Friday, August 29, 2014

Spotlight on the Flip: the Anatomy of Mastery Learning Cycles

In the flip stage, I cover the bulk of the content. I try to use just one video to cover the facts but may rely on two if I need to go beyond 10 minutes or teach two distinctly different concepts.

Prior to the flip, students have completed an exploratory activity, which created cognitive dissonance and challenged the students with a higher order thinking task. Typically, the students don't have the content to complete the task at that point; therefore, they need the video to provide the facts and background.

The video is not the only part of the flip stage. Students are provided with a guided note sheet that they have to fill out while viewing the video. 
Guided Note Sheet

In the latest videos, I've been more thoughtful of sound pedagogy. Those videos start with a warm up question to get students thinking about the concept. Throughout the videos, I intersperse questions, ask students to pause and record their answers on the guided note sheet. At the end of the video, they have to think of a question that they want answered or could be answered by the video. I'll have to work on getting students to ask higher order questions rather than the normal factual recall questions they tend to ask. 

After taking notes, students complete an online low stakes quiz. Quizzes from previous years were Google forms loaded with back-end scripts (like Flubaroo) to grade student responses and allow me to respond to student questions. Since we moved to a new learning management system (LMS), I've offloaded most of those tasks to Haiku. The quizzes, called practice assessments on Haiku, consist of understanding level questions to give students feedback about whether they need to re-watch the video. 
Beginning of Practice Assessment
I also include an online forum for students to ask and answer questions about the content in the video; the hope is that students will begin to get their questions answered by peers rather than me. Finally, students are asked to rate the video in order to help me prioritize which and what ways to edit the videos in the future. 
Video Feedback Form
While many folks are invariably interested in the Flip, I must remind you that the Flip is just a vehicle to making more important changes possible. The videos allow for differentiation, mastery, asynchronous learning, etc. When content is offloaded away from the community space, the real magic happens!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Spotlight on Mastery Choices: the Anatomy of Mastery Learning Cycles

In this spotlight, we'll explore the mastery assignments of the mastery phase. In each learning cycle, students will have the opportunity to extend their thinking on specific standards beyond the application level in Bloom's taxonomy. They'll also be able to choose the nature of the assignment and even within the options, there is room for differentiating the level of difficulty. Depending on the learning cycle, these mastery assignments may be organized into choice boards, 2:5:8 boards, tic tac toe boards, think dots or cubing boards. I'll explain some of the options below.

Choice Boards
In some learning cycles, I use choice boards. Choice boards typically have nine project choices, of which students select one. Each choice will encompass all of the relevant learning standards; therefore, only one project is needed. The Analysis, Evaluation and Creation levels of Bloom's taxonomy are equally represented. In addition, different learning preferences are represented - students have the option in the type of modality: video, article, essay, cartoon, poem, etc.

2:5:8 Board
The 2:5:8 board gives students options between levels of difficulty. The rule is the students have to complete assignments that add to ten; for example, a student may select one "2" level and one "8" level or two "5" level assignments. I also added a "10" level assignment, where students could opt for just one assignment at a higher level of difficulty. I used Bloom's taxonomy again to determine which activities are level 2, 5, 8 and 10.

Think Dots
I use Think Dots similarly to choice boards. In both case, students only select one option. The major difference is theoretically, students don't actually choose the assignment. Students roll die to determine which project to complete. Think Dots can work well if there aren't significant differences between rolling a "one" or a "three." In either case, students are basically completing the same assignment but the details are different. Other teachers use Think Dots differently but I like using it this way to encourage students to be okay with rolling the die and doing whatever assignment is randomly selected. There's a neat online die that one can use if physical dice are unavailable.

Tic Tac Toe
The Tic Tac Toe board is an effective variant of the choice board. Again, the assignments are aligned to specific standards as well as levels of Bloom's taxonomy. The way I use tic tac toe boards is when I have a variety of standards that are too difficult to encapsulate into one project. In this case, I still have nine project options, of which students have to select three. I can set up specific rules to force students to select specific types of projects. For example, in the board below, students have to go from top to bottom, either in the same column or at a diagonal. In that case, students are forced to select one project from each of the three rows. Each row has three options aligned to the same standards. The result is students cover all of the standards but have some choice in the combination of assignments.

My hope by using these strategies is students will complete higher order assignments to demonstrate mastery of specific standards. I'll be sure to reflect on the effectiveness of these tools at a later date.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Spotlight on the Mastery Phase - the Anatomy of Mastery Learning Cycles

Flickr // Powazny
 Based on recent questions via twitter after FlipCon14 regarding specifics of Mastery Learning Cycles (MLC), I've decided to write periodic blog posts about the inner workings of this model. This series, the Anatomy of MLC, will spotlight aspects of the model. In this first post, we'll explore the mastery phase.

Recall MLC consists of Explore, Flip, Apply and Mastery phases. More information about the other phases can be found in the initial blog post about MLC or future posts in this series. The Mastery phase is the culminating component of a learning cycle and consists of the following:

  1. Mandatory "hot seat" Discussion - a one-on-one or small group discussion where students are orally "quizzed" to determine whether they are ready to take the unit quizzes.
  2. Mandatory Standards-based Quizzes - randomized Moodle quizzes aligned to specific standards and application level of Bloom's taxonomy. Students can choose to, or be required to, retake the quizzes until they demonstrate proficiency of each standard. Students who fail will be required to complete a metacognition form for each quiz outlining their errors, as well as making corrections. Students can return to earlier phases and/or complete remediation activities before retaking a quiz.
  3. Optional Standards-based Mastery Assignments - higher order thinking assignments which are aligned to Bloom's taxonomy levels of Analysis, Evaluation and Creation. These projects will push the thinking of students and are based on specific standards. Completing the projects will move a student from application (3/4) to mastery (4/4) level.
The implications of this set-up is students can pick and choose which standards they want to demonstrate application or mastery understanding. The thinking here is students are required to be able to apply their learning of all standards but should be able to decide which standards they want to extend their thinking. Some students will be more interested in some standards; some students will find some standards more difficult. An added benefit of this approach in an asynchronous course is having optional assignments gives students an opportunity to catch up to the pace of other students, without loosing core content.

Friday, August 8, 2014

My Plunge into Standards Based Grading

Cody Hough // Wikipedia

After short-lived flirtations, I'm plunging into the Standards Based Grading (SBG) pool. Of all the recent changes to my course, SBG requires the biggest paradigm shift. Like many other updates to my biology course, my entry point was the flipped class - another testament to the benefits of flipped instruction.

What is SBG?
For those who are unfamiliar with standards based grading, this video should offer a good summary contrasting it with the traditional model of Assessment-Based Grading.

How am I approaching SBG in year one?
First, I've identified the standards. For each unit, I listed each learning objective and rephrased them as "I can" statements. (Thanks to @mrsebiology for the inspiration.) I've redesigned each unit as mastery learning cycles centered around these standards. I plan to acknowledge four levels of progress for each standard - does not meet (no evidence), approaching (explaining), meeting (applying) and exceeding (mastery.) 

First draft sample of a few genetics objectives
Second, I've tailored the learning materials (videos, readings, labs, etc) to the standards. This was an eye opening process because several materials that I've used in the past did not meet a specific standard; I was forced to delete these materials. The other important revelation was that some activities required too much effort in return for how they aligned with the standards. For example, if I identified a lab that took several days to complete but barely addressed one standard, I either modified it or chose an alternative. I forced myself to prioritize the "need to know" content and skills over the "nice to know" material. 

Third, I strategically designed assessments to align to the standards. Every quiz, lab or test question will be intentionally designed or modified to address the standards. Again, very eye opening process. I'm especially excited about this change because I will be able to generate informative data about each student. No longer will a student or parent see a vague "88%" on a report. The 88% could hide that this student struggled mightily on one topic, while excelling at the other topics. Instead of quoting numbers, I will be able to state the exact nature of the areas of strengths and weaknesses.  

I have a lot to learn and so glad that I have a wonderful group of teachers in my PLN.

So far I've found been using the following SBG resources:
I would love it if you can reply with your own list of Standards Based Grading resources.