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.
Students set weekly goals via Google Forms every Monday and reflect on if they meet these goals at the end of each week. This is a reflective process where students are asked questions that allow them to understand what factors contribute to their success or failure in the class. It also gives me a document I can refer to if I see students are consistently not meeting their own goals.
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.
Organizing labs that span over a number of classes requires a substantial amount of pre-planning. The benefits of proper Lab Documentation are potentially enormous for students. Lab Documentation ensures that I can follow students through every step of the lab process even when groups are completing different segments within varying timeframes. Students develop lab procedures on Google Docs, create charts/tables/graphs on Google Sheets, and compile lab portfolios on wikispaces. By hosting their work on Google Apps for Education, my students can easily collaborate with group mates and me on a lab activity over the course of a week or more. During this time, I can ask probing questions, offer insight on effective lab methods and tactics, work directly on their documents, and help students record their labs with media-capture tools. Being able to analyze video of the lab procedure next to the results it produced provides my students a great means to produce high-quality lab reports, which they can publish to the web and their group wikispace pages.