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