Doing it Backwards … On Purpose

--Originally published at Flipping With Joy

My systems & secrets

When I have everything running the way I want, it will look like this:

  • Each unit has learning goals.
    • Each goal is associated with one of Ontario's categories of achievement.
    • Showing evidence of having achieved is goal is worth a preset amount of the student's grade.
  • Each learning goal has one or more videos specifically associated with it.
  • Each learning goal also has one or more assessments specifically associated with it.
  • If a student has a low grade in the course, the student and I look at what learning goals the student needs to bump up. The student reviews those videos, asking me questions if needed, and we look at what other learning activities can increase the student's ability to achieve those goals. When the student is ready, I reassess the student and, if appropriate, bump up the student's mark accordingly.
I know that sounds like a mastery system. In reality, I'm currently aiming to keep most of the class working through their initial exposure to the material at the same pace, but I am OK with some students going through things at a more individual pace if that is what is best suited to their circumstances. I may one day move to mastery, but I have more to learn myself yet about how that plays out -- for example, how can whole-class group space tasks happen if the class is scattered in where they are in a course? Do you just run the group space tasks with those who have got to the appropriate spot in the course, and those who aren't there yet just do their own thing instead?
Changes since "the old days"
I learned about standards-based grading (grading based on learning goals, rather than a set % for a particular quiz, for example) before I learned about flipping, but it's only recently that I'm really wrapping my head around how they can work together. My videos so far have been topic-based, but not goal-driven.
When I think of "the old days," I tend to think more in terms of "before I learned about standards-based grading." I think grading based on learning goals is so important in terms of letting students have multiple opportunities to show improvement and what they really know / can do by the end of a course rather than a set of high-stakes quizzes and tests (which make it harder to tell a student -- or parent, student success teacher, administrator, etc. -- what the student needs to do to improve in the course).
Backward design?
My teacher's college program used Understanding by Design (by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe) as one of our course texts, so the importance of beginning with the end in mind has been stressed to me since the very beginning. I have always appreciated the logic of this approach. (Actually, a lot of stuff put out by ASCD makes a lot of sense to me, and I became a member earlier this year.) My personality is that I need to know where I'm going and plan for it -- flying by the seat of my pants makes me nervous, even though it is part of every teacher's reality at least some of the time.

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