Flipping Mastery

Topics: Future of Learning

By Jesse Moyer

Several years ago, when I was working on our 2020 Forecast: Creating the Future of Learning, the two concepts that intrigued me most as I was looking for “signals,” or signs that the forecast was playing out in present day, were competency education and the flipped classroom. If you’ve read this blog or anything I’ve written in the last year or so, you already know what competency education is. For those of you new to me or the blog, here’s the working definition created by iNCAOL and CCSSO in 2011:

  • Students advance upon mastery.
  • Competencies include explicit, measurable, transferable learning objectives that empower students.
  • Assessment is meaningful and a positive learning experience for students.
  • Students receive timely, differentiated support based on their individual learning needs.
  • Learning outcomes emphasize competencies that include application and creation of knowledge, along with the development of important skills and dispositions.

For those of you unfamiliar with the flipped classroom, here’s a great video that explains it:

As I was perusing the January issue of Educational Leadership magazine from ASCD, I came across an article (sorry, it’s behind a pay wall) by the two men in the video above, Jonathon Bergmann and Aaron Sams, about smashing the two concepts together to create a “flipped mastery” model.

While I am no teacher, this seems like a pretty good idea to me. One of the challenges of implementing competency-based education in the classroom is that teachers feel overwhelmed trying to provide direct instruction while also delivering support to a group of students, many of whom are in different places on their learning progressions. This is one of the big challenges outlined in a recent study released by the University of Southern Maine that examines the implementation of proficiency-based (or competency-based) learning in that state. Ideally, teachers, or learning facilitators, would be able to rely on a whole slew of folks to provide “direct instruction” to students including community members, work-based mentors, parents, etc. so the entire responsibility would not fall back to the teacher, thus freeing him/her up to do more one-on-one and small group work. Setting up the structures to support that type of system takes time and, as mentioned in the blog post linked above, if it takes too much time teachers will revert back to the know best whole-group, direct instruction they know best. And, frankly, who could blame them?

With a flipped mastery model, teachers can offload their whole-class instruction to videos that students can watch at home, again freeing up classroom time for more individualized instruction. While I am not sure this is the total answer long-term, it seems to me that this is a great short-term solution that allows for the implementation of more student-centered instruction in the classroom while some of the structures that will support additional out-of-the-classroom learning are created and implemented.

Again, I am no teacher but what are the downsides to this? Am I missing something? I would love to hear from folks that are doing this work on the ground about they think this might work.