Monday, June 29, 2009

VideoPodcast Your Way To Measurable Results

Would your teachers benefit from more class time? Is mastery really possible? Can differentiation effectively occur in today’s classroom? Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams say, “Absolutely!” As high school chemistry teachers, they recognized that students were ineffective note-takers and often struggled to complete homework independently. When the students got stuck at night, they would call a friend, give up, or cheat to make their way through an assignment. This led to gaps in student understanding which interfered with later learning.

This dynamic duo decided to begin vodcasting some of their lectures that were part of their regular class time to make them accessible to students at night and for review. After the first year, they reflected on the project and asked, “What does a kid really need from their teacher?” They decided that most kids needed interaction with the teacher when they are trying to process and understand the information, during homework time and not for the content of lectures. They needed to be able to ask questions and have them answered on the spot.

Upon reflection, they decided in Year 2 to pre-vodcast every lesson, and make the lecture part of their instruction the homework. Students needed to watch the vodcast and come to class prepared to apply their learning. Just imagine how much class time the teacher got back to actually dialogue with students about their learning, help them conduct their labs, and give them feedback on their assignments and assessments. Class time had value. The teacher was now meeting with every kid every day. One student asked, “Why are you making us do all the work?”

Not surprisingly, by the end of Year 2, Bergmann and Sams had extra time on their hands, because students were moving more rapidly through the content and mastering it. Happily, the two teachers knew that they could now cover more content and in greater depth. Additionally, they had collected assessment data to prove this project was creating student learning gains. Pre-vodcast students with lower math scores performed as well as non-vodcast students with higher math scores from previous years. They also polled students and parents and discovered that the feedback was good, and there were not as many Ds and Fs in AP Chemistry. Kids showed up to class to work and learn.

In Year 3, Bergmann and Sams took it to a whole new level-Mastery Learning. Students began self-paced learning- (sort of). The teachers set up benchmarks during the year, but basically students worked through the Units of Study at their own readiness pace. When they got to the end of a unit, they took an assessment, if they scored 75% or better, they moved on to the next unit, if not, they had to go back and redo the unit. Students progressed as they mastered the content. (Now that's a novel idea!)

The benefits were apparent. Students became independent learners. They took responsibility for their learning, because they were no longer being handed the material. Students were active and engaged, so fewer gaps in understanding occurred. And, when a student was in Unit 6, the teacher knew that they had mastered the content in Units 1-6. In addition, teachers gave immediate and useful feedback holding students accountable for their learning and being able to articulate their thinking. No longer would kids simply be handed a graded assignment or test. Now, with this learning cycle, there is no place to hide. Every worksheet, assignment, and assessment was graded on the spot and oral feedback given by the teacher. I'm sure you can see the instructional implications of this type of on the fly, all the time, every single child differentiation.
Are you wondering about their vision for the future? They would like to see system wide implementation of mastery learning; they would like to add honors level learning; they would like an on-line community of likeminded people to collaborate to build a video library of vodcasts. I'm certainly intrigued! If you want to know more, think about attending their three day workshop to make it happen in your classroom. You can contact them through


Melissa Ross said...

That sounds pretty neat.The self-paced learning is one of the things I really like about taking Internet classes. This sounds like it combines the best of both worlds.

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