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.
As a blended learning practitioner, I have learned that it's critically important to develop a classroom culture infused with respect and a collaborative spirit. Cultivating and nurturing this culture is especially important in my classroom where so much of the learning is self-paced and the content is largely accessed digitally. The Meet and Greet is a strategy I use to start each day in order to model positive student-teacher interaction, to assess individual student's state of mind quickly, and to motivate my students to engage with the content right away. Our weekly Class Meeting is another strategy that promotes a positive and collaborative classroom culture. In first part of each Class Meeting, my students are nominated for "shout-outs" by their classmates for specific effort and achievement they have demonstrated in the previous week. In the second part of the Class Meeting (please see the "Class Forum" strategy video), my students identify ways in which the class can improve and they suggest potential solutions to difficulties they are experiencing. The Meet and Greet and the Class Meeting are strategies that allow me to express my respect for my students and their experience of learning. Implementing these strategies has resulted in higher degrees of student ownership, responsibility, and engagement.
By allowing my students to assess other students' work and then providing them with a Student Lab Development Rubric to evaluate their own work, they learn to design and refine high-quality experimental procedures. The Student Lab Development Rubric is one of the tools I use to help students build the experiments they've created and then display results and lab analyses. When students are the ones dictating how they will conduct their experiments, they invest more fully in the activity and come to realize that science involves constant critical analysis and reiteration. I like to move conversations away from "right" and "wrong" and more towards how we can improve each component of our lab activities. Initially, some students feel uncomfortable identifying that their work isn't up to the high standards of the rubric, but over time most come to realize that this process helps them improve their final products and understand the underlying purpose behind labs.
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.