In most parts of the world, schools take all-day; students spend most of their daytime working on academic content. As if this is not quite challenging for a significant number of them, students should also deal with homework. In secondary schools with more than 10 subjects, homework can be quite time-consuming, as well. A number of schools solve this problem by providing weekly homework schedules both for students and teachers; according to these schedules, homework can be assigned on a weekly basis, and students should submit only two or three subjects’ homework on a given day. Yet, they are expected to spend at least an hour on a daily basis in Year 7, which escalates to threeto four hours per day in Sixth Form.
Homework often creates frustration; students deal with either the same level or harder level questions on their homework and there is little or no guidance when needed. Parents who can afford go with the option of private tuition to provide that guidance needed, others seek help from relatives or neighbours, none of which solves the problem; after all a student cannot afford private tuition for a number of subjects, and not every relative and/or neighbour knows about the subject content.
As you can figure out, I am not a big fan of homework. Even if it would be a full-flip, I have concerns. Yes, the videos are much better than a worksheet, however, students may still need some guidance at times. Besides, how many adults bring their work to home, anyway? I hope not many. So, why do we ask students to do so? To have them improve their independent working skills? Hmm…
Back to the group space (classroom), students should have as many different learning experiences as possible. In other words, only watching videos to learn the content is not sufficient. This was my mistake when I first started In-Class Flipping. At first, students enjoyed working on the content through videos, as well as adjusting their own pace. But, as time went by, “watch the video => solve questions => do online self-check => go to the next video” loop became quite boring. Students definitely need more than that.
Mastery Learning Approach is based on a simple rule that cannot make more sense; students will not move on to the new content until they master the current content. Fullstop! This is next to impossible in current traditional settings, especially when your department is in favour of coverage of syllabus rather than Mastery Learning. One of my colleagues once said “well, some kids succeed, others don’t”, and she expressed this statement as if she was talking about a simple fact, an axiom, if you’d like, something like “some babies are boys and some others are girls”. I was beside myself; to my understanding, every student can do maths. Yes, some are faster in achieving contents, solving problems, etc. Yet, some others drop maths in the first opportunity they find –like not going on with A/AS Levels after taking IGCSE Maths. But this was not what my colleague was trying to mention; she simply let go of some of her students and do little for them to succeed, because they are meant to fail. I cannot understand this.
However, I can understand how hard it is to try Mastery Learning in a traditional class. Teacher must differentiate as much as possible, s/he must be micro teaching to some students who struggle, on the other hand s/he must check fast pacers’ work and give descriptive feedback, and so on. This simply is not a one-man-show.
All this sums up to In-Class Flip Mastery. Teacher, having his/her videos and online self-check tools at the ready, asks students to start a chapter. Students follow a chapter plan that includes working on videos, doing online self-checks, solving exercise sets from the textbook and some peer or group work. Students control their own pacing, they interact more with their teacher on a one-to-one basis, they get descriptive feedback on their work, and most of the time, they complete their work at school under teacher’s guidance. Ah, the independent working skill. Yes, each one of them works independently on the videos and exercises. No one is allowed to ask questions to their peers, as they, too, are busy. They can only ask their teacher and questions like “is this right?”, “I did not understand anything” Can you help?” are quickly dismissed. Only after some effort is shown should students get some help. This is how they learn working on their own.
In the next post, I will try to explain what happens during class time in more detail. Stay tuned.