Monday, January 20, 2014

Week 17 reflections - struggles and goals as the semester comes to a close.

A few events coming up:

  • Wed, Feb 5th - I'm hosting a Flipped Class Open House.  If you are in the southern California area and want to visit, find the information here
  • Sat, Feb 8th - I'm presenting twice at OCCue's Tech Fest, once on Structuring Flipped Learning for Student Success and another on Screencasting 101.  Info here.
  • Tues, March 11 - I'm presenting a webinar with on the flipped classroom.  Free registration here.

I just wrote a whole post.  Re-read it, and it made no sense.  So, I'm starting over.  We'll see if this one makes any sense.

Semester 1 is just about over.  This was my 5th semester implementing the flipped classroom my Math Analysis classes.  Every semester I change or tweak something, hoping to make class (and learning) more engaging, effective, and enjoyable for my students.  Every semester I also send out a student survey to get feedback on how things are going.  I'm still waiting for about 15 responses for this semester, and then I'll do a full post with the results.  But, so far, the results are overwhelmingly positive.  The students, in general, enjoy the videos and feel they learn from them.  Same with class time and the learning activities they participate in.  Some love the blog posts and some hate them (mainly just the tech aspect of them).  Most have said they have adjusted to the flipped classroom and actually prefer it now.  The students are grateful that I listen to them and have made adjustments throughout the year based on their suggestions and feedback.

However, despite the most positive responses in 5 semesters, I don't feel like I'm being as successful as I want to be.  I feel like my students aren't taking responsibility for themselves and their learning.  I feel like the passion and deep questioning I experienced last year is nearly absent.  I feel as though I've made little progress in fighting against the point-grabbing mindset my students came in with.  I can't fight a battle I only have a 16% influence on.  My students are still trying to find a way to play the game of school in my classroom even though the rules have completely changed.  They are making it harder on themselves and harder on me.  Students who should have A's just won't put in the practice and focus time and have B's (or C's).  Students are failing and make zero effort to make any work up or retake anything.  It is amazingly encouraging when you see progress and growth (yes, yes, I do have those students who are doing better than expected because they've learned better how to learn and apply themselves...).  And horribly disheartening when you don't.

I also feel like I've had an internal struggle with my teaching philosophy.  
  • Let kids retake anything vs you're doing them a disservice if they can always retake.  (current standpoint: I don't care when you master it as long as you master it. Follow my re-assessment guidelines and you can retake anything all semester)
  • Don't give credit for late work vs let them turn it an at anytime, it's more important that they've learned from it than learned on time.   (current standpoint: I've been accepting late work for no penalty all year.  It's the first year I've never deducted points for things being late.  I'm really not sure if this is a good change or a bad change)
  • Students should never have homework because it takes away from their free time vs homework is beneficial if given appropriately.  (current standpoint: I think practice of some sort in addition to class time is essential to success in math.  Maybe not in all subject areas, but in math, yes. My "homework" is generally the lower-order-thinking video & WSQ, but without them doing that outside of class time, they wouldn't have the time available to practice, apply, and ask questions in class when I'm present.)
  • Don't push the limits, just hide away and be "normal" vs challenge, experiment, and try new things that you think will help students learn.  (current standpoint: sometimes I think it would be so much easier to rewind the clock and be invisible.  But, even thinking back to my first year of teaching, I was always pushing the limits and trying new things.  Now what I'm doing is just more well-known which creates more pressure)
I can't make up my mind and am trying to figure out what I truly believe is best, amongst all the people out there who claim one way (their way) is best.  My weakness of being a people-pleaser is definitely not aiding in this.

Am I alone in feeling this?  I know the answer to that is no...but it doesn't hurt to ask!


So, what are my goals as this semester comes to a close?
  • I need to decide how much freedom is truly appropriate to give my students.  I basically opened the floodgates and gave them full freedom, which (of course) led some students to basically do nothing.  I'm thinking that the following need to be required:
    • WSQ - No matter how smart or struggling, all students will be required to have the minimum of notes being taken in their SSS packets, the summary written online, and a  question written in their packet.  No more of this "well it's okay you probably don't need it this time".
    • Formative assessments - This includes quizzes, blog posts, and peer evaluation of blog posts.  They are supposed to be used as a tool to see what students know and where they need help.  The peer evaluations have turned into busy work for many students, and I don't know how to make them more meaningful.  I want them looking at each others' work and critiquing it. I also think it's a valuable tool to learn from one another.  But if the students do a crappy job on the post and on the peer eval, it's simply busy work.
    • Practice Test within 3 days of the actual test day.  Since other practice work is "do what you need to", I feel like there needs to be some sort of required amount to make sure the students are prepared.  They won't do this on their own (we learned that the hard way), and if they do it, it actually helps them (we learned this the hard way as well)...
  • Figure out how to motivate more students to make sure they are ready for the Unit Exams the first time around and not depend on re-assessments.  Are they taking advantage of the fact that I let them re-assess by concept and not on the entire unit at once?  Is it not an inconvenience to just re-assess?  It obviously creates more work for me.  I've set up a pretty good system this year to make it not that crazy, but ideally they prepare before the first attempt.

One thing I do love about teaching is the ability to have a (somewhat) fresh start every semester and a brand new start every year.  There is always room to tweak and change and make things better.


  1. Well I wrote a reply, and was signed into the wrong google account so tried to swap it and ended up losing the post. Knew I should have copied it!

    Anyway...I have just started flipping my social studies classroom, and am having some similar issues, in that I don't feel that I am being successful. The majority of my students are not being responsible and active learners, and I think that is partially down to their age (12-13) where they haven't developed the maturity to deal with the freedom they have been given. However, saying that not much has changed in reality for them, they even have to do less! Before I started flipping the class, the students did the research/knowledge gathering themselves...the MYP should be a student-lead programme, and so now I am marrying the concepts of the MYP with those of the flipped class in order to free up class time for the activities which allow them to collaborate, engage and consolidate the learning they have done via video (or website...whatever) at home. We haven't done any assessments yet (one group is starting one tomorrow) and of course maths and social studies are quite different.

    Your internal teaching philosophy struggles did get me thinking and this is what I personally believe and do...

    1 - I only let my students retake if they get below a 3 on an assignment (it is out of 8). Then it is up to them to get it done and turn it in. If they don't, within a reasonable time frame, they are stuck with that grade. Parents are also informed.

    2 - Our policy is that it is up to each individual teacher. Personally this is mine: a 2 week cut off, and unless students have informed me and we have come to an agreement, work is expected on the deadline. If it is not handed in on the deadline and without prior agreement, parents are informed.

    3 - The homework is the video, and previously I didn't really give homework as we had time in class to do the activities and assignments. They were allowed to work on their graded assignments at home (and they were expected to). Again, it is different with you being math and me social studies. Flipping the class has meant many changes to the lesson structure I had previously, which I guess was more of a blended learning style.

    4 - I honestly think that as an educator, you should always challenge, experiment and try new things but it also depends greatly on where you work, and openness to this. Where I worked before, it was all about grades so you stuck to knowledge driven, regurgitating of exemplar work etc. Where I am now, creativity and experimentation is embraced.

    I too need to be working on motivation, especially getting students to use their assignment handouts and rubrics to show me their best possible work. This is an ongoing battle.

    Do you happen to have any links to your SSS packets? I think these would be a great idea for my students and really give them some structure without taking away the freedom.

    Thanks for another great blog post, you always make me think and reflect, and I get loads of great information and advice from you!

    1. Hi Victoria,
      Thanks so much for commenting and sharing. I really appreciate your perspective.

      My SSS packets are linked from my student site at There is a link on the right hand side that will take you to all of them. Hope they help give you some ideas!




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