During this first semester doing the flipped classroom (with a semi-focus on mastery) I’ve noticed some good and bad trends.  The good: students are eager to improve their quiz scores, even if they have an 80%, and they must conference with me about mistakes.  The bad: I haven’t structured class time well enough and to many students are “slacking off” in my view.  The idea is that students have more time to work on understanding during class, after getting some information as homework.  But, as I’ve heard from others who have tried this, most students do not dive into content acquisition during their out-of-school hours.  This results in students trying to catch up on lessons during class, and less time is spent getting help.  Roughly one quarter of my students fall into this category: they are perpetually behind, and surrounded by others who are working independently.

A side effect of this system is that I have a large majority of my students in the A & B grades, and a minority in the C, D, and F grades.  The only reason I’m bugged by this, and in my old style of teaching I’d be elated, is that it seems I’ve made it easy to get an A.  I just recently put out a survey for my students to complete.  Only a handful have responded, as it is winter break, but those that have say their favorite aspect of my class is the ability to retake quizzes.  This was an option against things like “I can work at my own pace” and “less time is spent taking notes”.  The biggest suggestion so far is that I do more lecturing.  This was an option against “more labs” and “more structure.”  ::sad face::  Its early, but the trend is that students want me to lecture more but still let them take quizzes until they get their desired grade.

Two things I really want to do, which I either stated or alluded to in my last post, are teach students stop seeing me as their only source or information, and assess them on what they have learned, not their completion rate.  So let’s take a look at the mess I’m in.

Current structure for grades (just typing this out makes me feel like an ass):

  • ASQ (version of notes) – 10%
  • Concept Development (assignments) – 10%
  • Explorations (labs and such) – 20%
  • Quizzes (quizzes) – 40%
  • Final Project – 10%
  • Final Exam – 10%

The issue with this structure, aside from it being a points race, is that most of these assignments and notes are fee points.  Explorations require more thinking and work, but students work together.  Quizzes are mastery driven, so if a student gets below 80%, I knock it down to 0.  So of course nine times out of ten they conference with me and take another quiz.  I’m truly shocked ANYONE is getting less than an A!

My ideal structure:

  • Learning Objectives (standards) – 80%
  • Midterm Exam – 10%
  • Final Exam – 10%

That 80% coming from learning objectives (LOs) would be determined by performance on any assignment, lab, quiz, or project we do in, or out of, class.  Ace a quiz on constant velocity? Boom! You’ve got 5/5 or 10/10 for that standard.  Make a video demonstrating momentum and its conservation?  Thats two LOs you can nail down!  And if you did well describing momentum, but you didn’t do well on conservation, no problem: we’ll reassess your understanding later… maybe on a quiz, or during a lab.  Makes sense, don’t it?!

Now, as much as I really really really want to jump into that “ideal” grading structure second semester, I know I can’t.  I need to ge the kids on board — I had a syllabus that proclaimed the current structure… and their parents read it!!!  And I need to inform the admin as well.  Don’t want my first year at a new school to be my last year at that school.  So I’m going to propose a compromise to the the students, reminding them that most of their grades won’t change much under the new system, and that its really a test of whether I can pull it off:

  • Assignments (still pretty much credit/no credit) – 5%
  • Quizzes (still using the same system) – 10%
  • Learning Objectives – 70%
  • Midterm Exam – 7.5%
  • Final Exam – 7.5%

The real selling point is that the assignments, quizzes, and tests all are used to assess the students LOs.  So retaking a quiz can raise their quiz % AND fix their LO levels.  Not too shabby.  

Hopes and dreams…  while I see this system as the way to go, from the point of view of a teacher, and a sane person, I also hope it will lend some focus to my other goal: to teach kids to find the information they need.  Currently, a student who does poorly on a quiz relies on verbal feedback from me as to what they need to work on.  But when they look at their grades, they see “Quiz 7 – 50%” and as a result study just those questions they missed on that quiz.  If they instead see “LO 12: students can describe elastic and inelastic collision using momentum – 50%” they have a pretty good idea what it is they need to work on.  Not just a couple of problems from the quiz, but an entire idea.

We’ll see what happens.

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