Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Experimenting with Flipped Mastery

One "brand" of a flipped classroom is a Flipped Mastery model. This usually pairs well with standards based grading. In many cases the class is not synchronous, each student is going at his or her own pace.

I certainly had my doubts about how this might work in my classroom. Firstly, I can envision some kids flying through the materials and others barely getting started. But more importantly, I'm not sure how well it would work for my particular school environment. I work in a small, Christian school. My Western Civilization class is taken by all of the Juniors (about 16-20 students) during one period. In larger public or private schools, kids may know a few good friends in their class period. But in my school, all of them know each other like brother and sister. This is great in many ways, they like to explore things together. I don't think they would be too fond of this model.

However, I gave it a try with my Imperialism unit last year. Here's a brief look at how it worked (from my PGP again):

"In this unit on Imperialism, students were given a list of assignments aligned with section objectives. A few of the assignments they were required to chose, but for the most part they could choose whichever activities added up to the right number of points. Some of the choices involved watching lectures online, interpreting primary sources, or reading the textbook and answering questions. As they worked, I checked in and asked them about what they were learning. And as they turned things in, I talked ideas over with them that did not seem clear or I had them redo sections that did not seem mastered. Once they were done with this basic level, they could move on to the next level assignment, where again they had to choice to apply their learning in a creative way. In the final level, there was one overarching question that they could chose to answer in any format they wanted.

There were several things I liked about this flipped-mastery model. First of all, students were the most active in class, and I acted as a coach, helping and correcting as needed. When I would ask students questions about a finished assignment and they did not really know the answer, they just wrote something down. In those cases, we could talk one on one to clear up the confusion. Students were also able to chose from many activities, they could avoid assignments that really did not fit their learning style or attention span. Finally, students were working individually they could collaborate and ask questions of fellow students. I think this model could work very well in a standards-based grading environment in which students are practicing and forming knowledge and then summatively assessed."

Although this went pretty well. In practice I made a few mistakes. Mainly, I gave them too much work. Perhaps I had too many objectives or maybe mastery assignments could cover multiple objectives. I found that it was easy to check in when students first got started, but as I got more bogged down with assignments, I did not have the time to check in with the students while they were completing assignments, thus eliminating a key pillar of flipped learning. Instead of making use of face-to-face time, I was managing papers while they essentially did worksheets (not quite that bad, but close!)

Furthermore, I felt like flipped-mastery was very textbook-content driven. As I look to flip this year, I don't have plans to incorporate this model on a regular basis. Maybe one or two units per year. Instead, I am hoping to focus more on inquiry, group investigations, research, etc. In my next post I will share my attempt at this from last year and hopefully you will be able to see why I fell in love with this model.

Friday, August 23, 2013

It is so much more than the video!

Last year was my first year implementing the flipped classroom. At about mid-year I reflected on how it was going. Here's an excerpt from my PGP:

"I have been creating several videos over the course of the semester. In November, I surveyed students on their feelings about the videos. Students were very positive about being able to access the lectures anywhere and anytime. Student appreciated that they could rewind and re-watch whenever they needed to. They could watch it in an environment where they could have better focus. Students also understood and could articulate that we are able to do more interactive activities in class. The main problem students had with this method is that they would often forget to do it because its not “traditional” homework. Also, they sometimes ran into technical difficulties which would cause undue stress."

I really do have some terrific students. I did not have very many issues with students not watching videos. If they did have technical difficulties with the video they would come to me ahead of time and I would let them watch it on my computer at break or lunch. Flipped 101 (putting lectures online) really did work well. I feel like I had so much more time and opportunity for interactive, higher-level thinking activities in class. It is also important that they can view a lecture at their own pace. At my school we have several international, Korean student with language difficulties and little background knowledge in American History. I can only imagine how difficult in-class lectures would be for them. When students have a lecture online, they can go as fast or slow as they need.

But of course, as time goes on as a flipped teacher, many of us begin to realize its not about the video. Its about putting the learning in the hands of the students. Below is an excerpt about an activity I used that helps to exemplify the flipped mindset: student choice, higher level thinking, and a great use of face to face time:

"One of the more “interactive” assignments I discovered by reading blogs, was the EdCafe. Each student received an article that they became an expert on. They summarized it and developed discussion questions. Then each student could choose another cafe to attend (when they weren’t presenting). Student surveyed said that they enjoyed the casual, discussion environment. They enjoyed “teaching” other students, trying to make the topic relevant and interesting for the people attending. They also enjoyed the food and drink provided. This was a really successful assignment that I would like to again. If I could find enough articles on enough topics, I would consider doing it monthly."

An EdCafe is modeled after EdCamps. I learned about it through #sschat on Twitter. Its a great activity that I used several times last year.

Finally, as much as I wanted to focus on only one of my preps to flip, I found that I couldn't do it. As I planned for my other classes, it seemed so wrong for me to plan teacher-centered lessons. My lesson-planning brain wanted to create lessons that made the students more active in their learning. Here's an excerpt:

"Although I tried to focus on only one class at a time, the flipped classroom philosophy that students are most active in the classroom and take ownership in their learning spilled over to my other classes. Three of these projects included a Cold War timeline, Medieval Village Game of Life, and Reformation Trading Cards. For two of these assignments, many students tried Google Apps for the first time and found success. In reflections by students, many could articulate that they needed to take more responsibility for the knowledge and felt like they knew it better because of this. In these assignments I enjoyed being able to have face-to-face contact with each student, each day. I was able to act as a coach, rather than a “sage on the stage.”  In the future I would do even more coaching and guiding. I would also like to give students more choice in assignments like these so it is more student-centered."

This is the direction I moved in as the year progressed and as I plan for the upcoming school year. Coaching and guiding on the side, finding out where the students are at in their knowledge and helping them figure out what they are missing or where they need to go next. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

How it all began

So, why did I embrace this flipped learning mindset? I was able to reflect on this at the beginning of last school year. I was able to participate in Washington state's Professional Growth Plan (PGP) pilot program. Its really a great model for professional growth, you reflect on an area you would like to grow in as a teacher and make a plan to focus on researching and implementing those ideas. You reflect on your progress mid-year and at the end of the year. The process earned me 30 clock hours! Best of all, it was a great way for me to reflect on my flipped journey. I'll include some excerpts below.

In my own evaluation of my classroom, I am frustrated that students have become too dependent on teacher-directed knowledge and instruction. Students lack initiative for learning and do not articulate their knowledge and learning enough. I want students to become more independent learners. I believe the flipped classroom model should be integrated into my classroom to solve this problem. The pillars of the flipped classroom is to make the best use of face-to-face class time, higher-order thinking skills in the classroom & lower-order at home, and a classroom that is student-centered where the students are the most active in the classroom.

High School students are digital natives. They seem to be more engaged with information when they are receiving it through media. Moving direct instruction to an at-home internet task will make available more time for higher-level thinking, creating and engagement in the classroom in a collaborative way. As our school moves to a Bring-Your-Own-Device policy, I will need to learn ways to allow kids to create and present their learning with technology.

As you can see, I started with Flipped 101. I recorded lectures that would normally by given in the classroom and I put them online. We started by watching videos together, in class with questions to answer. I modeled how students needed to read the questions ahead of time, pause the video, and rewind as necessary. I spoke about how we really didn't need to do this together in the classroom, that it would be best for them to do on their own time and at their own pace. Then I started assigning video lectures at home, usually once or twice per chapter. Often, this would be accompanied by an online quiz. At first it was from a Google Form and then it was on Edmodo. Looking back, and after reading Fair Isn't Always Equal: Assessing & Grading in the Differentiated Classroom by Rick Wormeli, I wish I would not have graded those quizzes. Rather taking notes, summarizing, and/or submitting their own questions about the topic would have been more appropriate. At the very least the quiz should not have been graded, but used by me to understand what I needed to clarify.

Flipped 101 did allow me to do many of the things I had always wanted to do in my classroom, debates, simulations, and primary source analysis. Not that those things did not take place in my classroom before, but they happened less frequently because I had to spend lecturing time for background information. So, Flipped 101 was successful for me, but over time I moved away from that model. Now as I re-vamp my Western Civilization course, I am not planning to have any videos, or at least very few. For the most part, I plan to record mini-videos on the fly when I see a common misconception or problem out of several students.

That is where my flipped learning journey began. Come back and visit later when I post my mid-year reflection as to how it was all going.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Welcome! I teach Social Studies in a small, Christian school in the Seattle area. I am about to embark on my eighth year of teaching. Last year I began to dabble in flipped learning. I teach five preps a day so when decided to flip, I was only going to focus on my tenth grade American History class. I soon discovered the "flipped mindset" and found that it couldn't help but pour over into my other classes. I'll post some of my non-blogged reflections from last year at a later date. As I jump into the year ahead, focused on flipping my Western Civilization course, I am starting this blog as a reflection tool for myself and as a tool for other teachers interested in flipping. I know how valuable the blogs of other teachers were for me, so here I am to share my successes and failures.

One last thing I should mention, what is flipped learning? Or better yet, what is a flipped mindset? The definition I like is that of Twitter people (Cheryl Morris @guster4lovers, Andrew Thomasson @thomasson_engl, Karl Lindgren-Streicher @LS_Karl, Crystal Kirch @crystalkirch, and Kate Baker @KtBkr4---follow them) before me and originally stated and explained more in-depth here, is as follows:

  • What is the best use of your face-to-face class time (in my opinion, NOT lecturing)
  • Emphasize on higher-order thinking, not rote memorization
  • Student-centered classroom--What are the students doing in class? Just sitting there staring into space? Or are they working, thinking, creating? It should be less about what the teacher is doing and more about what the students are doing.
And if you are really eager to learn more, get on Twitter and check out the #flipclass hashtag. The chat is on Mondays at 5pm PT. Twitter is basically where I learned everything I know about flipped learning, you can follow me @kaelynbullock.