Mrs. K Science: The Blog

This is a place where I'll post my musings about technology in the classroom, lessons I've used successfully, and other Ed Tech stuff I find/use...

TOOL PLC 1718: November Monthly Focus - Preparing for Live Sessions Using Data Analysis

posted Nov 13, 2017, 1:03 PM by Emily Kroutil

The rest of my synchronous sessions for this semester (3! How has the semester gone by so quickly?!?) are going to be tailored to final exam review.  

To prepare for these reviews, I go into the test and look at the statistics for each question:

Then I choose the questions with the lowest % correct and put those into a powerpoint. The 3rd question under Direction MC, that only had a 33.33% correct rate is the question below:

I also make a slide at the beginning of each test's review that has all the formulas they should have on their formula sheet for that unit:

During the live session, I remind them that the session is focused on going over those frequently missed questions and not teaching the topics from those units.  If they want to see me teaching the topics, they can go to the synchronous session from that week linked in the User Links section.  

We have 11 units, so I broke the last 3 synchronous sessions into about 3 units/session.  If I tried to do all in one session, it would be VERY long and they wouldn't get many practice questions from each module.  

I also post an ELO for each review in a special dropbox section called "Extra Learning Opportunities".  They have to answer (and show their work) for 1 question (my choice, not theirs) from each unit covered in the review:
Then, I give them 1 pt back on their test(s).  This makes sure that each point back is actually tied to standards from that unit, which is important (and policy).

Doing the review this way takes a lot of prep on my end (looking through the questions, putting them into the powerpoint, solving them ahead of time, making sure I have all the formulas they will need, etc.), but I think it's worth it.

I've also been told in the past by students that this format is helpful because it gives them access to me working out as many possible test questions as possible and that these concepts/questions have reappeared on their final (I know this, obviously, since I know which questions can and cannot appear on the final, but its good to know they think it is helpful).

Jigsaw 104: Internship

posted Nov 6, 2017, 11:48 AM by Emily Kroutil

This session was all about using some more advanced features of Jigsaw and integrating everything we've learned so far.  The first thing that was discussed was creating a storyboard for your lessons.  I'll be the first to admit, I don't do this, at least on paper/digitally.  

I usually have an idea in my mind of what I want to do for the lesson, such as, "first I'll discuss important dates and housekeeping information, then I'll introduce the lesson with a video or explanation, and then I'll work out some practice problems.  At the end, I'll take questions."  

Then, I think about what assets I want to use in the session, "I need to upload the PowerPoint I created with the practice problems written out.  Then, I had that graphic I wanted to explain.  I'd like to do that big, so I'll add it as an image in the whiteboard.  Then, in case something doesn't go well, I'll add a video of me working out the practice problems so I can show that just in case."  Then, I load all these assets into Jigsaw and open my session to make sure they are showing up the way I want them to.

And then I'll write out (on paper) the things I want to mention by writing on the whiteboard.  I also work out the practice problems on paper ahead of time so I've got them ready to go and don't have to mess with typing things into the calculator during the session, if I can help it.  I do all of this in a notebook I keep for working out problems within the course or for jigsaw sessions, since I am not one of those folks that can work physics problems in their head.  I HAVE to write it out!

Then, I do the session.

I rarely use quizzes or polls because attendance at my live sessions tends to fluctuate around zero, and oh, zero.  

If I were to write out a storyboard for this, it would look something like this:
I will admit that I wrote this storyboard based on a lesson I did early in the semester that I knew used 3 panes.  Using 3 panes didn't really work with my plan for the next few lessons, and it is more important to me to spend my hour with the students (even if they are just using the recording), doing something I think is beneficial for them than simply doing something to do it.  For the housekeeping information, I usually write that out like this:
And my work for the practice problems tends to look a lot like this: 
Notice I label the slide, so I can quickly make sure I'm working out/looking at the correct problem.  This is important on weeks like the one above, where the practice problems all look very similar, with very tiny differences.

Some important information about the video below.  The whole 1D Kinematics lesson is provided, but in case you don't want to watch an hour-long video on physics (I don't blame you, really, I don't), here are the important points:
  1. From 0:00 - 3:00 I discuss housekeeping information.  You'll notice the text is VERY small.  As I mentioned above, this recording is from early in the semester, before I knew how TINY the text in the notes section actually is.  If I were to re-record this same lesson, I would use the whiteboard pane to write this portion.  In my storyboard above, I wrote it as if I was using the whiteboard pane, because I knew that this notes section isn't particularly useful in its current format (being unable to adjust the text size).
  2. From 3:16 - 5:24 the video I uploaded plays.  I chose this video because we were going to be discussing the difference between SPEED and VELOCITY in this session and I thought the cute video would be a good way to hook or engage my students.  No one attended live, so I wasn't able to gauge this.  But when I taught in the face-to-face classroom, the video would get their attention.
  3. From 5:39 - end of the video, I work out a variety of practice problems.  Each week, I try to work out at least one of each "type" of problem for my students.  That way, they can refer to the video of me walking them through the problems if they get stuck.

1D Kinematics

I would change a few things about the lesson above.  Since it was at the beginning of the semester, I've already changed a few things, especially:
  1. The notes pane.  I NEVER use this pane anymore for notes.  It displays WAY too small for students to see, especially in the low quality of a recording.  I have switched to the whiteboard pane for this type of information.  That way I can write as large as I want and it shows up MUCH better in the recording.
  2. I have switched to a black background for working out problems.  This was suggested in my Advanced TOOL group and makes the colors stand out much better.
  3. I would love to implement little "check" quizzes here and there, but until I can get some consistent attendance, it doesn't really make a lot of sense to spend time creating a bunch of questions to give no one.  I think that could make the session more interactive.  Although, just having students attend live would make it more interactive too :)
I think my students appreciate when I work out the problems.  Unless they watch the recording within a day or so, the housekeeping information could be of little use to them, but I still like to include it just in case.  I'm not sure "enjoy" is a good word to use, because I don't know many students that "enjoy" working out practice problems, but most of them know that they need to do this in order to understand the material well enough to earn a decent grade in the course.

And my attendance check:

TOOL PLC 1718: October Monthly Focus - Jigsaw Whiteboard

posted Oct 21, 2017, 11:31 AM by Emily Kroutil

I've been trying to implement the Panes we discussed in Jigsaw 103, especially the whiteboard, as I think it could be useful, but I hadn't used it much at all for content-related stuff.  I had to pre-decide what I wanted to discuss in the Whiteboard.  This month, I decided to try adding images to the whiteboard and discussing/annotating these images in the whiteboard.  I had to upload these images as assets and tag them appropriately.  Then, I had to add the images to the session.  Next, I had to add the image to the whiteboard.  During the session, I put the whiteboard on follow me and discussed/annotated the image.  I'm not sure how it improved engagement, because no one attended either session live, but I liked having a large copy of the image for the students to really understand important concepts. 

Annotated image in 4 pane view: 


Annotated Image in 2 Pane View: 


IF you use the 2 pane view and "add whiteboard" and then put the whiteboard on follow me, the whiteboard will show up as a "strip", not the whole page.  IF you choose the "actual" vs. "fit", the image/text will look large on your screen, but still remain quite small on the student's screen.  So, the best way to use the whiteboard still seems to be the 4 pane view, at least until Jigsaw is changed. 

What I saw: 


What They Saw: 



Best Practices/Tips: 

1) Plan your session in advance.  Don't try to upload an image in the middle of your session.   

2) Before the live session, log into the session and go ahead and insert the image into the whiteboard so it is ready to go 

3) Make sure you put the screen on "follow me" so the students can see the image as large as possible while you are discussing it. 


I've been trying to experiment with the features I haven't tried yet instead of sticking to my same ol' same ol'.  I tend to be one of those "if its not broken, don't fix it," but sometimes an update or a renovation isn't a bad thing, even if it wasn't broken in the first place :) 


TOOL PLC 1718: September Monthly Focus - Screensharing

posted Oct 21, 2017, 11:20 AM by Emily Kroutil

My partner and I made a goal this month to practice screensharing.  Both of us had been hesitant to use it with Jigsaw before because we knew that there had been a few issues regarding screensharing in the past.  However, these issues were cleared up not long before we decided on our focus, so we decided to go with it! 


Screensharing can be very helpful in science courses.  Our students have quite a few virtual labs in their courses and even with clear instructions on the lab handout, the kids can sometimes get confused or not sure about which values to put into the data tables or how to set up the simulation or even how to do the calculations in the lab.  So, sharing our screens and walking them through the lab is very helpful, especially for our special education students. 


I ended up doing my screenshare trial during a non-live session for a couple reasons: 1) I wanted to make sure it worked before I tried it when students might be present; 2) I wanted to see what the recording looked like before I tried it in a live session so I'd know what to expect; 3) I don't often have students attend my sessions live, so I could make a screenshare for a lab AND also be able to use my live session time to solve practice problems – something the kids really need in a computational science like physics. 


My recording is on YouTube here: Newton's 2nd Law Lab.  I've edited it to take out the places where I felt like I messed up or repeated myself or whatever. 


A few things I noticed about my recording: 

1) The quality isn't as good as a recording done from Quicktime on my computer.  Do I need the recordings in HD?  I don't know, but the quality is still less. 

2) There are some places in the video where the screen goes black but I'm still talking.  I'm guessing this was a blip between my connection with Jigsaw.  I don't have these issues using Quicktime because I don't have to connect to any servers when I record my screen on my computer. 

3) Overall, it would work if I needed to share my screen to show students something, but I wouldn't want to rely on it during a synchronous session that no one attended live because I wouldn't know if they were getting the dark screen or not for the recording, which is what my students tend to utilize the most. 


I liked the idea of recording myself walking my students through a lab and the students that viewed the recording had higher scores on their labs, so I think it was helpful.  I like having that recording in my repository of helpful things I can provide for students.  However, using Jigsaw for those recordings seems, at this time, to be a waste.  I can do the same thing using Quicktime and avoid the server issues with Jigsaw and get a better quality recording.  Since making the recording through Jigsaw, I have been trying to record myself walking the students through other labs and posting those recordings for them, so even though I wouldn't use Jigsaw to simply make a screenshare recording, the idea of recording myself doing the labs came from this activity and I have been implementing that, so overall the activity was helpful.  

Jigsaw 103: Making the Grade

posted Oct 6, 2017, 7:02 AM by Emily Kroutil

This session focused on Panes 3 and 4.  Pane 3 shows a map by default, but can be used for a variety of activities.  The one I've used most is the Notes function.  I like to go over what I call "Housekeeping Information" at the beginning of my synchronous sessions.  I discuss the upcoming due date and what is due for that due date and then the upcoming week until the next due date.  Sometimes I provide links to important resources for them to check out over the week, even though the links aren't live in the recording.  The first time I tried it, I forgot to share the notes, which ended up in a recording that looked like this:
My one student in attendance was too shy to ask why she wasn't seeing anything on the screen and I didn't know to ask if she was seeing what I was writing.  I only found out when I viewed the recording.  I was able to figure out what I'd done wrong via Yammer and the next time I tried the notes function, it worked better:
The text showed up, but even on "Follow Me", it was VERY small.  There is no way to make the text larger at this time, so I've actually stopped using the Notes function for this "Housekeeping" part of the synchronous session and have transitioned to using the whiteboard, which is Pane 4 in Jigsaw:
This way, I can make sure that the text is large enough to read, even on the recording.  As I'm writing, I discuss important parts of the items I'm writing down, such as, "this test is scheduled the same day as the due date, so make sure you are following the schedule so you don't get behind and you have time to take the test and get full points for it!"  If I want to add links, I post them in the chat box.  They still aren't live in the recording, but students can still see them and could type them into their browser, since the links are usually fairly short.  The whiteboard has proven better for listing these "Housekeeping" items than the Notes function.  

I haven't yet tried a poll because when I do have students in attendance, its usually only one student, so I just verbally ask them how its going or what they have questions with or what they understand or don't understand from what I just discussed.

I also annotate quite a bit with my classes, but I tend to use Pane 2 for that.  For me, it's easier to upload a PowerPoint presentation with a physics problem already written out on it and annotate that way.  Those end up looking something like this:
As far as best practices go, I've found the following to be important to keep in mind when utilizing these panes:
  • If you have students in attendance, always ASK them if they can see what you're writing/talking about.  Just because you can see something DOES NOT mean students can see it.
  • The Notes function uses VERY small type and the recordings are often made at a lower quality than your screen resolution, so this, combined with the small type, can make the Notes difficult to read during recordings.
  • The whiteboard has a variety of tools.  Try these out before you use them with students.
  • I like using different colors for different parts of problems I'm working out.  I think this makes it easier for students to follow and when you're done, you don't have a huge wall of similarly-colored text.
And here's my attendance check:

Jigsaw 102: Going to Class

posted Sep 7, 2017, 5:11 PM by Emily Kroutil   [ updated Oct 5, 2017, 3:55 PM ]

I've used Pane 1 a few times in my courses.  Most frequently, I've used Pane 1 as a "fun" way to introduce a concept discussed in that session.  For the following video, I was discussing velocity (start at 3:15 to see the video):

Math of Physics Review

This video describes the difference between speed (scalar) and velocity (vector) and is useful the week this session was recorded, but also in a future module when we discuss vectors, something students tend to have difficulty with (you'll see the next video also discusses vectors...did I mention students struggle with having a magnitude AND a direction??).

The next video I used with my students had a clip from Despicable Me, but is entirely related to our content (I swear!).  I thought it might get the students laughing, maybe engage them a little bit, and then I could bring it back to physics after the clip (start at 3:18 to see my intro and the video and stopping at 6:15 will let you see my explanation after the video):

2D Motion Review

After the video, I brought it back to physics by reminding the students that vectors MUST have a magnitude AND direction, an important concept from the module we were currently studying.

I've also used it as a backup in my course as well.  I will pre-load instructional videos of myself solving the problems I hope to solve during the live session.  Then if my slate is not working, I can show an instructional video that shows me solving the problem.  I prefer to solve the problem live (I think it is more dynamic that way), but having the videos preloaded at least lets me know I've got a back up in case my preferred method doesn't work.  You can see in the screenshot below that I put the title of the video and the time within the video, so if I needed to use it, I'd be able to go right where I needed to be in the video without losing too much time during the session:
So the video that had this problem solved was called "Finding the Resultant" and I solved the problem starting at 3:10 and continued solving it until 9:31.  Here's what it looks like with the back up videos loaded in Pane 1:

And here's my attendance check:

Jigsaw 101: Setting Up For Success

posted Aug 11, 2017, 7:37 AM by Emily Kroutil   [ updated Aug 11, 2017, 7:45 AM ]

This year, GAVS is moving from Adobe Connect to Jigsaw for our synchronous sessions.  This is proving to have quite the learning curve for many folks, myself included.

One of the first things I had to do to prepare for my first Jigsaw session, was upload assets to my asset library.  My first session was a welcome session, so I wanted to upload my syllabus as a PDF (attachment) and I also wanted to upload a Welcome PowerPoint (Presentation).  Then, because screen sharing wasn't working very well, I wanted to upload a screencast video (video) I'd created to give my students a tour of the course homepage.  I gave all of these documents the tag of "Fall 2017" so I could easily find all of the things I'd uploaded specifically for Fall 2017.  I also used the tags: syllabus, welcome, 18 week, 16 week, 14 week, 12 week, powerpoint where applicable.  The screenshot below shows me searching for the "Fall 2017" tag, which gave me these "Fall 2017" specific documents.

The following YouTube video is the recording of my Welcome Session.  We've found that students sometimes leave the video links open, which then locks other students out of the recording.  I didn't want to deal with fielding emails from parents when their kiddos couldn't access the recording and also try and get ahold of all of my students and convince them to *pretty please* close the window when they are done watching a recording.  So, I downloaded my recording and uploaded it into iMovie.  In iMovie, I cropped out the student names so as not to violate FERPA.  Then, I uploaded the cropped video to YouTube and posted the link to the YouTube video in my course.  Some things to be aware of in this video:
  • I used my "Fall 2017 Welcome Session" Presentation to go over important policies and procedures with my students (0:27 - 34:00).
  • I uploaded all 4 of my "Fall 2017 Syllabus" attachments so my students could download their appropriate syllabus (you won't be able to see this because I had to crop out the entire right side to remove student names).
  • Towards the end, I played my "Fall 2017 Welcome Tour" video for my students (fast forward to 35:58).

Fall 2017 Welcome Session

I think the most important thing for success in a Jigsaw session is to do a few things:
  • Be prepared.  It is important to kind of plan out in your head how you'd like to structure the session, especially since screen sharing isn't working (or isn't working well).  So I can't decide spur-of-the-moment, that I want to share my screen and walk my students through something.  For the welcome session, I knew I needed to create a screencast before my session of me walking the students through their course homepage.  This meant that the day before I recorded the screencast, edited it in iMovie, and uploaded it to YouTube, so I could easily add it as an asset in Jigsaw.  If I wasn't thinking in advance about what I wanted to do for my session, I wouldn't have had time to pre-record a video to play during the session.  Because you have to upload assets in advance, you need to make sure that you are planning your session in advance, so you can pre-load your assets into Jigsaw.  There is no spur-of-the-moment deciding that you'd like to add something else to your presentation.
  • Keep it simple.  Many folks were so-called experts at Adobe.  They had figured out how to play games with their students, upload movies and music to play at the beginning, etc. etc.  Luckily (I guess...), I was still fairly new to Adobe since I started in Spring 2017.  So, I was already keeping my sessions fairly simple because 1) I didn't want to get too ahead of myself 2) I was having trouble getting students to attend, so I couldn't do a ton of interactive things with them because there was no one to interact with.  With Jigsaw, I toned it back even further.  I knew that I wasn't terribly familiar with the platform and that the students weren't either.  So I kept it very simple - presentation and a video.  I also prefaced the session by telling the students that it was a new platform for everyone, so we would just take it slow and try our best.  If something happened, we would try our best to troubleshoot whatever problem we were having.
  • Be flexible.  I knew that screen sharing didn't work, so I pre-recorded a video.  But, in case the video didn't work, I had screenshots of important parts of the homepage in my presentation.  
And, just in's the Attendance checker from this session, just to show that I watched the recording:

Evaluate: Self-Reflection on Teaching Abilities Quest

posted May 25, 2016, 9:34 AM by Emily Kroutil   [ updated May 25, 2016, 9:34 AM ]

For this last quest, I have created a Google Drive folder with comments from other educators, students, my TKES evaluations and self-reflections, and samples of PD I have participated in:

Self-Reflection on Teaching Abilities Quest

I find it difficult to talk about myself in this sort of way, but on this last day at Savannah Arts (Truly, it is my last day.  I could have never planned to reflect on my teaching career on my last day at my favorite school...), I have to believe that I made a difference in my students' lives.  I worked very, very hard to create a learning environment where my students could succeed and feel confident about their science abilities.  We get a lot of kids in Physics that have just come from Chemistry and that struggled quite a bit with Chemistry.  They come to me saying things like, "I can't do conversions" or "I'm bad at science" and I work very hard to praise them and show them that they CAN be successful at science.  Physics, no less!  In my AP class, I work very hard to teach them about environmental science and also how to be responsible citizens and voters.  I try to encourage them and build them up as scientists.  I am often told that AP Environmental Science (APES) was their favorite class and that they learned so much in that class and talk about what we learned in APES with their friends and family.  This is perhaps the greatest compliment I can get from a student.  I love when they see how the things they learn in my classroom are applicable in their life outside the school building.

I think I am quite adept with technology and I have made great strides flipping my classroom when no one else in my department or school was doing it.  I researched the various LMS, spoke with my Technology Specialist, created videos, guided notes, learning objectives (competencies) based on the standards and so much more because I believed that it was a superior method to what I was doing before and my students excelled using this method.  I feel like this is not quite virtual school, but it is a blended method of learning and I know that I could make the transition to teaching virtual school successfully.  

My weakness as an online educator is probably that I haven't ever taught a fully online class.  However, I know that you have to start somewhere and if you ask anyone who has worked with me, they will tell you that I work incredibly hard and I do what needs to be done for my students to succeed.  

Evaluate: Differentiation Quest

posted May 25, 2016, 8:37 AM by Emily Kroutil   [ updated May 25, 2016, 8:39 AM ]

For this quest, I looked at data from my Projectiles unit to maintain continuity with the Create Skill.  First, I looked at the formative assessment quiz for the first 4 learning objectives (competencies).  These objectives basically deal with breaking vectors into components, calculating the components, and the angle.  It is prep work for the actual "meat" of the unit, solving horizontal and vertical projectile problems.  The class scores for this quiz were as follows:
For this quiz and these objectives, I was actually really happy with how my students performed.  A few struggled, but I was able to work with them individually to address these weaknesses.  This tells me that my students have a pretty good grasp on trig and the prep concepts needed to solve projectile problems.  This also tells me that they are pretty good at finding what they need in the word problems and, if given the formula, can manipulate it correctly to get the answer.  So, I continued to the next set of objectives (5-6), which are solving horizontal and angled projectile problems, respectively:
So far so good.  Then I get to the next two horizontal projectile questions:
Ok, stop!  Something here is drastically different.  We are down to between 41-58% of students getting these questions correct.  For #4, there isn't one wrong answer that is particularly popular, so this tells me they were guessing and really had no idea how to solve this problem.  The students historically suffer with a problem like this.  When they are given a height and distance and no initial velocity, they struggle.  This tells me that we need to practice these types of questions more (and to be fair, these are the harder problems and when I haven't looked at this material for awhile, I struggle with where to start too).  We do a problem like this in their lab, but since they work in groups, the math work that is turned in doesn't always reflect their knowledge because someone who DOES understand the concept, tends to help them with it (lets them copy their work without showing them how to do it).  I call this "not teaching them how to fish."  I have no problems with them helping each other, but my requirement is that the person doing the helping "teaches them how to fish and doesn't simply give them a fish".  They don't always follow this rule, however (they are teenagers!).  

Now, lets move onto problem #5.  Less than half of them know how to do this one and there is an INCORRECT answer that was chosen almost as often as the correct answer.  This tells me that they at least know how to start the problem and got stuck or lost somewhere along the way.  They chose the distractor quite frequently, which tells me that they are making a common mistake here.  This could be remediated individually when I go over the quiz, an instructional video could be created discussing this particular type of problem (could be helpful with #4 too!) or, in the case of virtual school, we should talk about this in our weekly synchronous session and maybe even have a discussion about this type of problem.  They are making a common mistake and this is easily remedied.  Much easier than #4, where almost half of the students have no clue where to begin.  It could also be useful to pair a student that got #5 correct with a student that got #5 incorrect (especially since its almost exactly a 50/50 split) and have the person who got the problem correct watch over or look over the work of the student who got it incorrect and "teach them how to fish".  

Now, let's look at some individual quizzes.  I've eliminated their names to comply with FERPA, so they will simply be referred to as Student A and Student B.  Student A's quiz is below:
Student A obviously needs a little more work on this section.  She got question #1 correct, which tells me she knows the first step of a horizontal projectile problem (solve for time!), but then gets stuck after.  She also got #8 correct, which didn't require any math, but was actually a concept question.  So, this tells me all is not lost with her.  I know that she's at least looked at the material, but maybe didn't spend as much time on it as needed (I try and tell them over and over that this unit is the most difficult and will take more work than any other, but they're teenagers, so of course they know better than me).

Now let's look at Student B (We will come back to Student A):
I swear, I just picked two students randomly, but these two would actually make excellent partners for reviewing this section before they took the alternate version of the quiz.  Student B missed one problem and it just happens to be a problem Student A got correct! (Seriously, I couldn't have planned that if I tried).  They would make excellent partners because Student B could help Student A with the bulk of the problems that were missed, but Student A wouldn't feel like she was getting tutored by a friend because she could help Student B with the problem she missed!  I would also direct Student A to the instructional video where I explain how to start (the part she's excellent at!) and solve each step of a horizontal projectile problem.  It would probably be worthwhile for Student A to watch that video a couple times while she CONCURRENTLY is solving a problem so she gets practice with the various steps.  Then, once she's solved a couple with the video, she could try working on them by herself and ask Student B for help if needed.  Of course, I'm always available, but sometimes they like learning from their friends rather than me.

I'm not sure if an LMS can do this automatically or if I could set up paths like, 
  • If you score greater than an 80%, you may move on to the next section.
  • If you score between a 50-79%, watch this instructional video and do such and such before attempting the alternate version of the quiz
  • If you miss question #5, view this resource and do such and such before attempting the alternate version of the quiz 
  • If you score lower than a 50%, attendance at the weekly synchronous session is mandatory before you may attempt the alternate version of the quiz.
  • And on and on.  
This could be similar to a choose your own ending book (remember those?), except the students are following their own, personalized learning path.  This way the students are getting exactly what they need when they need it.  This would actually be an interesting method to try with my flipped students....

Evaluate: Rubrics and Competencies Quest

posted May 24, 2016, 11:51 AM by Emily Kroutil   [ updated May 24, 2016, 12:04 PM ]

Competency-based learning is what I've been trying to accomplish in my flipped classroom.  I just didn't know that's what it was called!  I always called it Mastery-based learning.  This type of learning shifts the focus of a course to what the students have actually learned and away from things like seat time, credits, etc.  This is what I try and do in my own classes (with varying degrees of success...)!

The projectile unit in physics is based on the following GPS for Physics:
As with most of the GPS, the underlined sections (f, g) are quite broad, so I created learning objectives (competencies) that broke the broad elements of the GPS into more manageable chunks.  Then, I created organizational guides for my students with the learning objectives, resources they can access to view and practice the content and then they quiz at the end of each section.  My Organizational Guides (basically lists of competencies/learning objectives I created based on the GPS) looks like this:
The sections are divided into learning objectives (usually 2-4 per section) and the quizzes are also divided by learning objective (competency) so I can see exactly where the students are struggling.  I made short quizzes (4-9 questions), so the students couldn't just "pass" the quiz by getting the majority of the questions correct and still lacking mastery of a learning objective.  

 I now realize that this is similar to competency-based learning.  My learning objectives are basically competencies (things I want the student to be "competent in" or "master) and the quizzes are the assignments used to demonstrate competency (mastery).  To expand on this, I could create a rubric like the following and use that to "grade" their work (assignments labeled "Practice" in the organizational guide above, lab write ups, and anything related to that learning objective):

The items on the left of the rubric are the competencies (learning objectives) and the numbers are their level of competency with the skill.  I would suggest at least a 3, but preferably a 4 or 5 would be required to demonstrate competency (mastery).  If they can demonstrate competency (mastery) on the Practice problems, then they could be exempt from the quiz.  Alternatively, if they wanted to prove their competency (mastery) by doing the quiz, they could do that as well (Some students do not need to work the practice problems to "get" the concept and these students would benefit from being able to basically "quiz out" of that section.  If they wanted to complete the lab related to that learning objective and use that as their evidence of competency, they could do that as well.  This method allows students a variety of methods to demonstrate competency and also gives them more ownership of their learning.

As I spent more time with this rubric, I would probably find ways in which I would like to tweak or adjust it.  But, until I use it, I won't get a good idea of how it is lacking or what I should adjust.  Thus the problem with trying something new: that first class tends to be the guinea pigs.  Usually I let them know, "This is the first time I'm trying this, so let me know what is working and what isn't so I can adjust and adapt as we go along."

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