Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Designing Your Flipped-Mastery Unit (Part 2)


In PART 1 of this series, I provided a brief overview of the flipped-mastery unit design that I have implemented for the past year.  I posted a link to our UNIT 2 OBJECTIVES GRID as an example.  For this post, we will be taking a closer look at our UNIT 1 OBJECTIVES GRID from the Ancient Greece and Rome Unit.   You can click on the link in the last sentence to view the file.  I will also provide some screenshots and text from the document below relating to the commentary.  Although this is social studies specific, the design principles certainly apply across disciplines.
First, I am a firm believer in the "backward design" model and feel that all effective instructional design follows this procedure to some degree.  Therefore, I began constructing the unit by developing essential questions, learning goals and objectives.   These were developing using three particular sources:
  1. Connecticut Social Studies Curriculum Framework
  2. Common Core Standards for ELA & Literacy
  3. Framework for 21st Century Learning (Partnership for 21st Century Skills)

Most, if not all of us, are familiar with essential questions and their role in curriculum design, so I will spare you a description of what they are and why they are needed.  I will, however, briefly describe how I use them in a flipped-mastery unit.  First, here are the essential questions from this unit:

We typically begin each unit with an introductory lesson based upon these essential questions.  It can be something as simple as a brainstorm and group discussion.  The point is to have students grapple with these big ideas before diving into the unit.  Not only will this (hopefully) make the unit seem more relevant and engaging, this introductory lesson should also help "frame" the rest of the unit.  In general, I try to drive home the point that history (and learning in general) is more about questioning and problem solving rather than the accumulation of a vast amount of facts. The culminating project and summative assessment will also address these essential questions and serve as a "bookend" to the unit.


In the past, I have not made the distinction between learning goals and unit objectives.  This past year, however, I developed four particular learning goals for each unit that I wanted all students to achieve.   I created one goal that was content specific, two that were skill-based, and one that was reflective.  Here is what I came up with for this unit.

Learning Goal #1
Demonstrate an understanding of significant events and themes in world history/international studies.

Learning Goal #2
Create various forms of written work to demonstrate and understanding of history and social studies issues.

Learning Goal #3
Use evidence to identify, analyze and evaluate historical interpretations.

Learning Goal #4
Reflect critically on learning experiences and processes.

First, I did not come up with these entirely on my own.  Many of the learning goals derive from the three frameworks linked above.  You may also note how broad they are.  This is true, but the point of these is to help my students make sense of the unit objectives and learning tasks (which I will address in PART 3).   Each one of them is specifically geared towards one of these goals.  Therefore, as they demonstrate mastery of the unit's learning objectives, they are also moving towards meeting the learning goals for the unit.

This also helps me differentiate the unit.  You will see in the next post that there are several different objetives for each goal, and each objective can be mastered in many different ways.  I can therefore have students meet each learning goal, but do so by following (or should I say blazing) their own particular path.

I actually include Goal #4 (Reflecting Critically) for each unit since I believe it is incredibly important.  Developing students' metacognitive skills should be a goal for all educators, and this helps me make sure they are working on these skills year-round.

In the next post, "PART 3," I will discuss in more detail the development of Objectives and Learning Tasks for each flipped-mastery unit. 

COMPLETE Flipped-Mastery Article Series