I’ve been experimenting with a “flipped” classroom in my math classes for about two years now. Initially the only change was that students did homework during class and did online activities or watched instructional video clips at home. The change wasn’t immediate and required some adjustment as we went along, but I’m pleased with how it’s going. What’s interesting to me now, looking back at when I first flipped my classroom, is how that initial change in the structure of day to day has precipitated change in how entire units are structured.
Previously, I planned a unit so that students would develop the required skills and then apply their knowledge in a summative task, like a test or a project. I always tried to make the task as relevant and engaging as possible – like having students use fractions and decimals to put together a proposal for a pizza lunch – so that students could see the value of learning math. However, even when I told students about the task at the beginning of the unit, it never seemed to motivate them to develop the skills during the unit.
In my next unit, I’m going to try something different. I am still planning to cover the same content as I did this time last year and I am planning to use the same summative assessment: a project in which students create a display of child welfare statistics. But this time, we’re starting the unit with the summative assessment. I’m going to have students find as many statistics as they can that related to child welfare (literacy rates, percentage of children with adequate housing etc.) Once they have the data, we’ll talk about how to transform and synthesize it into a powerful message via a video, website or poster. Once they’ve got the end product in mind, we’ll talk about how to get there and what math skill we will need. Then (and only then) we’ll get into learning and practicing the math skills.
I hope that by starting with the culminating task, students will be more motivated to learn the basic skills, and that they will learn those skills in a more meaningful way. Ideally, the learning will be their idea and they will be invested in developing the skills that they identified as important. At the very least, I am optimistic that I can slide the instruction into their own inquiry process when they’re not looking!
Stay tuned for up-dates on how this goes…