• Why?

    Posted by Scott Robb on 5/30/2021 9:00:00 PM


    The one question I hear most from my students is, "Why?"

    "Take your seat." "Why?"

    "Put your phone away." "Why?"

    "I'm moving back the test to next week!" "WHY? Oh wait, nevermind!"

    During college, I read something that likened a student's brain to an internal radio, which was always set to "WIFM." "What's in it for me?" When we want students to learn something, or do something, it is important to them that they know why, and for good reason. Students learn best when they see the real world value in what they are learning. Lessons are more easily absorbed when they are more readily applied. Just as it is important to explain to our students the why behind what we do, I felt it equally important to define my purpose for writing this blog.

    "Mr. Robb's Flipped Learning Journey" is not just about the learning journey my current and future students will take during our time together. Rather, it is a place for me to reflect on and track my own learning process as a teacher "flipping" his class in the face of a pandemic that has "flipped" education on its head. I will celebrate successes (both of mine and of the historians in my classes!), ponder challenges and solutions to flipped-mastery learning, and share resources for others who want to flip their classes.

    I have taught social studies at Reynolds Middle School in Hamilton since November, 2019. During the COVID-19 pandemic, when schools shifted to an online model of learning, I worked as fast as I could to learn new technology platforms to better engage my students in a remote environment. Over the summer, as it became more and more clear that virtual and hybrid learning would extend into the 2020-21 school year, I started to brainstorm how to approach the upcoming year.

    I felt like I was still trying to find my style as a teacher before COVID-19 upended our school year in March 2020. I had taught previously, but only at the high school level, and it seemed to me like I was still trying to "get into a groove" before the pandemic started. With the reality of virtual learning extending, at least in some capacity, into the new school year, I actively started researching different techniques that could help me improve the structure of my class.

    The flipped-mastery model immediately stood out to me as a way to improve not only the structure of my class, but also my students' learning outcomes. I knew that, more likely than not, not all of my students would be able to complete their assignments at the same time each day. Students who were fully remote often needed additional support and guidance that they would normally receive in a traditional classroom, but which was lacking in the virtual setting. I figured the flipped-mastery approach would allow me to provide an optimal level of support for all of my students, whether they were in-person learners or fully remote. To some extent, it has worked. Without a doubt, it has allowed me to form better relationships with my students. Yet, my system is far from perfect, and there is plenty of work to be done as I continue to make adjustments and improvements. I hope to document my progress along the way through this blog.

    The flipped-mastery model is not a "band-aid" or a "quick fix" for the challenges of remote learning. It is not a way of doing things that only works in a virtual classroom environment. Rather, it is an engagment strategy and a teaching model that can improve learning outcomes and increase equity, even in a post-pandemic world.

    The flipped-mastery model removes the teacher as the main conduit of information. In the flipped-mastery model, whole group discussions are encouraged, but teacher-centered lectures are replaced by more interactive forms of learning for students to engage with. Students can engage with the content of a class, whether it be through reading or watching instructional videos, and taking notes that suit their individual learning style and needs. Teachers are then more able to circulate around the class and provide individualized attention to specific students.

    In a time and age where the Internet is saturated with information, not to mention those old things we call "books," there is simply too much material already available for teachers to lecture in front of a room full of bored, unenthused students. In fact, there is so much information out there that all too often, students suffer from "information overload." In the flipped-mastery model, teachers are highly selective about the information they want to convey through carefully selected, concise, and easily accessible learning materials such as readings or videos.

    The flipped-mastery model encourages students and teachers to challenge their conventional thoughts about education. According to the traditional approach of learning, teachers deliver content through the form of a lesson and students receive it. After the teacher delivers a lesson, students go home and practice the higher-order and critical thinking skills on their own in the form of homework. In this approach, students are working through the lower levels of Bloom's Taxonomy while they are supported by the teacher, but they are left on their own when working on the higher-level thinking skills.

    Because lower levels of thinking and learning are more easily achievable in the independent space without a high level of support, the flipped-mastery model shifts the lecture or the "receiving of information" into the individual space and the higher-level thinking into the group space. Students are free to access the content of the class on their own through readings and instructional videos. During class, with the support and guidance of the teacher, they work on assignments that challenge them to think more deeply about the content and apply it to real-world situations. In order to demonstrate true mastery of the content, students do more than take tests. Writing samples, verbal and written presentations, student-driven projects, and whole-class discussions are examples of authentic assessments that are integral to the success of a flipped-mastery class.



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