Introduction to Mastery Based Learning
In the traditional classroom, time is constant and understanding is variable from student to student. The Flipped Mastery model inverts the traditional relationship between time and understanding, letting understanding be the constant and time be variable. All of my students are held to the same high standards, but they master standards at a pace they feel comfortable with and are ready for. Initially, many of my students are confused about what a self-paced mastery-based class is all about, so my co-teacher and I find it helpful to introduce the concept to our students in a very strategic and explicit way at the beginning of each school year.
At the end of any collaborative activity, each student makes a copy of this Teamwork Evaluation Rubric and fills out the boxes with his/her thoughts on the overall quality of their group's teamwork. The rubric includes multiple indicators of high-quality teamwork and encoruages discussion about how to improve future iterations. Indicators include noise level (framed as concern for other group's ability to work effectively), quality of work produced, overall teamwork, and level of grit. Students assess their own contributions to their collaborative assignment as well as their teammates' contributions. Students can insert glows and grows where they explicitly discuss their feelings regarding their own work and the work of their peers. I frame this activity as a team-building exercise. Evaluating collaborative assignments can be complicated. The Teamwork Evaluation Rubric allows me to collect a good deal of data about individual student's contributions from multiple perspectives, which is both a fair and thorough way to assess individuals and the team as a whole.
Students in my self-paced blended classroom work in groups every day to complete a series of activities we call "Learning Stations." Learning Stations provide multiple ways in which my students can demonstrate mastery and build a digital portfolio of content to draw on throughout the year. By creating groups in which my students are paired up according to their supported reading and lexile levels, I foster a collaborative culture in which students don't feel singled out and high quality products can be produced by all groups. To alleviate the stress that sometimes accompanies engagement with highly targeted, rigorous activities, I allow my students to choose Station activities that most appropriately address the Learning Targets (please see the "Learning Targets" strategy video) they might struggle with or want to improve in. Reinforcing Station Expectations with explicit instructions at the beginning of each class is a strategy that ensures that my students understand what is expected of them during the period.
To give students greater independence, there is an answer key for the practice problems of every lesson. I know what a lot of teachers are thinking at this point: what if the student just copy all their answers from the answer key? As an Algebra teacher told me when I asked them the same question before starting flipped mastery, they'll just fail the mastery quiz. It only takes a few correctional assignments for them to realize that the answer key is there to check answers, not copy them.