Part 1: Formative assessment synergies with the flipped model. When making the change to a flipped classroom don’t miss the opportunity to change the communication inside and outside the classroom
It seems simple enough, good teaching equals good communication. The problem is what has traditionally been held up as good teaching is the most rigid example of poor, one-way, communication. Flipped learning at its core is about changing the teaching model by changing the communication model. In its earliest forms flipped learning was about moving the one-way communication component of education to a medium suited to one-way communication thereby opeing up the classroom as the heart of interpersonal communication between students and teacher, and students and their peers. The power of the flipped classroom is found in making time for communiction and interaction, but if we limit communiction time to the period between the bells we are still missing out on the power of flipped learning.
The second pillar:
The second pillar in F-L-I-P learning is “Learning Culture” moving instruction to student-centered learning, greater depth, knowledge construction by students, and student evalution of their learning. All of these areas can require a different communiction model for a flipped classroom than exists in a traditional classroom. Formative assessment, small group and individual interaction between students and teachers, shared and collaborative resources among students, opportunities for feedback and constructive criticism with opportunity for revision, and specific opportunities for learning reflection all need to be incorporated into flipped learning classroom.
Student-centered learning means formative assessment:
When Jon and Aaron began incorporating instructional videos the goal was to mimic the traditional direct instruction component with computers, DVDs, and iPods. It addressed the student-centered need for instruction at a time and place that was flexible but the instruction was initially still a universal model where all students got uniform teacher determined materials. Moving from a base “flipped classroom” model to a deeper “flipped learning” model means more communication from students to the teacher. This is where formative assessment becomes so important.
High-tech formative assessment:
Formative assessment is information gathering that is diagnostic rather than summative and is intended as waypoint markers that direct further instruction. Formative assessment can be high-tech, low-tech, or no-tech. One opportunity missed by so many flipped teachers is the fact that the high-tech apps, tools, and extensions are relatively easy to incorporate as flipped teachers have in nearly all cases created a technology and media framework for accessing online instruction, resource materials, and course information. If we as flipped teachers have gone to the trouble to build class websites, employ learning management software, create Google classrooms, why would we not leverage that framework to add interactive and data gathering elements to our videos with program EdPuzzle, Google forms, Youtube enhancments, etc? Why not include in the group space regular usage of Kahoot, Google Forms, or another digital responder system? As flipped teachers we are willing to train the class and parents to adjust expectations and to use technology wisely for direct instruction, the same framework can be used to gather formative information.
Low-tech formative assessment:
Low-tech and no-tech options are just as important for flipped teachers as the high-tech tools. It is possible to overload students with apps, tech, and muiltiple platforms and a temptation for flipped classes is to assume that all the tech used to teach students away from the classroom or in the individual space is also necescary in the classroom group space. Plickers is an example of a low-tech tool that leverages the power of personal interaction. If you are not familar to plickers just Google it (https://plickers.com/) , but in short every student has a piece of paper with a QR style code that can be “seen” and read by a teacher’s smart phone. The app reads and tallies all student answers it sees as the teacher scans the classroom and collates them into summary charts. It allows 100% participation but also 100% annonimity in the group space. There are options for teacher to glean more information in the review process as well. The best part however is watching student reactions, answer speeds, responses to success and failure, and giving immediate feedback as neccessary. One device and a bunch of pieces of paper.
No-tech formative assessment:
All the whizbang in the world does not guarantee learning, and just as flipped classroom is not about the video, flipped learning is not about the tech. The four letter word the flipped method provides is “time”. Time that can be used for small group interaction as students that do not need assistance are working on a different digital or non-digital component of the class. Time that can be used for peer-to-peer learning activities. One old school tool that has made a comeback in my class is the individual whiteboard. This trick is a as old as school with slate and chalk, but I never liked the mess of 32 individual whiteboards. I have covered all four walls of my room with whiteboard for student work and presentation, but with increasing class sizes (and a prevelance of crutches and sports injuries) I have been using a half dozen 30″ by 24″ whiteboards for individuals and small groups to work and display work for the class. I love my whiteboard walls and my smaller boards as I can quickly circle the room and make instructional decisions based on what the students are telling me. Now a non-flip teachers may say they use whiteboard and boardwork as well, and I hope it is effective for them, but what makes it more effective in a flipped classroom is that because instruction has already happened in the individual space every student can be confident that they have at least something correct to share. Additionally, with them on their feet already flexible grouping is the next natural step.
A formative I have not used myself:
Another great formative tool that is more tool and assessment and can be done digitally or in paper form is the interactive notebook. In short this is as the name suggests a notebook that is organized in such a way that it becomes a collection point for thoughts, questions, tasks, wonderings, information, examples, yle of teaching, etc. and becomes an artifact of student learning. One teacher I work with was looking to use Pear Deck to do her inteactive notebooks digitally for students who have defined organizational issues and need the structure and limitations of technology. Regardless of formate the notebook is not intended to be graded in many cases but becomes a thought record for the student and this is one of the best ways to make formative and instructional decisions. We all wish (sometimes) we could crawl into the heads of our students, and interactive notebooks can give us a window. Interactive notebooks are a study to themselves so go down the Google/YouTube rabbit hole and enjoy.
The best formative is good questions:
A person might notice that regarless of the level of technology involved, questions are at the heart of formative assessment. A well formed and well placed question to a student is many times the key to opening learning for the student. The role of the flipped method in formative assesment is giving students preparation and instruction in their individual learning space that allows students the opportunity to form good questions when they become appropriately frustrated in the process of learning. Data that can be gathered digtially through video interaction tools or check point assessments give teachers the opportunity to form good questions that can assess and direct learning in the group space. Most importantly the time gathered and protected by flipped learning that can be better utilized in the group space allows for more interaction between all learners and educators and more interaction means more opportunities for good questions.
In part 2 of this mini-series we will address how communication tools, methods, and procedures can lead to deeper learning and student knowledge creation.