New Year, New Flipping Systems

–Originally published at Flipping Awesome Teaching

There are lots of good reasons not to change class systems in January, but sometimes you just have gotta do it. We have a stupid little 3 day re-entry week starting tomorrow, so I don’t plan to pull the trigger right away. I’ve got a few more days to finalize and polish the plan, but it’s pretty much set.

I have written elsewhere in this blog and presented at several conferences about this flipped mastery system of in-class quizzes to verify students know what they “Need2Know” before getting into the deeper stuff. Parents like it, special education staff seem to like it too, and returning students always respect it too.

Here is what I hope to gain from an assessment shake-up:

  • Avoid the panic of winter when snow days impact (or threaten to affect) my plans. We have 3 straight months when that’s a possibility. When I have in-class quizzes, they get bumped by snow days (or, again, I might have to prepare for just in case it will happen). That always slows down my curriculum progress and momentum. If my checks for understanding are online instead of in-class, then I should get less heavily impacted by the weather … as long as we don’t lose electrical power! 
  • Get more in-class time to work/meet with students instead of assessing them so often. It’s an easy data trap to fall into: I know what they don’t know…but when can I get to actually do something about that? When I spend about 1 class per week isolated from students (while they take the quiz and while I’m feverishly scoring them before the class period ends), that makes the other classes so precious. Getting more 1:1 time was supposed to be part of the point of flipping! I see that I’ve gotten away from that.
  • For this unit, I imagine having basically 2 kinds of class period. A) Start with a short video or reading together (or referencing a recent flipped lesson), then dive into class discussion for ~20 minutes, with a few minutes of debrief / reflection before the bell … and B) mostly workshop time for an independent-choice project, which is when I get to have those 1:1 conferences. That structure is much easier to plan for than the 1/2 assessment-1/2 class activity system that I have been struggling to design effectively.
  • By making open-response online assessments of the flipped lesson (with Edpuzzle, GoogleForms, or Schoology), I shouldn’t need to stress so much about creating videosthat fit the specific quiz questions and objectives; I could also offer multiple info sources for these open-response assessments. That might lead to better and easier differentiation than I have been able to manage lately. Maybe that’s why people make fun of me for how long I’ve spent on video production.
  • Finally, the upcoming government unit needs flexibility that the Need2Know system doesn’t always provide. News events are changing so quickly that I need the ability to switch tomorrow from a workshop day to an article-reading/discussion day. I imagine that I can move online assessment deadlines much more smoothly than the in-class quiz dates, and that I can change the topic/focus as needed as well.

OK, those are some of the pros. I’m surethere are cons to this plan as well. That’s partly why I am blogging about it today: so Future Self can see where I went wrong this week! For students who really liked and just got used to the “regular” system, this is not good news. (Of course, it might really help some kids who were struggling with the in-class quizzes!)

A big reason why I avoided the Edpuzzle-style assessment of understanding is the issue of academic honesty: How do I know these students really know it? But I’ve got to face it: there are flaws in the paper-pencil quiz approach as well. Kids still sometimes just cram-and-forget.

OK, I have not yet convinced myself that this is a bad idea. Sometimes that actually does happen while I’m blogging, and usually it’s only the final draft that gets published — not the series of thoughts that led me there. I trust that it’s a good idea for me to be designing the unit at the same time as I’m devising this assessment change. It’s not like I’m doing this in the middle of that unit! Now I better publish this post and switch gears to unit design! My vacation is so totally over….

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