Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Looking Back on My First Full Year of Flipped Learning

Wikipedia // Gary Bridgman
This year, I've organized my content into Mastery Learning Cycles, which is a flipped learning model that blends mastery with Explore-Flip-Apply. This is my attempt at reflecting on the most salient points of the school year.

No More Teacher in the Center: I'm no longer the center of attention and class time is reorganized for higher order tasks and independent and collaborative learning. Students took responsibility for their learning. They made choices about how to spend "homework" and "classwork" time. If they wanted to study or do a lab instead of watching a video or completing a problem set, they made the choice that worked best for them. If they wanted to leave a group because the dynamics or pacing didn't work, then they made those changes. One consequence that emerged was as the year progressed, students found ways to get their questions answered other than by asking me. Some students asked classmates and others did research. I have to admit to missing answering questions but I do love the student ownership of their learning.

Growth Mindset: The retaking of randomized quizzes and the mandatory redoing of labs and problem sets until perfection have helped create a growth and grit mindset. Students understood that their performance can swing significantly by the end of a class period. They no longer tended to freak out when things were not going their way. By the middle of the school year, students were sharing their disappointment on a quiz, informed me of what they need to do and then executed their plans. 

Achievement: The traditional indicators for student achievement were up this past year. Grade averages were higher than in past years while the number of academic notifications dropped. (More information to come.)

Research Based Pedagogy: I used more research based techniques. Aside from Mastery learning, which has been known to be effective for more than three decades, I also used learning cycles, Peer Instruction and more inquiry based labs.

Refining the Teacher's Role: Next year, I want to spend less time as a "study hall" monitor and more as a facilitator of learning. As students became more independent, I spent more of my time checking off assignments and recording scores. This interfered with spending quality one on one time with individuals. I rather spend more time conducting small group and peer instruction. 

Standards Based Grading: I want to move to Standards Based Learning (Grading.) The grade and grade book have to be more meaningful and provide more clarity. To that end, I will have fewer mandatory assignments and hope to give students more choices to demonstrate mastery of learning. 

One on One Talks: I want more one on one talks with students so that I have a better idea how to best serve each individual.  Perhaps I will require one on one talks before taking the first attempt on a quiz. During these talks, students can show me how to solve a problem in real time. These talks can also prevent students from rushing through content and taking quizzes before they're ready. Perhaps I can have some of these talks as part of the mastery task at the end of the learning cycle as well. 

Meaningful Quiz Attempts: To further prevent wasting quiz attempts, I'm also rethinking how to address redos. I may mandate quiz corrections and/or remediation after the first and/or second attempts. I have mixed feelings about the mandate, and may only mandate it for failing quizzes and/or for specific individuals. The idea of my changes is to hand over autonomy to my students - increasing mandates undermines this philosophy. In a similar vein to support students, perhaps on an individual basis, I'm considering notebook and iPad checks to help with organization. 

More Immediate Feedback: I most likely will add more step-by-step solutions to answer keys. This year, I only included partial keys because I wanted to make sure students completed the problem set. However, since more of these assignments will be optional, then it may be more useful to have some worked out answers and some with only answers. Again, this will allow for more instant feedback and give me more time to work with students, rather than checking steps of problems for all assignments. 

Meaningful Assignments: I also wish to include more interesting, memorable and meaningful assignments. By increasing choices, I may be able to generate more excitement about assignments. The use of choice boards as mastery checks will be helpful here as well. The projects I used were based on good ideas but their execution were highly flawed; I need to do some more learning about project based learning

Inquiry Focus: I want to include more inquiry labs and have DNA barcoding as the Science Night project. To allow for the time for both, I'll need to reevaluate the important topics and streamline the course to make these accommodations. I've identified some topics and learning cycles that are already taught in the high school biology course so I may make some learning cycles optional for students who finish the course before others. 

Final Thoughts
All in all, it was a solid year of some key changes. While student success indicators are higher than in past years, students had mixed responses about their feelings of the flipped model (a topic of a future blog post.) As expected with something drastically different, my execution was a bit uneven and I have a lot of room to grow. At the very least, this first year was a successful experiment in shifting the teacher outside of the center and making students more accountable for their learning; I expect to enjoy more success as I improve on the caliber of assignments, figure out some logistics and provide even more student choice.