Friday, October 25, 2013

Introducing Alternative Assessment & Peer Instruction in the Flipped Class: Week 7 reflections

Students only had an exploration, video, problem set and Moodle quiz  because I wanted to add some breathing room for students to catch up to my pace. I also instituted peer instruction at the beginning of lessons. Students are all over the place - anywhere from one week behind to one week ahead. The number of ahead students has increased in the last day or so. After next week, I plan to speed up the pace a bit and offer more synchronous activities.

One cool thing that has emerged from post quiz conferences is pin pointing each student's conceptual issues. In previous weeks, I suggested struggling students to work through pre-planned remediation modules after a quiz. The pre-planned modules are divided into topics, so students always had the choice of how to spend their time. But these conferences have better equipped me to recommend certain tasks or to create remedial tasks on the spot. A few examples will make the point. Two students struggled on the same quiz but had different issues. One student couldn't couldn't decipher the difference between codominance and incomplete dominance, while another student had some issues solving blood typing Punnett Squares, which included codominance. For the first student, I told him to create a list of traits (the weirder the better.) He had to imagine the appearance of a heterozygote, in situations where the trait displayed codominance and incomplete dominance. I pointed the second student to a blood typing reading and online practice quiz that was already part of the remedial module. I'm also adding more remedial activities to the modules because these conferences are uncovering areas of confusion that I did not anticipate in the planning phase. It would've been difficult to identify and offer specialized remediation without the post quiz conferences built into the class period, courtesy of the flipped model. My eduwin for the week is using post quiz conferences to suggest tailor made remediation.

I really love adding a synchronous activity to the beginning of class. It changes the feel. It's slowed things down a bit and made the class feel whole. I'm glad that I opted to go with peer instruction instead of a tracking journal at the beginning of the class. The tracking journal could've helped with goal setting and slowed down the pace but it would not have the added benefits of peer instruction. I posted a scenario with a multiple choice answer. It was an engaging and conceptually rigorous question. Students thought about their answer individually, with no help. They jotted down their answer and closed their eyes to vote. I recorded the class results. Then students found someone with a different answer and tried to convince them to change their answer. After a few minutes, students re-voted. I shared the results of both votes and asked students to explain their reasoning. I made sure to include students who were convinced of the correct answer. I revealed the answer and had time for explanations and clarification. Once the session was over, I let students resume their work. Students were overwhelmingly enthusiastic about this change. We all craved for communal time. I'm ecstatic that the communal time was a research based approach that was still student-centered. It was the best of all worlds. 

I expected a two year roll out of the flipped class; year one is flipped videos and associated guided notes and forms, explore flip apply, Moodle quizzes and asynchronous learning, while year two will be standards based grading, blogging and voice & choice. I'm starting to question whether I should institute voice & choice earlier. I have a student or two who have struggled with the Moodle quizzes, despite post quiz conferences and retaking them. Even though there are some real issues with learning the material, the lack of partial credit has been a real detriment here. Moving forward, I will have a paper version of the quiz to administer to a small number of students who struggle. In addition, I ought to institute voice & choice sooner for students to display learning in alternative ways. I've already opened things up a bit. I've asked some students to create their own problems and solve them to convince me of their understanding. Even though I've done this informally and on an as needed basis, it has worked nicely. I ought to build in these alternative opportunities more often and eventually, allow all students to choose from a menu of ways to demonstrate knowledge. 

The other change I'm thinking about instituting a year earlier than originally planned is an element of standards based grading. In a recent response to a my ongoing course feedback form, a student mentioned that all of the activities were unnecessary to understand the material. I, of course, agree; this is one of the main reasons that I planned to institute SBG next year. In the interim, I've decided to reach out to individual students and discuss making certain activities optional. I won't open things up for all students just yet until I've thought through effective accountability and grading systems. At the very least, I can tell students to complete as many or as few problem set questions that they need.