Friday, September 26, 2014

Spotlight on the Apply Phase: the Anatomy of Mastery Learning Cycles

The Apply phase follows the flip phase in a mastery learning cycle. The purpose of apply is two fold: first, to practice the concepts learned in the flip phase and second, to revisit the exploration. 

Typically the students learn the content from a video. After they have taken notes, students complete a standards based problem set in the Apply phase. The questions of the problem set are organized by standard. 

At the beginning of each section, the standard is quoted and the questions specifically aligned to that standard follow. I denote mandatory questions in blue highlighting. Once students complete the mandatory problems, they are free to answer or not answer the other problems. Not all students require the same amount of practice for each standard. In addition, this builds in extra practice for those who choose not to complete the entire problem set the first time around. The mandatory questions usually point out special scenarios that students may encounter. For example, on the chi square inheritance problem set, one of the mandatory questions demonstrated what would happen if expected numbers were zero. Since the chi square formula has the expected number in a denominator of a fraction, any problem with expected as zero would be undefined; it's important to have this scenario as a mandatory problem because many students are tempted to incorrectly give this answer as zero. 

Answer keys are provided for all of the problem sets.  

I only show the answers and perhaps some of the work done. I've found when I show how the work is done, students are likely to copy the work, rather than trying to solve the problems. By giving them the answer key, they get immediate feedback and don't have to wait for me to be available to look over their work. However, they are less able to cheat since they must show their work on mandatory problems. 

The other half of the apply phase is the re-visitation of the explore phase. In the explore phase, students are introduced to a concept before direct instruction during the flip stage. Once students have practiced applying the concepts in the problem set, they are usually ready to tackle the explore re-visitation. 

Other activities that may take place during the apply phase are labs, discussions and case studies. These activities may also occur during the explore or apply phase, it just depends on whether it makes more since for the activity to teach a concept or apply a concept. Many times, these activities are divided into two parts - part A as an exploration and part B as the re-visitation during the apply phase. For example, in the explore phase of the Natural Selection learning cycle, the Part A of the Chips are Down lab asked students to collect data and draw conclusions about evolving populations. After learning more in subsequent activities, Part B in the apply phase required students to revise their conclusions. 

Once students have worked through the apply phase, they must sit with me to gain permission to enter the mastery phase which consist of a mandatory quiz and optional projects. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Magic of Google Forms for Beginners

Google Forms can greatly enhance a course. The ease of use coupled with the spreadsheet that automatically organizes the responses, make Google Forms my go-to survey-maker. Below you'll find some great uses of Google Forms that are relatively easy to use and set-up.

1) Formative assessment - after watching the video, students complete the Google Form. Some of the form tasks might be answering questions, writing a summary and asking a question. The responses get organized in a spreadsheet and there is an option to view the responses in graphs. In a traditional class, this is analogous to an exit slip. I appreciate being able to gauge what my students know and are confused about before arriving to class. This information can inform my planning and intervention.

2) Student feedback - at the end of the year, I have students complete an anonymous course evaluation. I highly recommend doing it anonymously to help get genuine answers but some might disagree. I've learned some interesting facts about my course by reading through the responses. 

3) Student reflection - I use Google forms to reinforce meta cognition skills. Regularly, I have students complete a form as a means to reflect on their learning. They may also reflect on their contribution to a group project, which helps me formulate future groups or intervene.

4) Submitting work or lab data - if you have students create online materials, like blogs, presentations or videos, it can be daunting to organize these submissions. You can send a Google form requesting the URL of their assignment. In science classes, you can also have students share their data with the class by filling out a Google Form. When it's time to review student work, all of the links or data are organized in a spreadsheet for you. 

5) Polls - whenever I need to poll students, perhaps as a pre and post discussion activity about a controversial issue, I prefer to use Google forms as well. 

Google Forms can do a lot more, especially when scripts or add-ons enhance the response spreadsheets. For more uses of Google Forms, visit this site