fully on board and leading the charge. You heard him all the way back in episode 3 talking about flipped learning. And this week he’s back to talk about how to make the most of flipped learning. And that’s mastery learning.

Jon is back in the trenches, teaching in a high school classroom, which I think lends even more credibility to what he’s sharing. Because he’s trying things out with real students in a real learning environment.

In this episode, Jon defines some important educational terms so we can all be on the same page. And he discusses why “mastery” doesn’t need to mean the same thing for every student. He even shares exactly how teachers can plan out lessons to help students achieve the level of mastery they’re on board with. It’s such a refreshing idea that I know will help support students for years to come.

About Jon Bergmann:

Jon Bergmann is one of the pioneers of the Flipped Classroom. He has helped schools, universities, organizations, and governments all over the world introduce active and flipped learning into their contexts. He is a frequent keynote speaker who challenges and inspires audiences with stories and real-life examples from his classroom.

He has taught at urban, suburban, rural, and private schools. He spent twenty-four years as a classroom teacher in Colorado before becoming a technology facilitator in the Chicago suburbs. When Flip Your Classroom became an international bestseller, he traveled the world for eight years, helping schools and universities move from passive to active learning. In 2019, he returned to the classroom to further develop Flipped and Mastery Learning. This has amplified Jon’s voice with teachers and professors. They now see him as a fellow teacher working through the complexities and challenges of teaching today because his presentations include struggles and successes as he works every day with students.

Jon believes the two most important things that make good teaching good are active learning and relationships. Too much education is received passively, and Jon knows from both research and experience that students learn best when they are active participants. Students don’t care what you know until they know that you care, and Jon tries every day to connect with his students.

Jon has written and co-authored ten books that have been translated into thirteen languages. In 2002, Jon received the Presidential Award for Excellence for Math and Science Teaching; and in 2010, he was a Semi-Finalist for Colorado Teacher of the Year. He serves on the advisory board for TED Education. He teaches full-time science and assists with staff development at Houston Christian High School in Houston, Texas. Find out more about Jon at and find book resources at

Jump in the Conversation:

[1:38] – Defining some educational terms
[9:37] – Why Jon is switching focus to mastery learning
[11:59] – Education can no longer be one size fits all
[13:12] – This is THE answer to what ails the education system
[14:50] – From international consultant back to the classroom
[17:02] – What teachers need to learn about mastery
[22:02] – 3 steps educators can take to create mastery learning in their classrooms
[24:10] – Rethink how you do planning
[28:08] – Turbo Time
[31:53] – Jon’s Magic Wand
[34:35] – Maureen’s Takeaways

Links & Resources



Maureen O’Shaughnessy 0:03
Hello fellow parents and educators. Thank you for joining me at education evolution, where we are disrupting the status quo in today’s learning models. We talk about present day education, what’s broken, who’s fixing it, and how. I’m Dr. Maureen O’Shaughnessy, your host and founder of education evolution, micro school coalition, and co founder of active, I consult and train with schools and leaders who are fiercely committed to changing the narrative, reimagining the education landscape, and creating learning that serves all children and prepares them to thrive. If you are new, welcome to the podcast. Please subscribe on our website to get it delivered to your inbox weekly. If you’ve been around a while, have you left a review?

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 1:08
Hi, Jon, it is great to have you back on education evolution.

Jon Bergmann 1:11
Thanks for having me, Maureen.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 1:13
And listeners today I’m chatting with flipped learning pioneer, John Bergman. John was one of the three celebrities who helped me launch this education evolution podcast granting an interview a few years ago. And it’s such a pleasure to keep up with John and learn about his latest book. So John, let’s get everyone on the same page, will you please school us and define these four educational terms so that we all have the same foundation for this conversation, flipped learning.

Jon Bergmann 1:45
So it’s a pedagogical approach that you introduced the content through some pre learning activities, video or texts, so that the face to face class time could be at a Zoom Room by the way, is maximized. So you’re flipping the direct instruction and not doing that in class. So that class time can be maximized.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 2:09
So my student gets your help during class time, instead of you talking the whole class time and then coming home to me and I have to be the one helping them with chemistry or something. That’s what you’re saying, bingo. Oh, my God, parents around the world that have flipped learners love you Just sayin. Second term, competency based learning.

Jon Bergmann 2:32
So you have a set of competencies, think of them as learning objectives. So there’s a discrete number of learning objectives that you want students to master. So when they get to the end of a unit, or whatever, they have demonstrated competency slash mastery on that topic. And then they don’t go on until they’ve mastered those concepts, or demonstrated competency.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 2:58
Yeah, I love that idea of being really clear on what you will learn in US history this semester, here is the set list. I think sometimes it’s covering a book and kids aren’t really sure what’s even important. So that clarity, and teachers also been clear on what things am I looking for being competency based? Seems like it really focuses everybody in and gets learning done. Yep, absolutely. You touched on it. But can you unpack a little bit more mastery learning

Jon Bergmann 3:30
so many ways, I think of them as the same thing mastering competency. In my new book, I just talked about how, you know, it’s tomato tomahto, I prefer the term mastery over competency because competency sounds that you’ve just sort of met some minimum standards. And I would rather see my students master the content, and you know, but I would also argue that my students, I teach chemistry and physics, they are not chemistry masters when they leave my classroom, but to the degree of the level of the course, they have mastered the content in the course. So I defined the book. In the book, I define mastery learning as a cyclic process, where students master concepts in a flexible pace. Some people like to say measuring is at their own pace, but what I’ve discovered least with my students is I have to give them a pace, or some won’t have any pace. So we’re very flexible base, so that not every students on the same page at the same day, but you have to have some kind of a pace, otherwise, it’s chaos.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 4:27
I agree. And the semester ends, and if they haven’t met any competencies, visitor pace is so slow, they can’t earn a credit. So you have to I agree, you have to have some book ends on it.

Jon Bergmann 4:38
Yeah, interestingly enough, right now is the quarter ends on Friday that we’re recording this on Tuesday. And so my students know that there’s a hard deadline to have passed. All of so in my say, my chemistry class, that we’ve gone through three different units. And then last week, almost all of them took the level three, test if you will, or something of assessment, but there’s some who southern passed it. So they know they have to get that done this week, or their grade will significantly suffer. So I’ve got texts and reminds right now from the students who say I didn’t come in I said, there’s, there’s an urgency right now, which happens at the end of each quarter or whatever timeframe works with the teacher. But for me, we that we’re kind of on a quarter system. And it really helps to kind of keep kids ish together.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 5:22
And I like that, because in a lot of classes, there isn’t an urgency because I took test one, I either passed or not, I have to move on bed in your model, they have until the deadline to keep demonstrating mastery. So now that it’s close to the deadline, as most of us, you know, there’s a little scramble at the deadline was so they’re invested instead of passive, like it happened to me, I have no control. They have so much power here. I’m sure you see kids much more invested in their learning with this sort of a model.

Jon Bergmann 6:00
Yeah. And you know, I have this thing, and I think I said this in the book, but it’s, I don’t really care. When a student learns it, I care that they learn it. And so the timeline, but I say that and that, I also know that there does need to be some urgency at some points. And that helps them to get some things done. So my more reticent students, and but I believe we need to rethink how we do education. And that sense is that we have, we’re just saying that only the smart kids are the kids who learn fast. And I don’t think that’s a true statement. You know, I actually I think if we look at our educational system, I think the message we’ve been sending for years and years, if you learn fast, you’re smart, if you learn slow, you’re dumb. I don’t agree with that statement. But I do believe that’s the message that we’re sending our students through the system that we have right now,

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 6:45
I completely agree. And my husband and I are a case in point, I am fast, he takes it slower. And his understanding is deep, and like mechanical and the whole thing. So I zoom on the surface on a lot of things. And it could be perceived because he’s slower. That is lesson but his knowledge is so grounded, and I’m on to the next thing. Mine is pretty superficial on a lot of topics. You’re right, I hadn’t really equated pace, but we do fast we think of as smart. Yeah, one more term formative assessment.

Jon Bergmann 7:21
It’s the little checks that you do with students to make sure that they’re learning the content. So a summative might get listed in my system, the way I’ve set it up, is that a summative assessment that’s going to be the big test at the end. And then a formative assessment is me checking that they’re making the appropriate progress that they’re understanding the little bits and pieces. In my case, for example, they have lessons. So they’re in a summative assessment, there’ll be seven lessons. And they’ll have summative assessment, formative assessments, little mini, you could call them quizzes, but it’s not always a quiz. Don’t think of it always as a quiz. It’s oftentimes a brief conversation, I’ll say, tell me about how your understanding of this topic is or show me how you do this problem. And I’ll say, Yeah, you get it, I can just quickly make a quick judgment formatively. With these conversations that I have with students, there’s a lot of ways to do formative assessments, not just with like, some kind of a typical quiz. Most of mine are just frankly, a little conversations, I’ll say, explain how you did this. But you get it. Or if you don’t, I now can fix misconceptions, or help them you know, get a resource so they can learn the topic that they’re struggling with.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 8:28
I love that. My teachers we talk about formative informs me as the teacher of I’m watching this kid do the algebra problem and seeing Ah, okay, they’re missing this one key piece. So it informs what I instruct assessing, no, it’s wrong, I can hone in. So it helps me be a better teacher and the kid get that little tiny piece that they need. But thank you,

Jon Bergmann 8:50
I feel like you said it way better than I did by saying it informs my instruction. That’s what it does. That’s that’s way more succinct than what I just said. I just described how to do it, not what it is.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 9:00
No, no. And yeah, so it’s an exit ticket. It’s like, Hey, tell me what this is. And you have to we have to put it on a slate and show it before you get to leave class. So it’s a me checking, did I get my message across? And if not, I need to do something differently. It’s not always on the kid.

Jon Bergmann 9:15
Yeah, and I check it. So I mean, you guys can’t see this. But I’m now holding up the clipboard. And on the clipboard. I’ve got a list of names. And then you can see check marks on there of which kids have mastered a particular topic. And then those who haven’t. Those are the ones I need to visit with. And we need to have a conversation. They got some work to do and Yeah.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 9:33
Love it. Yay. So John, I first read about you and put your work on my fledgling website, my new school in 2013 and flipped learning you were the Pioneer. Why have you changed your focus from flipped learning to mastery learning

Jon Bergmann 9:52
as it works better? And I mean, the story I started mastery learning when Aaron SAMMS and I were in the After writing our first book, honestly, way back in the day 2007 2008. And it really started, we did an exchange student who came from Germany, second semester teaching a chemistry class. And the counselor came to me and said, John, I’ve got this new student, we want to put her in chemistry, but she’s never had any chemistry before. And I said, No. And I said, Wait, wait, wait, we’ve got these videos, they she could start at level one or unit one. And she could kind of work her way through and you Marine, she got through 70 to 80% of the entire course in a semester, kind of study, because I didn’t have to do any lectures, so to speak, because there were all these videos that we’ve made. And that’s where we began to think maybe mastery would be the way to go. And so really, even at the end of my time, where I got famous for flipped learning, or whatever, I really, really began to believe in mastery. And so then, when I returned back to the classroom, now, four years ago, I knew that the only thing I wanted to do was mastery learning. So I really think this is the answer to the pandemic education issues that we’re facing. Because, you know, the statistics are very obvious that students are way behind from in their learning with learning gaps. No fault of their own was, it’s what happened. And so how do we address the incredible variation we have in student ability levels? What if every student didn’t have to be on the same page at the same time? Yeah, yeah, I’m working with some schools. And I was actually visiting a school just yesterday, and I was sitting in a classroom, it was very typical classroom. And it was obvious to me that the teacher was boring a whole bunch of the students. And at the same time, there were students who are lost in the same room on the same topic, because she was trying to teach the same thing on the same day. And mastery is the answer to her problem, because the board students were actually acting out. Yeah, no surprise. And the law students were starting to act out because they just didn’t know what the heck was going on. It was a math class. And, yeah,

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 11:57
so we need to say education can no longer be one size fits all. And you and I both ranted in our TEDx talks, we’ve we’ve said, come on. And we know this as a parent, I can’t even do things identically for my two daughters. Why don’t you think I could do the same for 30? Kids? Your mastery learning handbook, explains how every teacher can start to figure out what kids no and that those kids again, it move on and stay engaged. And we all love helping engage kids, because it’s a topic we’re passionate on, and filling in gaps and scaffolding, so that kids that are going to act out and like who cares anyhow, which is the defense mechanism who wants to feel stupid, so we can raise them up, reengage them fill in gaps, mastery learning can make it so that we truly are educators, and not lecturers going through this rote thing, regardless of where the kids are. So to be you the work you’re doing and getting out to schools and spreading this and writing a book while you’re teaching. That’s huge. To me, you have that answer.

Jon Bergmann 13:09
I mean, I know I’m, I’m bold to say this, but I do believe this is the answer to what ails the education system. I know that’s crazy. That’s bold. You know, in 1984, I just also the book is, you know this, but Ben Blum wrote an article, basically, he called it the, the double of sigma effect. And his goal was to try to solve what he called the double sigma problem. And he said, that if you look at traditional learning, there’s a certain bell shaped curve. And if you move to mastery learning, you get one standard deviation. But he said, the ideal learning technique, honestly, he says, is one on one tutoring. So if you can get one on one tutoring, imagine if you’re a prince, Harry, or something like that, and you have one on one tutor, because your family has all the resources that they need. And then some. So that’s the best way for education. But his goal, what he basically challenged the world, it was more a paper of challenge than it was a paper of how it was, we need to find a way as that is easily usable, there’s reasonably replicatable, pardon me, that you could do in an average class or an average school with now not a huge extra cost or whatever. And I do believe that the mastery model that I talked about, is that because now you know, back in, he wrote that in 84, there was no Internet, there was no you know, online videos, we now can do mastery learning so easily in our classrooms with just some tweaks. And now we can because I spend my days tutoring kids. I mean, that’s I’m wandering around helping kids. So I am getting that one on one tutoring with my students. And I think I’ve solved the double sigma problem. I know it’s crazy to say, but I believe it. I’ve seen I always see it in 30 minutes when my kids walk in the door.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 14:49
Yes. And I so admire John, you were an international consultant. You are all over the world with flipped learning and you could have just been written that out. And it’s amazing because it gives teachers time to interact with kids instead of just talk at kids. So it makes active learning a possibility. But you returned to the classroom. So to me, people that are talking about topics that are actually in the trenches, I have so much more admiration for, because I can tell my husband, how he can do something better, you know, without me having any clue about how he could fix his motorcycle or whatever, I think you should do this or that. But when you’re in the trenches, your credibility is sky high. And here you are in the trenches. And during a pandemic, writing a book, like you didn’t have enough to do.

Jon Bergmann 15:40
Yeah, I’m a big glutton for punishment. My counselor says that I spend too much time doing and I need to be spend more time being but so yeah, there’s some there’s some truth to that. But I don’t know, I am a very passionate person, and I am a high functioning in some ways. And sometimes too, too much, I think. But it works for me, because I I’m not doing it for any of the reason that I know that this works. And I’m passionate about helping other educators do this. And, you know, somebody asked me recently, actually, my principal here, he said, John, do you think you’d ever go back to the, to the consulting world, you know, full time, and, you know, because he knew the book was coming out? And, you know, I imagined there may be some additional opportunities. And I said, No, I need to be in the classroom. You know, I’ll work with a few schools. And that’s, that’s all I want to do. And I, you know, hopefully the book will spread. And that will solve some problems. There’s ways to multiply myself in other ways online without having to travel on a plane every day. That’s that’s also not the easiest life either, by the way, I mean,

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 16:47
exactly. It’s not as glamorous as one might think. Not at all. Yeah. So in all of this research for the book, and in the real world research in your classroom, what are you learning about mastery?

Jon Bergmann 17:06
One of the problems that I struggle with, with mastery that I feel like I’ve solved now, but Well, I found from other teachers, so many, in the process of doing research for the book, I reached out to, I want to say 30 different people, I did interviews, Zoom interviews with 30 different people, maybe 25 of them were practitioners, teachers, teachers, middle school teachers, high school teachers, elementary school teachers, and then I had a few administrators and researchers. So that’s kind of the data set plus, of course, my own experiences. And one of the problems also in the literature side, read the literature, too, is that mastery, especially works for lower to mid achieving students, and isn’t really awesome for your high achieving students. And so I thought, how can I crack that? Because actually, as as, as I read the research, I said, Yep, that’s exactly what I have found. And it’s been a concern of mine. Now, at my school, I don’t teach any of the sort of Uber advanced science kids. So we’ve got honors courses, and I don’t teach any of those. And so I am teaching the kids who are, you know, on the lower end of our school, academic achievement wise, but anyways, I think when I it all, there was a big aha moment when I was talking to a Finnish researcher, about how she was doing some work in masteries. So she’s a professor of I think, math or physics in, in in Finland, and she’s done a lot of work with mastery. And the big answer was super easy. I have different different levels of mastery. So in the book, I talked about deep understanding, clear understanding and basic understanding. And essentially, when they take their summative assessment, they get to choose like, choose your own adventure, which one are you going to choose? Do what level of mastery so the basic understanding isn’t like, basic, basic, but now I can, I can address I can really ask challenging questions for my advanced students so that they can get they can really demonstrate much, much deeper mastery. And that really has that’s been the game changer of the problem that I found is how do I dress the needs of the different, you know, levels of students.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 19:08
I like that, I think, as a kid that went quickly, I would always take the extra credit, and I want the eighth class and, and in our micro school, we have, hey, you can opt into honors and get honors on your transcript. If you go above and beyond and outside of this writing class, read the Odyssey and journal about it is so I think that sometimes what bright kids want is to really get to engage fully, and you’re giving them that and sometimes kids just like let me get through this basic is hard work. So you’re letting them again, that student empowerment is huge.

Jon Bergmann 19:49
If there’s anything that the students said and I surveyed them at the end of last year, and some of their comments are even in the book, and even in not just my classes, some other classes around the world too. And If there’s anything that they said it was that, that they enjoyed this learning methodology because it gave them more agency, they may not use that word, but they felt like they had more control of their own learning. You know, in their own words, I forget how they said it, but that’s so huge. If there’s anything we’re tend to teach our kids anyways, right? There’s that we want them to, I mean, we talked about lifelong learners. But I mean, if you’re going to be successful in this world, if you’re not a lifelong learner, you’re not going to make it in your, you know, you need to just continually be a learner. And if we can give them that, regardless of whether they master chemistry, because they, you know, most of our students don’t ever do anything with chemistry, from a, you know, career right wise, but if I’ve taught them how to learn, that’s a much, much more valuable skill.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 20:44
And in addition, you’re working on 21st century skills, because kids are having to assess ask you specific questions, and they’re not just passively listening, they have to self advocate, which level do I want, hey, I need to schedule a retake. So you’re, we want kids to grow up and be able to speak up. But we have them sit down and listen for 13 years way too much anyhow. So you’re also teaching these skills that help them successfully navigate navigate the university and work and life. So I want my teachers to have access, they’ve had flipped learning video training from you in the past. So how can my teachers and others learn more about mastery learning with this flipped twist?

Jon Bergmann 21:30
Yeah, I have a podcast so they can jump into my podcast at John, you’ll find the podcast. So it’s just me just ranting about what I’m learning in my classroom, how I’ve even changed some of the things that have since I put them in the book. Clearly, the book, I think, would be a great resource. Other than that, I’m not sure I have any other great resources except the podcast and the book.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 21:51
At this time. Love it. And I will definitely make sure we put that the handbook in our show notes, we go just click on it. What three steps could educators take today, to shift to more of a mastery learning, or flipped learning where they’re that guide on the side? How could they shift their focus? What are some basic steps they could start taking, if they’re at that traditional lecturing teacher?

Jon Bergmann 22:17
Well see the flip thing makes mastery learning a reality because I still, you know, in almost every class, that might be exceptions, but I frankly, I’ve never really met one. But there’s gonna be a direct instruction component, right, you’re gonna have something where I do have to talk and teach you how to do a chemical equation thing, or I have to teach you how to conjugate that verb, or I have to teach you about who did what, when in a historical setting or whatever, right. So there is a place for lecture, I just think that if you could timeshift, that by putting it on a video, or it could also be in the form of a reading, then that allows students to move at flexible pacing. Because if I have to give that lecture on Tuesday about linear equations, or whatever it is that I have to teach, then it’s it’s tying everything to that one time period. So then it allows students to work at a variety of paces. So I guess if I was to say, how do you get into mastery, I would encourage you to get into flipped. So I’m working with a school right now. And they want to move into mastery, but I’m teaching them how to flip first, so that they have this library of pre learning activities at first, so that they move to mastery, they will be ready to move to mastery. So I see flipped learning is like the gateway drug to mastery learning. So I guess if that would be,

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 23:39
you know, I just want to interject there. Not only is it that gateway drug, but it allows that exchange student that comes in later to self paced, it allows the Maureen that is trying to do something mechanical, like I do with a YouTube how to video, it allows me to repeat it multiple times. So you’re making learning so much more accessible than did I hear the teacher correctly? So to me, you’re doing a ton of things as well as being that gateway. So what other steps would you suggest?

Jon Bergmann 24:09
Another thing that’s important, I think I talked about this in the book process is to rethink how you do planning. And so and I tie in the work of grant and Wiggins and said about, you know, backward design and really start with assessment. And what plan your assessment first. So that, you know, actually I would say start with your objectives, what are the eight things you want them to learn in this unit? Then what assessments how you know what they know. And then at that point, it’s much easier to design a mastery class. But if you haven’t identified what those key learning targets objectives are, where you want to call them are, and then know what you want to do, how you want to assess those things. And don’t be just stuck with, you know, paper and pencil tests and the traditional testing. I often have, you know, sort of experimental component It’s to testing to things like that, what it’s going to look different in different classes so that you can, you know, think about what those assessments look like, and then you know what you’re driving them towards? And then how do you design a lesson that’s going to prepare them to master that specific objective, and, you know, in that particular type of assessment that you’re going to give. So backward design has really helped me to rethink that. And that is a big shift for most teachers. And it was a shift for me, because I was when I started teaching, I would teach things. And then at the end, I’d say, alright, what am I going to test on? You know? And I did that, and it’s not as efficient. It’s a mindset change. So no.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 25:41
And we also have to go from being passive teachers to active teachers, because passively I can just go through it I did when I taught Spanish, you went through the textbook, you know, instead of Wait, what, what I want for outcomes? How will I assess this, and then designing my lesson, I just, you know, is blindly following the textbook, which isn’t horrible. But it doesn’t lend itself to any sort of mastery. It’s summative assessment, it’s moving at a set pace for all 30 kids. So I love it flipped learning is the gateway, and then rethink how we plan. Yep.

Jon Bergmann 26:15
Nice. Or do you have another one, I would say, make sure that your tech stuff is simple for you to use, and also simple for your kids to use. So I found that you can make the systems too complex. And then another sort of on that caveat is that if you’re thinking about this school wide, I would encourage that the tech tools are the same, or pretty close to the same for all of your teachers, because at the user end of students, so I’ve seen schools where one teacher, one is using this tool, teacher using that tool, and there are all these different tools, and then the end user, our students are just so confused. And you know, the cognitive load of having so many different tools, depending on which teacher is expecting to use, it is not advantageous for the overall learning from an institution perspective. So pick a suite of tools that almost doesn’t matter. That makes sense in your context with your school, and then stick with them. So what when I’m consulting with schools, is I say, let’s figure this out. And then that’s the ones we’re going to use. I know there’s weaknesses with this tool. But there’s weakness with every tool. Yeah. Yeah. So and then become an expert at that tool. So pick one learning management system, pick one sort of, you know, interaction tool that interacting or that that shows, you know, like accountability tools that shows what students have done when the pre pre learning activities, whether it’s reading pre work, or video, pre work, or whatever. So pick that sweet for your school. If you’re just a teacher by yourself, and there’s no pick, then you get to pick I guess, and then you do what you can. But then if it spreads, if it spreads, and the school chooses a new tool, be willing to switch. And yeah, for the good as a school. So the user experience,

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 28:03
yes, John, I want to pivot and just ask you a couple of turbo time questions so we can focus on you. So what’s the last book you read?

Jon Bergmann 28:13
So I brought my book here, it’s called the other half of church. So I’m a person of faith. But this book was recommended by two people and two people recommend a book to me. Totally unrelated. That makes me think, and it’s a theologian, meets a brain scientist, and who got me thinking deeply, it talks about something that in so I’m a Christian, it says in the Bible about how God turns his face towards us. And that’s what elicits joy. And the point that is really especially resonated with me, is the facial features. And I think about what happened in COVID. And I’ve been trying to practice this with my students, is that how I facially connect with my students, you know, my joy with them will change their lives. And it’s just this fascinating thing about how brain science works. And also you think about the pandemic. And we all put masks on. And I wore masks, and I believed in masks, and I’m not trying to say, whatever. But there was something that was lost, maybe joy, because we couldn’t communicate with our faces, because in some cases, we couldn’t, because we want to infect people or whatever. But anyways, it’s really a fascinating read.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 29:28
Love it. And just, I viscerally was thinking about when my girls were babies and all of that face to face contact, and they would just look and we would smile at each other. It was pure joy without any words,

Jon Bergmann 29:40
I wish I was at a school that I consult with yesterday. And I’m waiting at the elementary school to get checked in and there’s the mom with a little baby. I mean, like this six month old baby, and we were communicating. Maybe we were smiling and she was you got to smile at And that’s one of the things that brain scientist says. He talks about just that. That’s how we learn and experience, the sense of belonging really, right. So much happens in that. And, you know, when you have kids who didn’t get that, when they were young, it’s much, much harder for those kids and like, my, my son, and daughter in law, had been doing some Foster, fostering kids. And in that process, some of the kids really have not had that. And it’s been very, very, I mean, the trauma, the level of trauma those kids are facing is unbelievable. It’s it’s sad. I mean, just horrid.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 30:40
Yes, yes. How about two inspirational folks you’d love to meet?

Jon Bergmann 30:45
So I wasn’t sure when you’re asked this question ahead of time if I picked one dead guy. So Fred Rogers, I’ve always loved Fred Rogers. Yes. Just such a humble person who loved kids and never gave up his passion for learning and being and he was courageous in so many ways. Also, you know, when he washed his feet with the policeman, right, the African American police, yes, he’s like that laser. He was a trailblazer. And he’s kind of a hero. So yeah. And then another one I thought of was Francis Chan. He is a he was a like, mega church pastor who left everything to go work with the homeless. And just, he’s just such an inspirational person that he put his money where his mouth was, I was money, but he’s he’s actions, basically. You know, he, yeah, I just think he he’s a fascinating guy. He’s a brilliant speaker. But his care for people is amazing. Wow.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 31:49
And I love to wrap up the podcast with a magic wand moment. So if you had a magic wand and could address making sure our youth are ready for life beyond high school, what would you wish for?

Jon Bergmann 32:05
That’s a good question. But I think the issue that I am seeing that I’m most concerned about right now that I’ve seen more and more in the last couple of years, since COVID, is the the emotional, social, emotional needs of our students. It’s off the charts. And hence some of the things we just talked about with the the joy in the face and all that stuff. And I think what our kids need more than anything, if we want to prepare them for life in college, and whatever, is we’ve got to help them to deal with the social emotional issues that they’re facing. Because you know, that one stat I saw was a 31% increase in either student suicides or student attempted suicides. I know what you I forget which one it was, but it’s things like that, that how do we address those, and I’m seeing that in my classrooms, a number of kids who are getting moved to institutional situations in which they need and I’m, of course, but this so I don’t know, the one I want to fix is to to tell kids that they matter. They’re loved. And they and that, because if you solve those social emotional issues, the learning issues will take care of themselves. In most cases, maybe not every case. But so that’s that’s the concern I have right now. For this generation. I say that, and I’m very optimistic to get to the students I get to hang out with every day. I’m so impressed with them. They’re amazing people who say, Oh, today’s students, they’re lazy. They’re just addicted to their phones. There’s some truth to the phone thing, I guess, or whatever. So are we those be honest? And yeah, I’m optimistic for our students. And I, you know, if you’re listening to this, here that that students are not just basket cases, and they’re they are valued and need to be told that they’re valued, and we need to value them. I’m not sure society values kids as much as they should. So I want to fix I want to fix that, which I’m not sure. I’m not sure how to fix it. But that’s my one always

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 33:59
love it. Totally agree. Neuroscience says the same thing. When we feel safe and feel belonging. The learning happens, John, thank you. I can’t wait to read your handbook. I got to read some snippets previewing it, and we’re gonna put it in the show notes. And we need to shift to mastery learning. Thank you for continuing to trailblaze and leading us toward making sure every student gets to learn at their pace in their way so that they can experience success and be that adult navigating the adult world. Well, thank you.

Jon Bergmann 34:35
You’re welcome. It’s been great chatting again.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 34:46
Well, many of my guests share a special strategy or tool. John goes straight to the heart of all learning. We have to get clear on both the what and the how to make sure learners are serve the what is mastery learning. This includes reverse engineered or backwards designed instruction. And I have a link to this in the show notes. Knowing the essential question or competencies or skills is where the planning needs to begin in each class. And going a step deeper into this, what we can then differentiate levels of mastery for these learning goals. Basic, clear and deep are the three that John uses. Next, we move on to the how flipped learning is the how that makes mastery learning work. Yes, we need direct instruction. Teachers have some key information that students need. In some models, this key information is withheld, and students construct the learning. And then the teachers in this constructivist model fill in with direct instruction after the students explore. The direct instruction can also be a preview as it is in the flipped model. We know that in our soundbite society, nobody sits still and listens for long. So if we have a classroom where teachers are talking more than five minutes, chances are we have many kids not following along. On the other hand, if we have a teacher who has sent the direct instruction home the night before, with previewing the flip or information as homework, then that teacher is able to quickly address any misinformation and launch the students on their flexibly paced work. Students get the individual or small group attention they need to continue moving forward on their chosen level of mastery. I know I really appreciate getting individual help when I’m learning something new. And I remember how frustrated I have felt at times where the pace of learning was beyond me. So the how of direct instruction, going home in advance. And then the teacher monitoring students learning in the classroom is magical. John has the winning formula for our learners. John’s magic wand response resonates deeply with me, the social emotional needs of our youth must be attended to each child needs to hear that they are loved. And they matter. We need to demonstrate this repeatedly in our schools and homes. And my mom used to say that our kids need to hear this the most when they deserve it the least. That’s been a helpful reminder, both as a mother and as an educator. It is so much easier to demonstrate that a child is seen heard and valued when the teacher is moving around and working with students instead of dispensing information from the front of the room. Thank you, John, for continuing to pioneer while staying connected to the reality of the classroom. And thank you listeners as always, for being a part of the education evolution.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 38:28
I know how challenging it is to make changes inside your own school or community. I’ve spent years working with schools around the world on creating learner centered programs. And it always struck me how much schools were able to get done with the right tools and guidance. If you’re ready to make changes like this in your own school, let’s talk and put together an action plan. Visit for a free 15 minute call. And let’s see if we’re a good fit for more work together. Thanks again for listening. To support the education evolution. Subscribe so it lands in your podcast app and gets out to more decision makers. Then rate and review it. For more information in shownotes go to education education evolution listeners. You are the ones to ensure we create classrooms where each student is seen heard, valued and thriving. We are in this together and we need you. Let’s go out and reach every student today. Thank you for listening, signing off. I am Maureen O’Shaughnessy, your partner in boldly reimagining education.

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