Flipped Grading

It is common practice for teachers to get evaluated by an administrator. They come in one or twice, jot down some notes and evaluate everything you do for an entire year based on a couple observations. The whole practice is busted. It is the exact opposite of what we’re told to do with our students. It allows teachers to be considered excellent if they can put on a good show once or twice. The opposite is true for my evaluations. I invite my evaluator on the hardest lessons with the most difficult class. However, there is still no formal student input. I’m not saying the busted system that is in place needs to resort to 100% student feedback, but when students have 6-8 teachers a day, there’s a good chance they actually might know what they’re talking about.
So my grading hack is student feedback –  them grading me, anonymously of course. It gives me the immediate proper feedback I need to help my students be successful. It’s not based on teaching methods from 1987.
I surveyed my students last weekend and have already made adjustments for the next week that I know will benefit them because they told me.
I have always gathered feedback from my students, but I’m getting good at it and the use of Google Forms has allowed me to mass-survey very conveniently – for me and them.
Besides, if someone observed my room for an entire week of flipped mastery, I don’t think they’d know where to begin with how awesome it is going on the bogus evaluation forms that are provided.

Chaos and The Perfect Classroom

Finishing up the third week of school, I’ve just realized that, almost by accident, I have created the perfect classroom. I decided last Spring that I wanted to try using the Flipped Mastery Learning model for my three Blended Anatomy and Physiology classes where students are allowed to truly work at their own pace and perform a unit assessment when they feel they have mastered the material and are ready to be successful (with tons of scaffolding in place of course) all while not having to come to class regularly. I had done plenty of research and conversed with several people in person at #FlipCon15 and through Twitter and Voxer. What I hadn’t prepared for was the chaos. Within a week, students were coming in on the same day to do everything from labs, to review, to test…all in the same room. While the kinks are still being worked out, I’ve realized that while it is hectic at times, it is the perfect classroom. It’s busy. It’s productive. It’s personal.
I can safely say that all the other blended teachers in my building have “blended days” when there are usually only 0-2 kids in the room (usually 0). My room, however, always has 6-12. And while students may be working on very different things and even on different units, there is always a manageable number of students…always. In my “made-for-teaching-anything-but-science” classroom in an overcrowded school that is building a math-science wing, I’ve struggled lately with managing science labs in our room and/or sharing space with other classes. While the situation is still far from ideal, it is way more manageable than having 28 kids all doing the same lab/activity.
Oh, and the part where I never get a “break” like other blended teachers having 0-2 kids on “blended days” actually suits me just fine. I’m getting to know these kids and work with them often times on a one-on-one basis, but never bigger than small group size. It has been awesome and it’s only week three. Granted, the grading and entering grades has been a challenge because I can’t just cruise down my class list at 100 mph (I even bought a now useless USB number keypad last year for my laptop to increase my efficiency) to enter their grades, but I am more aware of the grades now. I know where my students are at academically more now than ever before. Did I mention it’s only week three?
How is it working for the students? I have not yet formally surveyed them (it was on the to-do list and actually I’m going to do it right now) but I can tell they are digging it. Except maybe for the few that I have been emailing in order to keep on track, but there’s the thing – I’ve never in ten years been more aware of who needs the extra push this early on in the game. I’ve honestly communicated more with students (and some parents) about their progress and learning in the first three weeks than I have ever done before in the first three months because I know what they need now more than ever.
I’m excited to see how the rest of the year goes as I perfect the beautiful daily chaos and hone in on this new type of learning environment.
Although I am super busy and things are pretty crazy, I’m really enjoying the classroom time.
As excited as I am to experience the year, I sort of wish I was already reflecting on the data and the anecdotal evidence for how well it went as I gear up for making next year even better. However, clearly that process has already begun…for next week.
Many thanks to the #flipcon15 crew for the inspiration, my supportive administration for the permission, and my students for taking the leap with me and being awesome.