Monday, July 9, 2012

Concerns About Groupwork in a Flipped-Mastery History Class

Chase Moore left an excellent question on a previous blog entry this morning. I answered his question cursorily and then went out for a run. Like most runners, I think when I run, often (most of the time?) about my classroom. I kept turning the last sentence of his question over in my mind. The entire question is below.
Chase's question
So how do you maximize collaboration in a flipped-mastery classroom? I can’t speak to this, for next year will be year one of running flipped-mastery classroom. I do know, from reading and talking to people at FlipCon12, that students seem to self-select into groups that move through a given unit at a similar pace. And that is all well and good – the people I talked to have run flipped-mastery classes and I trust them.

Still, Chase’s question stuck with me. I am coming from a groupwork-based history class. Students sat in groups every day, and interacted with their groups at minimum multiple times per class period. How can I ensure that I still have students collaborating to build knowledge together in a self-paced class?

1. My first unit is entirely skills-based and will not be self-paced (at least as I currently conceptualize it). It is based heavily around collaborative groupwork while learning how historians create history: how to read, write, and think like a historian. It is a four-ish week unit that also explicitly builds in the sentence starters as well as the body language and task division that are essential to group success. I am hopeful that this unit, combined by giving the students feedback daily on what their groupwork looks like by highlighting great things I saw or heard from groups, will lay the foundation for my students to continue to collaborate successfully after we move into the self-paced, mastery-based structure after the first unit.

2. I got several things reinforced at FlipCon12 around the idea of groupwork. One was the good old, “ask three then me.” Forcing students to talk with at least three other students before they come to me with a question will hopefully help. Theoretically they would be working in those groups that are moving at the same pace and would ask each other then head out to other groups to get their question answered. Presenters also suggested that once you answered a question from a student, that student becomes the expert in the class on that particular question. If another student has the same question, they go to the student who asked the initial question, not to you. Hopefully both of those tactics will help.

3. My room will be arranged in groups every day. Students will be able to work where they want to, but hopefully that initial reminder – look, we’re in groups – will help them to remember that my classroom is a collaborative environment.

There have got to be more ways of ensuring a collaborative environment than just those three. I’d love your ideas, either theoretical or this-is-what-I-do-in-my-flipped-mastery-class, to help me ensure that my students are working collaboratively in a self-paced classroom.