Saturday, September 29, 2012

Flipping testing skills in Week 3

I identify with the tenets of flipped approached and find that it is a natural fit for much of what I do in my student-centered, collaborative learning environment. A hybrid-mastery approach works well for my style, but I cannot be completely asynchronous for a number of reasons both curricular and logistical.

To highlight Cheryl Morris' explanation of the Flipped Method in English/Language Arts:

Flipping English is about two things: 1) helping students take responsibility for their own learning by understanding them and their unique skills, abilities, and needs, and 

2) leveraging technology to build a student-centred learning environment that meaningfully engages the cultural context in which our students live.

#1 is relatively easy to do with student-centered learning. The teacher is the conductor on the train of learning.

#2 can seem daunting when thinking that in order to flip the teacher has to be connected to the internet, has the ability to make effective videos, and has a way for videos to be available to students. But it is NOT daunting when you, the teacher, take what you have done in a traditional manner on paper and apply the flip process. You do NOT need videos! The flip is not the video; the flip is in the PROCESS of HOW the students learn, not WHAT they learn from!

This week, using a flipped approach, I introduced to my students to testing strategies that align with NJ's HSPA standardized test (Take a look at this Post on testing in NJ).  My 9th grade colleagues and I teach the testing strategies in context with the literature taught in class. We do not teach exclusively to the test, nor can we ignore the test. Instead, we show the students strategies that can be transferred to any standardized test. The NJ Department of Ed states that this year's sophmores will be the last group to take the HSPA, but without a clear plan from the state (lots of mentions of EOC's and PARCC's), I am fearful of completely forgoing teaching testing skills. Something is coming, and I'd like the students to have some semblance of preparation.

Traditionally, I've given a PowerPoint presentation on how to mark up prompts and questions using the Circle & RUN strategy and an additional PPT on how to write an open-ended response. The students copy down the notes, then they are drilled until they get it right (ie. conform), and then through out the year, we reinforce the skills to maintain proficiency. Students take diagnostic tests in 9th & 10th grade to prepare for the real State test in 11th grade.While this approach has worked-- our HSPA language arts scores show a 98.4% passing rate for general education students-- it requires the teacher to determine proficiency and maintain the skill set.

Using a flipped approach for introducing and initial practicing of HSPA skills, activities were group and inquiry oriented. Students became detectives for figuring out the meaning of the strategies and how to apply them.

The Process:
  1. At home, students viewed a quick video on using the Circle-RUN strategy that I posted on Edmodo. I just used a PPT I had and made my very first screencast using Screencast-O-Matic. The hardest part was keeping my girls (ages 4.5 & 6) quiet for 2 mins to record the video-- you'll hear when I try shouting over them. Students took notes on the video and marked up practice questions which I checked the next day.
  2. The next day in class, students were sat in groups of their choosing. They were given a paper copy of the RACES PPT presentation  instead of listening to me lecture. (Google doesn't like the formatting of my PPT, but you get the idea) Students were also given a sample scored Open-Ended question with multiple sample scored answers that aligned with steps on the rubric. All papers were hole punched for inclusion in their 3-ring binders. I gave general directions ("Figure out what the meaning of this "stuff" and what are you supposed to do?") and while students worked, I circulated around the group asking guiding questions as needed. Any of their questions were answered with an additional question from me. I did not give them answers.
  3. Next day in class (today-Friday), I gave them an Open-Ended question and with minimal directions said: use your resources to answer the question and earn a score of 4 on the rubric. Student responses were not collected.
  4. Next day in class (this coming Monday), and still in groups, students will revise a sample answer. Students will then self-assess their own open-ended responses from Friday and make any changes as needed.
  5. Students will do their first structured peer editing and evaluate each other's open ended responses.

As far as leveraging technology, I did not use videos for most of the flip, and in this case, it was mostly paper copies of notes and presentation slides. I'm new to the whole video creation process, so most of my flipping will be done without videos for now. The students were engaged in the process and had to be responsible for their own understanding of the strategies. Students used collaborative thinking skills to help guide each other in the direction of their understanding. Listening to their group conversations and asking questions to formatively assess their understanding, it was evident that the students "got it."  There still needs to be further summative assessments, but at least the students weren't drilled to death in the process.

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