Grade Contracts are a strategy I use to assess my students' progress towards mastery of defined sets of content and skill objectives and to provide feedback on their development at the end of each level in my blended learning class. Students review the mastery requirements for each level and decide whether they will pursue an "A," "B," "C," or "D" contract; in so doing, they understand and commit to what they must know and be able to do in order to earn the letter grade of the contracts they have chosen. Grade Contracts eliminate the superficiality of number grades on individual assignments and focus my students' attention on authentic demonstrations of mastery over time. This strategy also empowers my students to challenge themselves and to monitor and take responsibility for their own learning, which is an essential mindset shift in my largely self-paced class.
QR codes are simple and easy to make codes that allow classroom resources, like videos, websites, and assignments to be accessed with little effort. These codes can be made easily using the Chrome extension goo.gl URL shortener or a website like qrstuff.com. They can be displayed on an interactive whiteboard, printed on an assignment, or printed and taped to a wall at a station or on a lab desk. QR codes take away the barrier of typing in long URLs or shortened website links, and get students to resources quickly.
Battling the Boss is a formative assessment strategy I use at the end of almost every level in our academic game. It's a process that allows students to prove that they understand the material covered in each level. Battling the Boss usually consists of me asking the student who has indicated that s/he is ready to "battle" one or two questions that require the student to demonstrate the skills I'm looking for them to develop in the level. If students prove that they understand the material, I let them move onto the next level. The students then put their names on the next level's poster, which is a public demonstration of each student's progress in the course. If students are not successful, they have the opportunity to do additional preparation and Battle the Boss when they have mastered the content.
Experience Based Lab Introductions is a strategy I use to get students to start thinking about their prior knowledge and how it can be applied to a problem or challenge. For example, I use the story about Who Polluted the Clark Fork to set the stage for our water filter lab. The story allows students to use their knowledge-base to answer simple questions throughout the story. As the activity continues, I see students' perspectives change as more elements and variables are added to the story. The stories peak students' interest and bring a call to action into a classroom activity. This strategy is embedded in the Conceptual Change Model, where I'm trying to expose students' beliefs, confront and accommodate those beliefs, and then extend the concept to help students move beyond their misconceptions.