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.

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