As a tenured teacher I am observed by my principle twice a year. My first observation this year was in the traditional model of education. Since then I have flipped that class and set up a mastery learning model to go with it. This change was a necessity. I had a class of very diverse levels. By the middle of the third marking period a third of the class was getting failing grades, the middle was doing C work and the top was doing A work. Teaching to the middle was not working. The students who were getting A’s we’re bored and the students who were failing were so lost they had basically shutdown. I needed to make a radical change. So I flipped.
I now have the results of my observation. The principle spent the class wandering around interviewing students about what they were doing, how they felt this was working and whether or not they felt they were being challenged. The students had mixed feelings. Some loved it. They felt they could move at their own pace. Other students missed the lecture style in the classroom. They wanted the teacher in control. My principle followed up with the students by asking them if they felt they were doing better than before. They all said yes. The students all felt that they were learning. They felt they understood the concepts better. No one’s grade went down in the second semester but there were some marked improvements.
Thinking back on this last semester there are some things I would change. The first is the planning. I went into this model while running full steam through the school year. It’s kinda like pulling a 90 degree turn at highway speed. I felt for a lot of the second semester the class was going to go spinning out of control. I believe that if I had planned this out from the beginning the model would have worked better. I also don’t know what part of the model was the most successful. The videos were the medium that allowed the students to be self paced and progress to mastery. This sounds good but I was in constant fear that some students would not be able to complete the work. The ones that struggled were motivated to get the work done because they needed it to pass. They put in a lot of extra time after school and during study halls. The more advanced kids did not go beyond the minimums like I had expected them too. The students at that level just kinda fizzled and accomplished only slightly more than the others. I can’t imagine doing that balance all year. I think a middle ground will be more effective.
I would like to plan next year to implement a flipped model for some of the units we cover. This would work great for the sections that are very heavy lecture or vocabulary full lessons. The problem with that idea is it takes out the self paced part. I am not sure how to keep kids self paced yet still be able to pull them back together as a class. The students learning to mastery seems like the critical idea here. I have been thinking about a modified version of what I did this year to start the new school year with. I think using the videos for the lessons that would have been mostly lecture is a good idea. That needs to have a follow-up in class the next day to check if the students have masted the concept. A warm-up question might do the trick there. The tricky part is having to make the choice of what to do next. If a majority of the students do or don’t understand it’s easy just move on or re-teach. If the class is split then I will need to have the ability to differentiate. Here comes the hard part, how to spend the class time doing this mastery teaching yet still stay on pace. The answer is one can’t. The students who need the extra support will have to get some of that after class. I really don’t like this solution but don’t have a much better one. The students who are struggling already spend more time on the content then the students who don’t. Now I am going to ask them to spend even more time. It almost seems punitive.
I am hoping that using the flipped class model will allow those struggling students to work through some of their issues in class. However, without a major change in the way we educate (which I don’t see happening) I still have to cover a specific amount of content. I have 36 weeks to do that in each school year. In each of my classes I have 35 weeks of content and a week of state testing, assemblies, fire drills, ect. For our students we need a shift in thinking. We need ….well I don’t know what the answer is. If I did I am sure I would have people knocking down the door. However, we can’t just move along following the same old same old. So I will flip again if that helps my students. I will also keep looking for new models that will help my students succeeded in the future so as a nation we will be back on top.
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