Friday, July 19, 2013

Mastery Learning Cycles: a Mash Up of Mastery Learning & Explore-Flip-Apply

When I began to flip my class, I was instantly struck with the additional class time I had to engage students. The biggest change was students spent more time designing, executing and evaluating experiments. But honestly, something was missing. The class wasn't fundamentally reinvented. 

In hindsight, I now understand that a framework for flipping was missing. It could be argued that I had a quasi-mastery course since students worked at their own pace and did not progress to the next unit of study until they produced satisfactory work. I'm reminded of an article on Mastery Learning. In a traditional course, the variable is the amount of learning but the constant is the amount of time; in the mastery model, the variable is the amount of time but the amount of learning remains constant. In other words, all students are expected to demonstrate learning but are given the amount of time they need to do so. Typically, students are rushed through content at the same speed, which allow some students to learn while others are not as fortunate. In the late 60's, Bloom's research demonstrated that students perform at a significantly higher level when they are engaged in mastery learning. For this very reason and the positive feedback from students, I assumed that I would continue this model in my second year of flipping. 

Then enter Ramsey Musallam. His critique of the mastery model in science is well documented online. His major contention is that the mastery model encourages students to race or "plough through content." The side effect is a death blow to inquiry. The critique goes as follows. Students are assigned a video to watch then practice skills introduced in the video. Unfortunately, there's no inherent motivation to watch the video. Ramsey's response was to adapt the inquiry learning cycle of Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate and Extend and morph it into Explore-Flip-Apply (EFA.) In the explore phase, students are tasked with solving an engaging problem. The problem is a higher order thinking task which requires direct instruction of content; this direct instruction can take the form of a video. Once students acquire content, they use it in the apply phase. The strength in Ramsey's model is students are challenged in the explore phase and in order to be successful, they are given tools they need in the videos. It is similar to students generating a list of what they "need to know" in the problem based learning model. 

Needless to say, both models have their strengths. The self-paced-revise-until-mastery model and the authentic process of inquiry that builds a need-to-know model are both attractive. 

Venn Diagram comparing Mastery Flipped Learning & Explore-Flip-Apply Models

I wondered if both models were mutually exclusive. After much reflection, I decided, not only were they not mutually exclusive, but they could be combined into a new model of flipped learning, a mash up: Mastery Learning Cycles. I would keep the self-paced and revise-until-mastery but would organize units into the EFA phases. Basically, I would run an asynchronous version of Ramsey's EFA with the added requirement that students demonstrate certain standards before moving onto the next unit or learning cycle. The standards can be assessed in one out of four levels, inspired by Blooms Taxonomy: no evidence, understanding, applying and owning/mastery (adapted from @mrsebiology's I can statements.) 

Each learning cycle will have the following phases:

1) Engage & Explore  - highly engaging prompt, discussion, question or video relevant to the unit. Students complete a hands-on activity or lab where students make conclusions and generalizations; they also make initial attempts at applying what they learned with only partial information and tools.

2) Flip - usually a video, provides the missing content and tools for successful application. Students are assigned understanding questions to answer after watching the video. Answers are submitted via google form and the link to the answer key is shared in the edit confirmation page of the form.

3) Apply -re visitation of the original application task and additional practice built into this phase. Answer keys are usually shared with students to ensure instant feedback. Preferably, this phase includes a second lab or at least part two of the exploration lab. Students meet application level after earning 100% on a Moodle quiz. Students can retake the quiz as often as needed, since a new version is generated each time.

4) Mastery - students have an option of demonstrating mastery level of competency on desired objectives by completing higher order thinking assignments/mini projects aligned to the analyze, evaluation and creation levels of Bloom's Taxonomy. 

After meeting mastery or application level on each learning goal, students progress to the next Mastery Learning Cycle, as depicted below.

Schematic of subsequent Mastery Learning Cycles


Below are MentorMob playlists of the Simple & Complex Inheritance Mastery Learning Cycles.


Create your own Playlist on MentorMob!


Create your own Playlist on MentorMob!