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.
Learning Targets are specific skill goals that align the work we do each day with the long-term goals my students and I have set at the beginning of the year. This strategy is a part of the larger mastery system in place in my self-paced blended learning classroom. By dissecting large skills into smaller Learning Targets, my students are more effectively able to self-assess their progress towards mastery in each of these skills. By emphasizing assessment for learning and achievement at high levels on specific Learning Targets, we take the focus off of assessment for the sole purpose of grading and gradually replace it with student ownership of their learning.
Truly understanding science requires my students to think in ways they might not have experienced before. Conceptualizing something that our eyes can't always see is difficult, and so it's valuable to provide graphic organizers, visual models, and other support tools as resources that my students can access while diving into content. One of the richest ways to get students to build their own methods and approaches to solving problems is to allow them to think on paper. Lessons involving direct instruction are always broken into small segments with short, casual writing periods built into the end of each one. These Quick Write Summaries are meant to focus on content construction and are free of structural analysis. I don't grade them, but I'll always help students put together their thoughts and present them with questions that guide them to the answer. Writing-to-learn strategies like the Quick Write Summary help visual learners with long-term comprehension of scientific terminology and sets the stage for students demonstrating their knowledge through writing in future assessments.
Flipped Mastery is a new model for not only the students, but for me as well - so I went into the year knowing that there needed to be a process for feedback and refinement. I created a monthly survey for students to take, what was working for them and what needed to be improved. The surveys were created on Google Forms and were made accessible on the class website home page. Based on the survey results, I made adjustments to the class structure throughout the year. When students saw their suggestions impacted how the class was run, it made them feel their voices were valued, which helped with the individual buy-in of many students.