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.