Exploring the flipped mastery approach

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This is a reflection on my first year of adopting a flipped mastery approach to one Mathematics class. I set three sub-goals goals at the start of the academic year that were to act as guides, benchmarks or points of referral throughout the year.  Essentially, I was motivated to enhance the learning experiences in a way that would improve learning engagement and learning outcomes for the student. The three sub-goals were:

  1. Reduce homework anxiety for students.
  2. Increase active learning time in the group space thus allowing for greater 1-1 interaction between teacher and student.
  3. Enhance teacher – student relationships.

The three sub-goals were developed in response to a desire to:

  1. Improve student understanding and application of mathematical concepts and
  2. Develop strategies that supported the well-being of the student.

My first observation

I found, as the year progressed, that the developing relationships between the students and myself were having a far greater impact on the resulting learning that I initially anticipated.  It became self-propagating in its nature that, as attitudinal changes to their study of mathematics happened, so did the student willingness to engage in positive conversations that revealed the extent of understandings, or not, of a concept.  Basically, we were talking on an individual basis much more than I had in the past.  The additional time I was able to spend in the active learning component, moving amongst students and listening, guiding, correcting, extending, agreeing and encouraging, was reinforcement that this was, significantly, an improved pedagogically approach.  It made me rethink what I meant when I said I was ‘teaching’.  My previous mindset about teaching placed me at the whiteboard, providing guided instruction for much of the lesson and spending some time correcting fundamental misunderstandings.   My new mindset still has me at the whiteboard, albeit a greatly reduced amount of time, allowing me greater time to be moving around and facilitating discussions with students a lot more.  This is all teaching.  One metric that was suggested to measure this ‘new’ approach was a simple question, ‘did I speak to every student in that class during that lesson?’  Guskey (2007) stated “Research evidence shows that the positive effects of mastery learning are not limited to cognitive or achievement outcomes. The process also yields improvements in students’ confidence in learning situations, school attendance rates, involvement in class sessions, attitudes toward learning.” (p. 8)

My second observation

The second aspect that improved throughout the year was the metacognition by the student.  Holding regular mastery checks plus the availability of the flipped lesson videos, students developed an improved ability to learn about their own learning.  The mastery checks provided the opportunity for timely and specific feedback conversations, both inked and audio, essentially a digitally mediated conversation.  Students had the opportunity to review, clarify and update their understanding of specific procedures and skillsets.  It needs to be noted that the mastery checks addressed only fluency and understanding (remembering and understanding) aspects of the course.  The key knowledge was identified at the start of each unit and I declared this knowledge as ‘non-negotiable’ or required knowledge if we were to successfully engage in higher order thinking (applying, analysing, evaluating and creating).  I hold to the belief that, in mathematics, creativity follows mastery, so mastery of skills was a major priority.  Students are aware of their learning target and our feedback conversations specifically addressed this and how they can achieve their learning goal.  As two student responses in the survey commented “Mastery. It’s challenging and a great indication of what I have to especially focus on in my revision.” and “I enjoyed participating in the mastery sheets as it showed me what sections I needed to review and work on.”

My third observation

The third observation from a teacher perspective is that, through the mastery approach, I had a much clearer understanding of the relative strengths and weakness of individual students, both as a learner and in terms of conceptual understanding of mathematics.  My interventions and remediations where differentiated and more specific to each student.  I was able to give specific feedback and quite different remediation assistance to each student, in other words, a differentiated response.  Providing mastery checks also allowed for a much closer tracking of task completion and student development of mastery. This was where the implementation of the Class Notebook add-in for OneNote provided a solid platform to ensure the efficiency of the process.  This was important because if this approach is to be successful then it must be scaleable to more than just one class.   Ultimately, I ‘knew’ my students better than I had done before and, consequently, my interventions were timelier and more specific which in turn closed the learning gap much quicker than I had previously experienced.

My fourth observation 

The fourth and final aspect involved examining trends in student academic achievement.  There are many mitigating and influencing factors that impact on student academic performance including, but not limited to, maturation, parental influence, peer group social status and relationships.  The required data collection, sample size and statistical analysis required to investigate a suggested link between a flipped mastery learning approach and improved academic performance is beyond the scope of this paper.  However, using the tracking tool TrackOne, the following trends were observed:

  1. Based on summative assessment tasks, 20 out of 21 students are now trending upwards by the end of Year 10.
  2. Compared to the Year 10 cohort, the average student under mastery flipped learning has made an upward shift of over one standard deviation from the end of year 9 to the end of year 10.

This data is by no means conclusive evidence, but an observable trend based on a very simple analysis of overall end of year grades.  It does suggest that further research may reveal a link between the flipped mastery approach in Mathematics and improved student academic performance.

In closing, the benefits from a mastery flipped learning approach are summarized below.

  • Promotes independent learning
  • Increases the available time for essential, authentic individualized conversations
  • Provides opportunity for differentiation and timely interventions
  • Increases metacognition skills in students
  • Acknowledges and supports the well-being of students in the learning process
  • Provides a resource for students to review and re-consolidate essential knowledge

The writer is Steve Crapnell, Head of Digital Pedagogy, All Hallow’s School Australia.

Stephen Crapnell is the Head of Digital Pedagogy and senior Mathematics teacher at All Hallows’ School, Brisbane. Steve researches, develops and presents professional development opportunities that leverages emerging digital technologies in the teaching and learning. His specific areas of interest are developing feedback practices, using a mastery flipped classroom model and utilising OneNote and O365 as platforms for efficient and effective teaching and learning workflows. Steve has presented a various national conference detailing the effective use of OneNote with respect to feedback practices and implementing a mastery flipped approach Conferences include the Australian College of Educators (ACE) (Brisbane), Australian Council of Educational Leadership (ACEL) (Melbourne), RESCON 2018 (Melbourne), E2 Microsoft Exchange (Toronto). Steve is a Microsoft Innovative Education Expert and a member of the FLGI 100.

At EduTECH Asia, Crapnell will be speaking on Authentic Learning in an information-rich environment. Crapnell will also be joining us as a mentor in the Meet the Mentor sessions. Do not miss this opportunity to learn from him in person.

Book you seat now before the ticket price rises.

See you there!

If you have big ideas and experience in using technology to transform teaching and learning, we want you on our stage at EduTECH Asia 2018 – Asia’s largest education conference. Email preeti.varadarajan@terrapinn.com to discuss speaking opportunities.

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