I use a Flipped Mastery model of instruction. In this model, students watch videos of lessons that I have recorded and posted on the class website, answer a set of practice problems to hone their skills, and take a Mastery Quiz when they feel ready to show they have mastered the material. I provide 1:1 coaching and support throughout the process. If students pass a quiz, they move onto the next lesson. If they fail, they are required to do another practice assignment before re-trying the quiz. There is no failing in my class. Either you know something or you’re still learning how to do that thing, but there’s no in-between.
Number of Students: ~22-28 students
Number of Adults: two teachers (co-teaching model)
Length of Class Period/Learning Time: 110 minutes
Digital Content/Ed Tech Tools Used on a Regular Basis: IXL; SMART Notebook; Screencast-O-Matic; Weebly; PowerSchool; Kahoot!; Google Forms
Hardware Used on a Regular Basis: SMARTboard; Wacom Tablet; Amplify Teacher Tablet (for teacher); Mac PowerBook (for teacher)
Key Features: flipped-mastery; competency-based; student agency; co-teaching
A blended teacher’s personal mindsets shape his decisions as an educator. These mindsets influence general pedagogies, instructional approaches, and short-term decision making, alike. Check out how Ben’s mindsets have helped to shape his blended instruction.
In a self-paced class, students need to have access to any lesson, at any time. Thus, I created an area at the back of my classroom where every lesson is printed out and organized sequentially for students to take whenever they are ready to move to the next lesson. This allows students to continually work at their own pace. It also changes the dynamic of the learning process - students are no longer passively given assignments by the teacher and are now actively choosing which assignments they want to do.
Communicating and collaborating with both colleagues and students' families is crucial in a blended environment. This is especially true if a teacher is doing something that looks very different from other teachers at his school. Check out how Ben communicates and collaborates with both his colleagues at school and his students' families and how his methods of communication and collaboration have evolved over time.
The Class Website is one of the most essential tools in providing my students 24/7 access to class content and information. The Class Website hosts all of my videos, lesson packages, answer keys, and correctional assignments, as well as any other relevant information I want to disseminate. The Class Website decentralizes the teacher as the holder of knowledge and empowers my students to access content whenever and wherever they need it.
Correctional Assignments provide another layer of practice for my students who fail a quiz before re-attempting to master the topic. The process is simple - my students complete the Correctional Assignment and then re-take the mastery quiz. My students can follow this process as many times as needed until they pass the quiz and achieve mastery. For this reason, I use IXL.com and Kuta Software for Correctional Assignments, which both generate infinite sets of practice problems.
There are an infinite number of digital content providers and tech tools and education programs a blended teacher can choose to use in his classroom. Check out how and why Ben uses specific digital content and ed tech tools!
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.
The Candy Land Path is a Candy Land-style trail that runs across several walls in my classroom. Each tile on the trail represents a lesson my students have to master in order to advance in the course. This strategy allows my students' progress to be seen and followed on a day-to-day basis, ultimately giving transparency to the learning process. This is a powerful visual tool for every student - especially for over- and under-achievers - and allows me to reframe school as a learning journey and progression as opposed to just working for a grade. The Path also brings an element of fun to the classroom while preserving its motivational purpose.
Many students fall behind the class pace as the school year progresses, so I build in time to the class schedule for students to catch up. Before or after a break or towards the end of a trimester I won't move the lesson pace forward, giving students the opportunity to get back on pace.
There are only 4 rules in my classroom. The four rules are 1) Be respectful - I will always talk to students respectfully so there is no reason for students to talk to either myself of their peers with disrepect. 2) Always sit in your assigned seat - seating assignments are always projected in the front of the room so there is no reason to be confused about where to sit. No negotiations. 3) No talking during independent time - this doesn't need much explanation. 4) Technology is used for learning. Their devices should only be used to watch instructional videos otherwise it's too easy to get sucked into the vast abyss of the internet.
A positive classroom culture promotes student engagement, efficiency, and academic growth. Culture influences how and why students learn and ties the students to the teacher on a personal level. Check out the video below to see how Ben's culture impacts student achievement!
Keeping students motivated is very important in a self-paced course. Scholar Dollars is a strategy I developed to reward my students for working hard and making progress in the course. The concept of Scholar Dollars is pretty simple. Every time a student passes a Mastery Quiz, they receive five Scholar Dollars. Students receive 15 Scholar Dollars for passing a Level Test. Scholar Dollars can be used to buy school supplies, snacks, or even a pizza party. On random days, I switch up the payouts on Scholar Dollars - doubling the amount given, only paying for 100s on Mastery Quizzes or Level Tests, or giving all the Scholar Dollars earned on that day to one lucky student picked by lottery at the end of class.
I was spending an hour every day filing students' graded quizzes when we realized, "Why are we doing all this filing? Students could easily do this themselves." Since the number one thing we are trying to get students to do is take ownership over their learning, we decided to have students file their own papers, cutting down on a lot of menial work for us and giving students a chance to see a physical record of what they had and had not mastered.
We don't use text books in our class, we make them. Each student is given a binder at the beginning of the year. The binder becomes a reference book for the students as they fill it up with the lessons they have completed. Many standard textbooks have become a diluted hodepdoge of information, hard for most students (and even myself) to decipher. This binder allows me to create a resource tailored to my students.
Planning is an essential part of a blended teacher’s practice. In blended environments, where students can be at different points in a course on various modalities, blended teachers need to be very intentional about how they plan. Check out the video below to see how Ben plans for instruction in his blended classroom.
By its very nature, learning in a self-paced classroom with digital resources can be an isolating experience for some students. While I want my students to take personal responsibility for and ownership of their learning, I also want them to learn essential collaboration skills and to leverage social learning to grow as people and as students of Mathematics. Buddy Time is a grouping strategy that requires my students to collaborate with peers working on the same lesson at a prescribed point in each lesson. During Buddy Time, students can collaborate or discuss their work with other students at their tables and they can use their collective knowledge and skills to help each other move towards mastery.
The class pace is always posted at the front of the room, including the lesson that should be completed by the end of class as well as the following class. The class pace serves as a benchmark for students, letting them know how many lessons they should have completed by a certain date. The grading system I use is primarily based on student progress, so for students to get a good grade on their progress reports, its essential that they keep with the pace of the class. This is essentially a guide for students to use as they go through standards at their own pace.
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.
At the beginning of each trimester students are given a checklist to track their own mastery. As they progress through the lessons, they mark off what they have completed, in addition to the grade they received on each lesson. This acts as planner, letting students know at any given moment what they have completed, and what is left for them to learn to finish the trimester.
The most common answer I give students when they ask me a question is "look at your notes." The course is designed so any question in the practice problems or mastery quiz have been directly addressed on the current video lesson or a past one. Because the design of the lessons has been created with this intentionality, it's easy to refer students to the exact place in the notes they can find their answer. It's been a challenge to not jump in and immediately offer students help, and many get frustrated in the moment, but over the course of the year students develop strong independence in their learning, able to use their notes, peers, and online resources to find the answer they were looking for.
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.
My blended classroom is based on the Flipped Mastery model (please see the "Introduction to Mastery Based Learning" strategy video). When my students think that they have mastered the skills and concepts in a particular lesson, they show their completed notes to me or my co-teacher and get a Mastery Quiz. Students then head to the Mastery Zone, which is a section of the classroom reserved for students taking Mastery Quizzes and Level Tests. There is no talking in the Mastery Zone and the only technology permitted is a calculator. If they achieve at an 80% or higher rate, students move forward in the curriculum. If not, they review the concepts and materials in the lesson and re-take the Mastery Quiz in the Mastery Zone when they are ready. The Mastery Zone assessment strategy is a concept I adapted from the Algebros Flipped Mastery program.
The flipped mastery model gives students loads of time to work independently, so every few weeks we like to bring the class together to play a game. Pop The Bubble, which my coteacher Mr. Elizondo came up with, is hands down the students' favorite. Each team of students gets 5 bubbles, and when they get a question right, they can pop another teams' bubble. The last team with bubbles remaining wins the game. It's a great twist on the traditional Kahoots quiz game.
Assessment and data play a crucial role in a blended teacher’s classroom. Blended learning gives teachers an opportunity to assess consistently throughout a class, in a way that drives instruction, impacts grouping, and assignments. Blended educators have to develop capacity to sift through multiple sources of data and synthesizes quickly into action. Check out how Ben utilizes Assessment and Data here.
Because each of my students is at a different point in the curriculum, it is very important that I make myself available when students need support and feedback. Fortunately, my blended learning model creates many opportunities for my co-teacher and me to work one-on-one with students and with small groups of students every day. On the Spot Feedback is my strategy for connecting with each student in my class every day and offering immediate feedback on their Mastery Quizzes and Level Tests. This strategy allows me and the student I'm working with to understand, in a very personal and precise way, where sources of confusion exist so we can discuss and address these issues before the student moves on to the next lesson.
I have weekly check-in's with students about how they are progressing through the lessons. This ensure face-to-face time with each student and allows me to hold them accountable to the goals they are setting. I ask a standard set of questions "What lesson are you on today?", "What lesson do you plan on being on in a week" ,"Is there anything you need to help you reach your goal?" I record all their answers and keep a running log so I can refer back to these notes each time I conference with a student.
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.