I have recently had a number of questions regarding my implantation of mastery learning in my classes from those who read my thesis titled Student Perception of the Flipped Classroom or those who have seen some of my previous posts. I went through my posts and noticed I had never fully explained how I do things, so here we go…!

In a subject like math where the learning is scaffolded and continues building on itself mastery is crucial. Knowing 80% is great but what about the other 20%!?!? I really wanted to raise the bar for my students in hopes that it would raise their grades but more importantly give them a better understanding of mathematics and make future math courses much more successful for them.

By using Moodle, an LMS supported by our district, I created a database of questions that are sorted by learning outcomes and difficulty level so that I can give students different quizzes yet still be assessing the same concepts and making sure most students get a quiz of the same difficulty level.

I set the mastery ‘pass’ level at 70% as it was a benchmark I felt was attainable by all of my students. The philosophy is simple, if students can achieve 70% or greater on all of the quizzes the chance they achieve 70% or greater on their summative assessment is more likely. Those students who do not achieve mastery on their first attempt go back into the learning cycle and this is where the magic happens.

The magic is the learning. Students learn what they know and what they don’t know. I *require* that all students journal about the questions they go incorrect; they tell me why they made the mistake, how to avoid doing it in the future, and what the correct answer is. Quite often students don’t know how to get the solution on their own. They seek out their classmates, look through their notes, perhaps re-watch a lesson video, or ask me. Once students have feel they are ready to reattempt a quiz they touch base with me and I give them another attempt. More often than not students achieve greater than 70% and we are off to the races!

The quizzes that students take are completely formative in my class. Students can write their quizzes at home or at school. They can be written alone, with a friend, or even with Mommy! Students can use any resources that they have. By taking away the points from quizzes and focusing on if mastery learning has been met or not some amazing things have occurred. Quizzes are no longer stressful, students no longer dread them, in fact some students enjoy them so much they take them more than once. The quiz in my class has turned into a learning tool than an assessment tool. *(The entire course grades comes from summative assessment tests, which students can rewrite if they feel they have not fully demonstrated their learning)*

Once students have achieved mastery in a unit and they feel confident to move on to their summative assessment we have a conversation together on the ‘Hot Seat.’ The Hot Seat is where I get a chance to have a one-on-one conversation with my students to see how things are going in a unit. We may go over some quizzes together, discuss some questions they have, or I may even grill them by asking them to summarize the unit or throw some questions at them. Lastly students show me their journal for the unit which has their quiz corrections, the journals prompts I have given them for the unit, and the summary of the unit they have made.

The process of having a conversation with my students prior to attempting a test has proved to be extremely beneficial. I am able to fill in any gaps that exist and intervene if students just aren’t ready. If a student is not ready for a test because they have not mastered the learning outcomes to a degree I am happy with or they have not completed the necessary work then they don’t take the test. It is as simple as that! Students need to earn their test and demonstrate that they are ready. I always thought it was a form of child abuse to put a test in front of a student and watch them stare blankly at it for an hour when both the student and I knew they were going to fail.

Since I run a self-paced classroom some students once in a while not prepared to write their test by my deadline. In this case they are required to attend my morning help sessions until they are ready to attempt their test. This has also proved to be hugely beneficial to my students. I wish I could give students enough classroom time to truly master every concept but unfortunately there just isn’t enough time. For those that need some additional TLC they can take it as long as they continue attending my early morning sessions. I can’t believe how appreciative students are to have some additional time to prepare themselves to perform well the first time on the test. I am strong believer that students should be assessed on what they know not how quickly they come to know it.

So there it is. The Flipped Classroom, mastery learning, and self-pacing all blended together into model that I feel gives my students the best way to understand the learning outcomes and demonstrate their understanding.

Handout you may find useful: Mastery & Self-pacing with Moodle

Love it! Coming off some poorer test results than I prefer, I was looking to upgrade my methods more in the mastery part of my flipping. Tell me, does this work to motivate older high school students who may have barely passed previous classes and now find themselves in over their heads just prior to graduation? If students fail to come in to morning help sessions, do you then require them to take the test and move on? I just don’t want unmotivated students to wallow in chapter 1. Thanks so much for sharing!

I think this work for all students regardless of the motivation they traditionally may have. They begin to understand that everyone can achieve mastery it just may take some longer than others.

If a student is a no show in one of my ‘required’ morning sessions than I’ll call home, refer them to an administrator or sometimes they are just forced to write the test in class.

I make sure that even though my class is self-paced there are deadlines and checkpoints throughout, with that being said, if a student can justify to me why they need additional time and state what they’ll do with it I usually grant it.

okay, so I’ve Watched your youtube clips along with reading this. and here is what i understand about this.

1. you do have structured time in class that focuses on the topic using tools such as whiteboarding, general hooking, exploration of how formulas were discovered (discovery learning), ect. but what percentage of your overall unit time do you devote to this?

2. I understand that the unit is self paced but obviously in the structured world of school we still have grading periods to contend with. so what happens when the two come into conflict with a student? Since we aren’t leaving students behind how do you account for the kids that still need to complete the unit.

3. Since there is no homework and your only grades come from the summative assesments (tests) what are the students doing during their flex time? Practice problems that correspond to the quizzes? one giant project that leads them into understanding the material?

4. So i’ve been occupying my time with figuring out how to get started with moodle without paying someone for the server by setting up my own apache server, how are you running with moodle and are you using it for other things or just the assesments/quizzes.

5. have you ever come across the stubborn mule student who wouldn’t participate with the flip but rather was simply the red herring to the rest of the group? if so how did you redirect so get this student moving foward with the program?

my main ponderance on getting this started is really the structured vs flex time and getting setup with moodle (definatly not a plug and play program)

Thank you for the correspondence thus far it has been very helpful in getting organized to get started on this adventure for next year.

For the distracted students, I’ve found a simple and non-threatening question I approach them with: “How can I help you be productive?” It is amazing how well it works for most students when they realize I come in peace and genuinely care about helping them learn math. They usually tell me exactly what they need.

Hi Sacha,

Thanks for the reply let me answer your questions one by one.

1. I would say I devote a third of my time to various ‘hands-on’ learning activities including the ones you described.

2. I have deadlines to help ensure accountability. From time to time students don’t make the deadlines for both good and bad reasons but I never let them get too far behind. I find that monitoring where students are at and how they are progressing is one of the most difficult aspects of this assessment model.

3. Flex time includes: journals, summaries, text questions, quizzes, 1-on-1 support.

4. I find Moodle a little clunky to be honest so I only use it for my Quizzes. You could use it as a class website too but I choose not too. It has a lot of bells and whistles though that may be worth looking into. Next year I hope to incorporate a message board so that my students can support one another with text/quiz questions.

5. I’ve really began to learn that it isn’t flip vs. traditional. This is my class, this is how I run things. No different than if a traditional lecture based instructor had difficulties with a student, I do at times as well. if they don’t like the way I run things they are more than welcome to watch other people’s videos, read the text, or learn however they see fit. I don’t care how students learn, I just want them to and I’ll be there to support them however I can.

Great questions. I hope this helps!

Ok, question, we have a total of 10 units in my pre-ap class. I was wondering how big your units are. Because Each unit is kind of like a new topic. For example unit 2 is all the operations of fractions (add, subtract, multiply divide). Do you then have a quiz for adding, one for subtracting, so on… and THEN a test with all of that? I’m just wondering because I started just having one quiz per unit, so that gave them 10 quizes in the whole year. And then a TEST might be like two units together. I guess my questions is, are your units like 4 topics together or you really do have a quiz after every “new topic” so to speak. Thanks for your blog and responses to all my questions!

I have 7 or 8 units in the courses I currently teach. They have anywhere from 4 to 8 subtopics. I usually give a quiz on every 2-3 subtopics, so 2-3 quizzes a unit or so. Every unit I give students a summative assessment, usually a test. Although I have started playing around with non-traditional summative assessments lately too.

I have a question. I am debating going paperless as we have ipods to use and I was thinking of just using google drive. Have you gone paperless in your classroom? If not, how do you organze all the worksheets etc the kids need? I can’t seem to find a good system that doesn’t require them asking me over and over to get the next worksheet or activity. 😦

We have a worktext that each student receives where they can do practice questions. Otherwise I use packages which students get at the beginning of a unit of study. Each package has a list of what needs to be accomplished each unit and the appropriate fill in the blank notes. I like the unit packages because then I am only handing things out to students one a unit, rather than each day. It also lends itself nicely to the self-paced environment I run.

Sounds like a plan! So do they turn those in to you? Or do you check if they completed them even if it’s not for a grade?

For the most part it is up to my students to use them as they see fit. I want them to see value in the activities and resources I have put forward. If students feel that they don’t fit their learning style then I want them to experiment and choose things/methods that do.

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