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The What and How-to of Powerful Data in Your Flipped Classroom

May 06, 2019

O, data.  The dirty D word of education.  If you don't see it as a dirty word, well neither do I, but I do understand the negative connotation around that word in the world of educators.  The negative connotation comes from the fear that data trumps all other aspects of education, which in some cases it shamefully does.  But what if we look at it this way - what if the data is a piece of the puzzle in understanding if your flipped classroom is working or not?  Just a piece, not the whole, but it can be a rather informative and effective piece.

Data can be just that if, and only if you spend some time reflecting on the following three points that I bring to your attention here.  

So let's get straight to it.

1. What Data?

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

In the flipped classroom, you'll notice quickly that there are more points throughout your course, throughout your students' experience in your course that you'll want to be informed on.  So, what data do you want?  First, you must establish points at which you need or want to take data before you can consider the how.  Now, I do not claim to be an expert with data, but I would like to share the experience I had in my flipped classroom in hopes that it might, with some tweaking, fit in your flipped classroom.  Here's what data points I collected, better said, what I wanted to know from the data.

Student Notes

There's a couple things I want to know specific to my students notes.  Even before (well maybe not chronologically before, but definitely equally or more important to other data) I collect data on how well they obtain the information, I want to know two things about their notes...

  1. If they watched the video - the ENTIRE video, and
  2. How well they took notes on their paper - whether or not they implemented note-taking skills we've worked on and how well their notes show that they were processing and encoding the information.

 Student Understanding

In addition to how they did taking notes, I want to know how they got it.  This is a great moment for all of us to say ... DUH!!!!

Of course, we all want to know how our students are doing throughout each unit, chapter, or standard; how they are doing in their journey to mastery.  But I mention it here, because I want to know if they got the information after EVERY set of notes they take.

O man... that's a big ask.  Every video/set of notes???  You bet.  Every single one.  So, again, I mention it here because how you go about collecting that data is really important because you'll be collecting that data quite often.  Not to mention, avoiding the pitfall of taking up all that great class time you've opened up due to flipping. 

That's probably a good caution to draw your attention to here - don't use all that nice class time for only or mostly assessing students.  Yet another reason to focus in on this data-collection piece here because how can we both assess often but not too much?

I don't recommend skipping through big chunks of my blog posts because, well, why else would I write them?  But, if you were ever going to skip a part of my post, now would be a good time.  Go ahead and skip down to the subheading "How?," and then come on back up here to finish this "What Data?" part.

Go ahead, scroll down, then come back to THIS PART.  Wait, don't scroll up further now that you've returned, this is where you want to be ;)

Student Retention

The last piece of data that I truly want to know in regards to student understanding is how well they are retaining it throughout the unit.  With shorter units, you don't need to assess in this way that often or at all really because your assessments over how well they're getting it from the notes may suffice, but especially for units taking longer than a week or two, you'll want to build in these retention quizzes more often (I'm thinking one or two for a two+ week long unit).

These topic quizzes should model the summative assessments in a way that's manageable for you.  For instance, my topic quizzes were all multiple choice because 66% of my unit tests and the AP test (their big summative at the end of the year) were multiple choice.  Plus, assessing a written portion every topic quiz is just not manageable, and, to me, a total turn off in this whole game of do as much as possible race that we seem to get into as teachers.  It's just not for me.  I'm at peace with that, and you can be too if these assessments are quick, and there are multiple ones throughout each unit.

The information gleaned from students scores will be really helpful for you to compare both back to students responses after their notes, AND forward to their unit test scores.  Such great data.  It gets me excited because this can shift conversations for you.  It can shift conversations in your evaluation, in your conversations with your students, and with your parents.  You have proof positive if a student is not retaining info well from taking the notes to getting to the unit tests - making it know is the first step to addressing it, fixing it, and helping a student grow.

Recap

We just went through what feels like a lot of things to demonstrate what data we should be collecting, so let's recap really quickly exactly what data we should be collecting.

  1. Did students watch the video?
  2. How well did students take notes from the video?
  3. How well do students understand the material having taken the notes?
  4. How well are students retaining the information (or showing growth) throughout the unit?

2.  How?

Photo by Samantha Gades on Unsplash 

Holy cow, if you've made it this far (or if you've skipped the paragraph above and then are going back to finish it because you like to have the practical side of all topics in education), we are about to get into the really practical side of making this whole data train chug along in our flipped classroom.

How in the world are we supposed to 1) assess three different data points, and 2) assess those three different data points multiple times throughout a unit????????  It's a huge ask, but we've said that before.

It's really a one word answer.  Ok, two words.  Technology.  And, procedure.

In fact, if you're not new to education or educational technology you've probably thought up or even used a few tech-tools or procedures that would help capitalize on these data points without exhausting the process.  It's also a point worth making that this is a prime example of an area where you can leverage technology without using tech for tech's sake.  Don't do that!  Have a goal in mind that you want to accomplish with your students, then research and find the technology you can use to help you do that.  

So, what tools do I recommend?  I'll dive into a few options below for each type of data point I brought to your attention above, but that could also assist us in assessing more than one at a time -

  1. If students watched the video, 
  2. How well they took the notes,
  3. Student understanding after every set of notes/video, and
  4. Student retention throughout the unit.

Playposit

Seriously, I love this tool.  LOVE it.  I love it for many reasons, but a reason that's applicable here is that it takes care of both numbers 1 and 3 of our list of data points we want to collect.  It will tell me not just IF my students watched the assigned video notes (data point number 1), it will tell me HOW LONG they spent on that video - and I guess you could argue that is an indicator of number 2 of our data points as well, how well they took their notes.  #WINNING!

As for number 3 - o man, this is where this tool really proves its worth - Playposit's major feature is what allows teachers to know if their students are really getting it, which is exactly what we want to know.  Throughout your video notes, you can embed various types of questions, and on top of that are given some additional customizations.  Those include not allowing students to go on until they get the question right, being able to retry, being able to rewind, and the list goes on.

Here's the kicker - students can't go on in the video until they've answered the question.  This means that if your students are watching the notes (which Playposit will tell you so that you can have the necessary conversations if it's not happening for a particular student), there's no way that they can NOT prove their understanding, or lack there of.  AH!  Such a great tool.  If you can't tell, I really like this tool :)

There are other tools just like this one for you to consider, and I link them here: EdPuzzle, Vizia (puts data into a Google Sheet for you - super cool if you're on the GAFE train), and MoocNote (looks like you can add links to videos in this tool which would be cool for extension).

I'm going to say it one more time just so we are clear.  These tools will help you collect formative data about how well your students understand the material having taken the notes by "quizzing" them on the material within the video itself.  You can see their results in real time.  Man, that's awesome!

Binder/Notebook

Hold on, wait?  As in old school student binders or notebooks?  Yep!  This is not a technology tool, but it's a tool nonetheless.  It's also more of a procedure.  Stick with me here.

Typically, in the traditional classroom, it is very easy for a teacher to deliver a lecture, hope and pray students take notes, and then say another prayer that if they're absent (which you know they will be at some point), that they at least copy notes from another student, and then pretend to be back on track.  Let's get real.  If a student is absent, especially on those important days of significant content delivery (lecture), there's no such thing as a student catching up to where they would have been had they been there in person.

Not in the flipped classroom!

Let's just take a second and recognize what power that is.  That's a structural change in your classroom that someone someday is going to do some major research on and make more money than me writing this blog.  And I'm ok with that, because as a teacher, I want to impact students - I want to impact students through their teachers, and as teachers, we don't need the big research to back us up in every move we make.

Back to the point... go old school here.  And by old school, I mean, LOOK AT THEIR NOTES.  Especially in the beginning of your flipping journey, which is probably at the beginning of the year.  Call me a control freak, but in my flipped classroom, I looked at every single set of notes my students took.  It was part of the walk-in-the-door process.  I would call it a bell ringer, but those are mostly questions students answer, whereas I built a process-oriented bell ringer... what students would do when they walked in the room.

That process was for them to open their binders to their notes that they took last night (starting from the back because it helped me go quicker and I stamped the front, top right corner of each page), and if they had any blanks on their notes (anything they didn't get) to start asking around at their tables.  It is a hard stake I put in the ground in the world of education here, but I'm sticking with it ... that if a student is needing information, whether it's on their notes or on an assignment, in my class, they are ALWAYS welcome to ask for it, even on the day it is due.  I am going to dive into that a bit deeper in another post of flipped classroom culture, so I'll leave it there for now because, seriously, I could go on for a while.  Please leave a comment or send me an email if you have questions at this point.

No matter if it's in a binder, in a notebook, or digit (maybe a concept map or backchanneling through notes -  Google it), you need to be looking at your students notes, giving them feedback on them, and holding students accountable for taking those notes.

BUT DO NOT COLLECT THEM!!!

Holy cow, don't collect them - because you know you'll never get through them, nor be able to keep up that pace of grading, in addition to then the feedback not being valuable at all.  That's why I checked notes as part of our bell ringer - I walked the room, talking with students, cold-calling them by asking them questions they should know the answers to just to be certain they did in fact pay attention in their note-taking, and finally, stamping their work.

The stamp was how I kept students accountable.  At the end of each unit, after I had checked and stamped all notes, reading guides, and in-class activities, I would collect their binders and count the stamps (in some cases they kept their binders out and I flipped through them at their desks as they tested).  Each stamp equalled a point.  A point was enough for students to see the value in accumulating points for their binder grade, but also not too much that their grade would no longer reflect their mastery levels and instead their ability to "be good at school."

If you do this digitally, there are tons of options for digital notebooks.  But a simple way would be to post a Google form where students have to link in their digital notes.  Then you can click through those quickly.  Likewise, post an assignment on Google Classroom where they upload their notes - quickly click through at the beginning of the bell and be on your way.

Long story, short though - look at their notes.

Google Forms or your Assessment Management System

These tools can and should be used for formative (and summative) assessments for the fourth data point we mentioned above - knowing how well students are retaining the information before you get to the summative test at the end of a unit.

Your school or district probably has a system that it has already invested in.  I hope, for you, that it's a good one and that you like using it as a great tool in your classroom.  If that's the case, use it here.  My advice is to make what I call "topic quizzes."  These probably link up with a series of videos, or maybe just one video plus the in-class activities students did, and are not too lengthy - anywhere from 5 to 15 questions at the most.

Advantages in using technology for these data points is two-fold.  For you, it's more informative and faster - essentially no grading, unless you include a written portion, which if your final assessment includes a good portion of writing, you might want your topic quizzes to as well.  But it's also more informative for your students!  They will see their results immediately, and then you'll be able to dedicate class time to in-the-moment student reflection on student performance.  Don't know what that looks like?  Just have them ask themselves and reflect on how they did on their quiz and if that's a true indicator of how well they prepared for it.  If it is, they need to change their game strategy.  If it's not, you and that student can have more focused conversations on what's going wrong.

Now, if you don't have an AMS or don't like yours (or at least not for this purpose), then I highly recommend Google Forms, now also known as Google Quizzes within Google Forms.  It's so quick and easy, both to administer and grade.  Which is perfect for this type of quick, formative assessment.  It even allows you to make a key for short answers (think one to two word or number answers).

3. Another How?  A big decision to make.

Photo by Georgia de Lotz on Unsplash

It's another how; it could also be a what - like, what impact? 

The last thing I've got for you today is a decision you'll need to make after you've made the plans to collect the data points discussed above.  This is a big one that deserves its own post, so you'll probably see more of this later, but for now you need to decide how all of this is going to impact students' grades, and therefore how students will be invested in each of these data points.

Let's unpack that last half-sentence there.  Here's what I mean.  You don't need to log as a grade every single assessment your students take - meaning it doesn't have to go in your gradebook, impacting students averages.  What that then means, though, if the assessment does not impact their average, is that some students may see right through this and not care about how they do on that assessment.  This then becomes a bigger problem.

To me, that's where the importance of classroom culture comes in and how your students perceive their performance in your classroom.  This is why I made each stamp (therefore each set of notes) worth only one point.  There's some skin in the game, but there's more value in doing the notes themselves not just doing it for a grade.

So, for every data point we've discussed so far, decide if and how it will impact students' averages in your class.  And, if a certain assessment doesn't impact their averages, what stakes do students have in doing that assessment.  For instance, the second data point - did students get it from the notes immediately after having taken the notes.  They will be doing a decent number of these, and quite often.  Plus, it's likely they'll be doing them at home, so how valuable is that grade in going toward their average which should indicate their mastery level?

This is why I didn't count those quick formative assessments toward their class average.  Again, take some time to reflect on this - what process, then, will you put in place to hold students accountable for doing it?  It could just be that you see a trend of a student not doing the notes and call home, and let the grade of not doing well on the topic quizzes stick.  Or you could accumulate their "watches" as points toward an individual or group "most-views" prize.  These are just ideas, but I encourage you to get creative, but also to keep it simple.

Recap

That was a lot.  And I've got more to give so I really hope you stick around.  But I want to give a recap for the, like me, skim readers and those of us who like a good summary before we part ways.  Plus a little visual to help really bring home your understanding so to speak.

For your flipped classroom, you want to establish A) HOW you will collect data, and B) HOW that data will impact your students' grades for each of the following data points:

  1. Did students watch the video? - did they rush through it or take their time?
  2. How well did students take notes from the video? - did they use strategies we've learned, did they write down questions?
  3. How well do students understand the material having taken the notes? - immediately after the notes before they even use it in the classroom
  4. How well are students retaining the information (or showing growth) throughout the unit? - after they've worked with the material a bit in the classroom, and as measured by a quiz that's similar in nature to how they have to prove their knowledge on the big summative test.

Each point is meant to help you reflect on data and how it can be most informative in your flipped classroom.  This is not an end-all, be-all, just the way you need it kind of post.  I hope that you gleaned some takeaways that might apply to your flipped classroom, ways that will allow data to truly inform your instruction without it being the dirty D-word of education.

To help you along in your journey I created the calendar visual below.  It is an example of how collecting these data points worked in my classroom, as explained in this blog post.  The top example shows a calendar view of administering a topic quiz after one set of notes, the bottom example shows a calendar view of administering a topic quiz after two sets of notes.  You get the idea.

I hope at minimum this post has got your wheels turning, and intrigued to see what it's like to start flipping your classroom.  If that's where you are, I encourage you to check out my workbook to help you do just that, get started - check it out here.

Until next time,

Blog Photo by Artem Sapegin on Unsplash

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