Thursday, February 14, 2013

Mastery Learning...One teacher's experience!

I was recently at Kennedy Learning Center and observed Yvette Thiel trying mastery learning with her students.  I was blown away by the research, preparation, implementation and reflection that she had done.  I asked her to share her experiences as a guest blogger.  Below is her experiences.

"I have been experimenting with technology in my 8th grade math class and am able to have one-to-one with students and computers.  Along with this, I have also been experimenting with mastery learning.  There have been some bumps to work out but, overall, I am very excited about the results that I am seeing. My entire class period is not all online.  I tend to think of it as a modified flipped classroom.  They are getting the videos in school.  And during that time, I am free to support other learners as the work out the tasks they are given.
The weeks work is prepared ahead of time and I create individual packets for the students.  The front page of the packet details the tasks that the students are to complete for the week.  Each task lists an Essential Question, how students may work (alone, pairs, group, with teacher), and what checkpoints they have to complete.  Checkpoints are what I call my formative assessment prompts.  Students check in with me at designated times to be sure they are on the right track. At that time I can adjust any misconceptions or confusions. I also provide a rubric for any work that will not be expected to be perfect.
Students are all working at their own pace, so often I am able to conference with students one-on-one or in small groups.  These conferences are very brief.  But because students are all working I have time to address their questions.
I keep a checklist of where students are at in the process.  The best part is students who are absent just jump in where they left off.  I do have some students who lag behind everyone else.  However, these same students are the ones who were not completing work before.  My demands for mastery have forced them to complete work and to a high standard.  I also keep these students for tutoring times if I need to. As a result, their productivity has increased.
Each packet begins with a PowerPoint that I have created and uploaded into a Voice Thread.  Students access this video through Edmodo. The packet has a copy of the slides so the students are able to follow along with me and complete the examples.  Often times, students will re-listen to these videos throughout the week or before a test if they are confused or want to review. Some will even listen to slides more than one time.  I love this.  I don’t find myself so frustrated for having to repeat myself.
I found some other videos online that I thought were fantastic.  But some students really struggled with them.  They like when I prepare my own videos better and have the handouts for them to follow along with me. It is crucial I don’t get long winded on these videos.  I have to be straightforward.  If they need a repeat they can rewind.
Videos are not the only thing I use. I use a combination of many types of activities.  I have purchased a few aps from Edmodo and sometimes I have activities for the students to practice using one of the Aps.  Or I locate something online that will help them practice the skill. I am trying to use some tasks from Georgia and performance tasks from other places for the students to complete in groups or with partners.
At the end of the packet, I have an online assessment for the students to take.  I have discovered that if I give them a practice assessment I can address, one more time, misconceptions or any confusion they may have. As a result test scores are better. Meaning I have less need for remediation. I have discovered that frequent assessments are better than waiting to the end of a unit.  I try to break each week into a mini-unit with a quiz at the end.  However, because students work at their own pace not everyone is finished at the end of the week.  They carry over to the next week.  Therefore, the pacing is flexible for each student’s needs.
I am still trying to work things out to make sure that everyone is learning the most in each class.  Sometimes it seems a little chaotic with so much going on.  But the productivity for individual students has greatly increased.  I think this is more due to the mastery learning.  Knowing that they can get an A they just have to keep trying has been very motivating for some of my more unmotivated.  Using the videos and the group work gives me the opportunity to facilitate student’s individual learning." 

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