Jonathan Thomas-Palmer on episode 298 of the 10-Minute Teacher Podcast
From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis
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Jonathan Thomas-Palmer teaches physics. Students start with a zero and level up as they use videos, one on one help, and game-based mastery to master physics.
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Flipping Awesome Physics with an Asynchronous Flipped Gameful Mastery Learning Classroom
Link to show: www.coolcatteacher.com/e298
Date: April 25, 2018
Vicki: Today we’re talking with Jon Thomas-Palmer from Michigan about physics.
Now, Jon, you have recently implemented an asynchronous, flipped, gameful, mastery learning classroom.
OK. Let’s break it down.
Vicki: That is a really long set of five words there.
Jon: Yes it is.
Vicki: Help us understand. What is it?
What is asynchronous, flipped, gameful, mastery learning?
Jon: OK. So I flipped my classes starting in 2013.
The basic concept there is you’re taking the lectures and you’re putting those at home, and the stuff that is normally done at home is now done in class. That’s the basic idea of a flipped classroom.
One of the things I was searching for with a flipped classroom was how that was eventually going to change my classes. It took me a long time to find it.
I found it in the idea of gameful learning, so we’ll start with that piece… which is… (sigh)… (laughs)…
School is already a game. It’s basically admitting that school is a game and making it very clear to the students what the rules of the game are.
So at the start of second semester, I laid out the five or six rules of the game.
The first one is that everybody starts out with a zero… which is an entirely different way of looking at grading.
So everybody starts with a zero, and you add points. Rather than getting percentages on assignments, you get points on assignments.
Your grade never goes down. Your grade only goes up.
This necessitates knowing every assignment that is going to be assigned for the entire semester, and providing the students with all of those assignments right at the beginning… which was one of the major challenges of this.
Vicki: Yeah! And how do you give parents a progress report…
Jon: Yeah, right so well when…
Vicki: … when you’re halfway through, and they’re only at a 50 or whatever?
Jon: Yeah, we’ll get there.
So basically they know how many points they need, in order to get what particular grade.
They have mandatory assignments, and then there are optional assignments.
There’s a recommended order to go through all the assignments in, and there are different levels. So there’s the “Work and Energy” level, the “Power and Work Due to Friction” level, the “Momentum and Impulse” level as you can imagine.
The asynchronous part…
So students go through the level, and they then decide what assignment they’re going to do every day. So that’s the asynchronous part. We’re no longer all doing the same thing at the same time. The students come in, and they decide what they’re going to do.
It was interesting. For the first two weeks, I would still have students ask me, “What are we doing next time?” Or, “Is it OK if I do this?”
And my answer was always, “I don’t know. What do you think, because you are now in charge of your own learning.”
This has been a challenge for some students, but really, I think, “freeing” for a lot of students, but it’s taken a little bit of time for them to understand that concept.
Vicki: OK, so Jon, I would think this would not only blow the minds of the students, but also your colleagues and maybe your administrators. Is that true?
How did your administrators and colleagues react to this?
Jon: I was very careful to go to my administration before… actually even before I started really working on it. I did some research about it and really learned about it and knew that I wanted to do it, but I made sure that administration was on board before I began actually working on it.
I’ve had some conversations with colleagues, and for the most part, people are very excited about it, because it’s a very different way of looking at education.
And it’s freeing for students as well, because there are no due dates. So students get to decide when an assignment is done, and turn it in.
Vicki: But would you still have certain expectations that they have to meet.
Jon: Oh, yeah! Yeah!
Vicki: You’re keeping them on track, though, right?
How do you monitor student progress?
Jon: Oh yeah! So every day I check in — as you can imagine, I have now more time in class to talk individually with every student. So I check in with every student every day, seeing what they’re doing, and where they are, and whether they’re “on target” for where they need to be.
I had one student last week who was like, “Can you just tell me when things are due?” (laughs)
And I said, “No. But how about you and I sit down with all of the assignments and come up with a schedule for you?”
So we sat down. We printed out all of the assignments for the next, you know, couple levels… and decided, “OK, by Spring Break, you want to be to this point… So let’s figure out what you have to do.”
And he just needed somebody to help him figure out what his schedule was going to be.
I had other students who sat down at the very beginning when I first gave the assignment, they printed out every assignment and decided what to do and when for the entire semester. That was the first thing they did.
Vicki: Do you feel like they’re learning physics better?
Jon: Flat out, yes. I’ll start there. I’ll give one example.
We haven’t done the asynchronous. Let’s just do the flipped.
I’ll get back to your question in just a second.
So the flipped portion is now all the lectures are available, and they can do them wherever they would like. So sometimes they do them at home, but sometimes they do them in class. So it’s interesting how it’s actually brought some of the lectures back in class.
I use EdPuzzle for all of my lessons…
Vicki: Oh! Love it.
Jon: … so I know who has watched what and when, which is awesome..
How do you track mastery?
So the mastery part is one of my favorite parts, which is that they have to get an 80% on the quiz, which comes at the end of every level in order to level up and be able to move on to the next level.
And I’ve always struggled with those students who do OK in class, but they struggle with the quizzes because… that’s just something they struggle with. They struggle with being able to show that they know what they’re doing.
So I have a couple of kids that fit in that category. All through first semester — because I switched at second semester — they were struggling.
So it’s been an, “OK. You got a ‘D’ on the first quiz.”
But it’s no longer an issue of, “That’s a bad thing.”
It’s NOT a bad thing! You know what that means?
“You get to sit with me now during the next class, and I’m going to help you make sure you understand everything that you did there.’”
And after you do quiz corrections — which they work on with me, and I make sure that they understand everything that they’re doing — if you have above an 80%, they can earn back half the points with the quiz corrections.
If you get above an 80%, you get to graduate that level and move on to the next level.
If not, you retake the quiz, and once you get above 80%, you’re good. You can move on.
So… it’s actually been really helpful because it’s targeted those students who are really struggling,and given me more time to work with them.
It’s been really… (laughs)… It’s been really fun!
Vicki: So Jon, do you have some students, though, who like to work together? And do you think they’re — you know, they’re — honest as they do that?
What do you do about students who prefer to work together?
Jon: OK, so one of the great things is that the majority of the work that they do is working together in class. So I’m with them, and constantly checking in with them, and they’re asking me questions.
They’re working together, but… OK, they’re working side by side, I’ll say. But they’re each working individually on their assignments.
Basically, because a lot of the time that they spend working on it is in class with me, I can basically make sure that they’re doing it.
Vicki: So, Jon, what’s the most shocking result of this transformation?
What’s the most shocking result of this?
Ahhhh. I would say how freeing it is for the students with their busy schedules.
For example, I have a student who had to be gone for three weeks to do auditions for colleges for music. He’s going to college for flute performance. He had to go to eight different colleges and do auditions. He was gone for three weeks. And so… he’s not behind.
Jon: He was able to do a lot of this stuff on his own. And, even though he’s not quite with the rest of the class, he’s not behind because there is no schedule. He’s just catching up right now.
Jon: I have another example of a student who (laughs) — actually it was a couple of students who knew they were going to be absent on a particular day. So they actually worked ahead so that they could, on a particular day, do the lab before they left. So that they could work on it while they were gone.
Like that was shocking to me that the kids would have the foresight to say, “OK. We know we’re going to be gone. So let’s work ahead on our own, come in, ask a few questions, and then do the lab.”
Jon: That’s just awesome.
Vicki: As we finish up…
If you were stuck in an elevator with a teacher who was considering this method of starting at zero and you know, gameful learning, mastery learning…
What would be your 30-second elevator pitch for why this is a great way to run your classroom?
Do you have an elevator pitch for moving to this method?
Jon: It is a great way to run your classroom because it transfers the ownership of the student’s learning to the student. Once the student realizes and comes to term with the fact that they are in control of their own learning, they are much more invested in their own learning and interested in learning.
Vicki: SO!!! This is quite a mouthful.
Asynchronous flipped gameful mastery learning.
Vicki: It is a fascinating concept, and it is truly a Wonderful Classroom Wednesday today.
I hope that we all think about it. It’s certainly something I’m fascinated with, Jon.
Thanks for sharing it with us!
Jon: Thank you, Vicki. This was a lot of fun.
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Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford firstname.lastname@example.org
Bio as submitted
Non-matching sock wearing proud father of 15 and 13 year old daughters. Maker and wearer of tie-dyes. Part-time high school physics teacher. Owner of Flipping Physics®, a one employee business dedicated to providing the world with free, real, quality, entertaining educational physics videos. Devoted husband of incredible, social worker wife. Teetotaler and drug free. Heck, I don’t even drink coffee. Peace.
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