Mastery Learning, the Flipped Classroom and My Version of Combining the Two

In the past couple of years in my work with mastery learning, I’ve continually run across the Flipped Classroom movement. In fact, my book and theirs are even sold in a bundle together at Amazon. We attract a lot of the same teachers looking to change their classrooms and we do a lot of the same things! I think our goals are the same – reaching every student all the time and making sure they all understand the content!

Flipped Classrooms

The Flipped Classroom is taking the “lecture” and having students view it on their own time (traditionally done in the classroom) and doing the reinforcing activities – be that practice, discussion, writing, etc. – in the classroom (traditionally done as homework). Teachers make vodcasts to use as the lectures and students can access them whenever, wherever – rewind, pause, take notes at their own pace, etc.

That’s a quick overview of it, to be sure, and you can find tons more information at the community for teaching in this manner at!

Mastery Learning

Mastery learning, at it’s foundation – means that students must show mastery (however the teacher chooses to define it) on every concept. If they don’t show mastery they must review work, complete additional learning opportunities, or someone interact with the concept again until they can show mastery.

Mastery learning can take many, many shapes. It can be done within still fairly traditional classrooms – with the re-working with content and re-assessing occurring outside of classtime (I’ve seen people work it this way).

It can also take shape in a very different way – with each student self-paced (NOT self-taught…there’s a big difference!) as they move through the curriculum. This is how I implemented it and how I described how you can implement it, too in my book and blog posts.

Flipped Classrooms and Mastery Learning

They’re two separate methods that can be used separate or together.

Some Flipped Classroom teachers also use mastery learning, while others don’t. People can flip their classrooms and still have great benefits engaging students without requiring mastery of concepts before students are allowed to move on to the next concept. In fact, this could be a way to ease into the transition between traditional and mastery learning (since it is really pretty dramatic!)

And people can implement mastery without flipping – as described in the more “traditional” example above.

Or they can be used together! Students view vodcasts outside of class and work on the reinforcing activities within the classroom – but are required mastery to move on, which can happen in a more traditional “class-paced” setting or the more flexible “self-pace” format.

My version of merging the two

I absolutely love that I see people discussing my book about mastery learning on various forums, blogs, etc. But one thing I’ve seen posted a couple of times is that I’m “mastery but not ‘flipped mastery.'” Well, I guess that is technically true – I don’t have vodcasts only outside of class and activities only inside of class.

Instead I have it ALL inside the classroom. The students have access to narrated lectures/vodcasts within the classroom (on personal devices or the classroom computers) and do the activities within the classroom. This is part of my “homework doesn’t work” philosophy that I blogged about previously. I still use all the same techniques as the flipped classrooms – I just don’t require it to be done outside of the class time (unless students start to fall really behind or are absent for extended periods or something).

I’d wager to guess that the majority of Americans don’t work a full day and then take home 3-4 hours of work each night (yes, I know people that do, especially teachers…but I still think they make up less than 50% of the adult population, which would mean the majority aren’t doing this). High school students have jobs (sometimes which are necessary to help support themselves or their family), sports, activities, social lives (which yes, are important…it’s part of growing up and we shouldn’t discount it as easily as we adults can tend to do). They go to school for a full day. They have other commitments and desires in the evenings. Why should they have to bring home lots of work? I don’t think they should.

So I fit it all into class time. And how, do you ask, can I get in all the content I need to get in without requiring work outside of class…because students learn more efficiently the way I teach (see blog posts about various efficient learning techniques) and therefore don’t need more time to complete the same amount of content at a mastery level! 🙂

So although I guess I’m not technically a flipped-classroom teacher (with the home/school split), I still use the methods (narrated lectures/vodcasting is one of several options students in my room have for delivery of what would be “lecture” type information and activities in the classroom with immediate feedback and access to the teacher and peers). It’s my own version of a classroom that fits with my philosophies of teaching (like not requiring work outside of class).

How are you implement techniques from Flipped Classroom and Mastery Learning or your own special blend?

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