Flipping Out: Flipping A Classroom, But Where Does That Leave Assessment?

To be honest, right now, I’m procrastinating. I have a project that seems to be looming over me like a giant cloud. However, this cloud isn’t storming. It’s actually quite pleasant, but it is nonetheless looming. Let me explain. If you’ve read my blog in the last little while, you’ll notice that I’m crushing on flipped classrooms. So much so, in fact, that I am devoting my entire personal project to it in my EMTH class. This project has taken on a life of its own though (thus the looming cloud thing). I’m not entirely sure where to begin, but I wanted to hash out my thoughts just to try to find out where my head is at.

I suppose I should start at the beginning. I want to do this project because I know that there is a better way to deliver the math curriculum, rather than notes on a chalkboard. During my internship, I tried a variety of things — projects, iPad apps, labs, inquiry, etc., — to try to break the trend that math class is known for. However, it seems that all these things take one critical bit: time. Well, in a math classroom, it seems that time is a rare commodity. I’m sure that it is the same in many other subject areas too. This is where flipped classrooms really caught my eye — they are developed so that students take time at home to watch a short video and maybe answer a few questions. This will take no more than twenty minutes of focused effort. In class, students then come back to work on what typically would be their homework. These worksheets/assignments are all they have to do during the class time. This means many things to me: (1) a teacher can spend more time with individual students, both strong and weak; (2) students have access to the teacher when they have a question; (3) students spend more time (3:1 ratio) on putting their new skills to use over sitting through a lesson; and (4) a teacher gets better insight to the progression of his/her students because their is more contact available. Please note, there are WAY more benefits, but I don’t want to procrastinate that much tonight.

One of the tensions I’m toying with is how to avoid “direct instruction” within each video for my students. I’m going to be completely honest: I tried to make it “interactive” by asking questions and then predicting the answers of the students, but I felt like I was a on an episode “Blue’s Clue’s.” Yuck. How can I effectively incorporate inquiry into a flipped lesson? How can I create an authentic lab using a flipped classroom? What else can I do? The nature of a video is asynchronous instruction. I guess that is the benefit — students can watch it on their own time — and the downfall — they can only “watch” it.

Another tension that I’m dealing with is assessment. I’ve changed the way I want my future classrooms to work by flipping it upside down. I can’t justify giving a unit exam and two quizzes per chapter any more. This has been picking away at my brain long enough that I feel another personal project coming on. Good thing! I have a personal project for my Moral Ed class that is asking us to critique something within education. While it will get into the ethics and morals a bit more than I’ve done so far, I think that exploring alternative assessment, especially in a flipped classroom, is worth the time. How can I authentically and productively assess my student’s learning?

In my internship, I used ShowMe, an iPad app that enabled me to see what my students were writing as well as hear what they were saying (I asked them to talk me through a problem). This is definitely something I will continue to do. I also did exit slips, short sheets (kind of like mini-quizzes), and bell work. Naturally, I followed the heard and gave what Joe Bower would call standardized exams, along with (mostly) my own quizzes. This isn’t good enough for me any more. As a matter of fact, this isn’t good enough for my future students. So what can I do about it? Dan Meyer suggests that we assess skills, and not on a big unit test every three weeks. This is kind of like testing each indicator. The curriculum is written very nicely to have a collection indicators for each outcome. This could be a couple of questions specifically targeted to an indicator or two every few days to see how the students are progressing (this is starting to sound like assessment as, of, and for learning all at once, how lovely!), and retesting these skills a few days or a week later. With that model,test takes on a whole new tone: a test is no longer a stress-inducing horror hour designed to encourage memorization. It becomes a way of checking in on knowledge. Students are encouraged to genuinely understand and comprehend each topic.

Now, I’m not about to say that that is the right answer right now. I know that just as I can’t teach only one way, I also have to have a variety of assessment methods. What would it look like if my students collaborated with me on designing their assessment? Assuming that I was able to easily justify that each student was able to meet each indicator and outcome within the assessment or series of assessments, why not let my students help decide how they will best show what they know. After all, they know what they know best.

In the last few hours, I’ve been either brilliant or completely ridiculous. I’ve been giving a lot of thought to creating a learning contract as part of this assessment tension going on in my head. It seems like learning contracts and flipped classrooms are a match made in heaven. After I/we figure how to assess my students’ understanding, I think it would be safe to draw up a learning contract mutually with my students. This way, students can work through the videos at their own pace. For some students, one video per day is going to be plenty. For others, three or four would be no problem. I think I will need to set a parameter with a maximum 3 videos per night. Why? Firstly, so that a student doesn’t sit at home watching math videos all night to try to conquer a chapter in a day. Secondly, so that what the student is doing in class is from within 48 hours of them watching a video on it. It’s just more efficient that way.

How else could learning contracts and flipped classrooms be harmonious? Do you see any potential conflicts? I have lots to think about tonight. Now, back to the “real” work for me (although this post has been more productive than my last hour of designing math worksheets).

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6 thoughts on “Flipping Out: Flipping A Classroom, But Where Does That Leave Assessment?

  1. Great thoughts here. I’ve been working more toward alternative assessment methods with students as well in my flipped classroom. Many conversations with kids and written ways of kids demonstrating their understanding. I still do some more traditional assessments too but use tech to manage and gather data on that. Here’s a link to an overview of templates I’ve shared on my blog for the traditional assessments: http://mrschwen.blogspot.com/p/big-picture.html

  2. The alternative learning that you mentioned are spot on! It is very important for students to have more time in class to further knowledge and “develop their new skills” rather than sitting through lectures. This is crucial to the learning that a student needs in our society today.

    Another resource to this subject can be found here: http://evolvingclassroom.wordpress.com/2012/02/28/innovative-teaching-strategies-using-digital-learning-devices/

  3. Pingback: Technology in the Classroom: Time to Ask the Question « TechGeekTeacher

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