Friday, July 18, 2014

Flipped Classroom Strategy 4: Muddiest Point (In/During Class Instructional Strategy)

Initial Thoughts and Introduction

In my continued research into flipped learning and its implications in the university/college
classroom, I'm amazed at the creative strategies faculty members use to engage the adult learner and make the best use of class time.  As a current instructional designer at my respective institution, I find myself reflecting on my own past teaching experiences as an educator (tenure-track professor, adjunct, and teaching assistant) in higher education and past leadership experiences as a technology integration administrator working directly with K-12 teachers.  More specifically, two themes begin to emerge in my mind from both higher education and K-12 sectors: instructional strategy and assessment.  In a recent presentation on flipped classrooms I delivered during a summer faculty institute, I used the appropriate term formative assessment in my discussion of how the higher levels of Bloom's Taxonomy applies to the section of both (a) instructional strategies and (b) assessment techniques to identify student understanding (or lack of) throughout the learning process. 
As expected, most higher education faculty were lost at the term formative assessment (most think test or quiz only), so I provided a brief explanation, along with common examples they may already be using, and was fortunate to have a School of Education faculty member to provide further examples.  Interestingly when I was in the K-12 arena, my district invested significant time and funding to focus on formative assessment professional development for a number of content areas.  My point here is that I learned so much about the importance of formative assessment (not standardized tests) and pedagogy in K-12 and see direct implications for the adult learner (andragogy) in today's university college classroom.  I find it interesting when terms such as formative and summative assessment are mentioned in higher education, there is an immediate label of "K-12" placed on these key processes that are important in the higher education context.  In fact, I have observed faculty use formative assessment strategies, but they may use a different name or label such process as "strategy."  

So what does this have to do with flipped classrooms in higher education?  Simply put..........instructional strategy and formative assessment go hand-in-hand in the planning of and delivery of the "in/during class time" component of the flipped classroom model.  In my mind, I think of instructional strategy and formative assessment this way in the form of two questions:
  1. How will I and my learners be immersed with the content (i.e. concepts, knowledge, and skills) in the most engaging and interactive way?  This sets the foundation for identifying the most appropriate instructional strategy.................meaning that I focus on content delivery and student interactions.

  2. How and when will I and my learners know that they can apply (and evaluate, synthesis, etc. - higher levels of Bloom's) as they are engaged in the activities driven by the instructional strategy?  This sets the foundation for including techniques and mechanisms, in other words - formative assessments, that provides me and learners data so that instruction and activities can be adjusted accordingly.
My conclusion:  The instructional strategy selected to make the best use of in/during-class time should ideally include elements of formative assessments in order to identify student understanding of content and where instruction needs to be modified or reinforced.

Now onto the specific in/during-class strategy to consider using in a flipped learning model:  the muddiest point.

What is the Muddiest Point and Its Purpose?

As one of the simplest and common forms of formative assessment techniques, the muddiest point method consists of asking students to write down a quick response to one question:  What is the muddiest point in _____________?  The focus of the this assessment might be a brief lecture on a missed concept presented on a flipped video lesson or textbook, a whole-class or small group discussion, a homework assignment, a play, etc..

The purpose of the muddiest point method is to identify information on what the students find confusing or unclear about a particular topic, lesson, or unit of instruction.  Faculty can then use the feedback (i.e. the responses from the muddiest point activity) to guide their instructional decisions about what topics to emphasize and how much time to spend on those topics (even for selecting or modifying flipped video content).  The muddiest point is a simply technique to deliver, however, student responses to the question requires higher-order thinking.

How Do I Use the Muddiest Point Technique?

Although there can be many creative and/or hybrid versions of the muddiest point technique, below is just one example that illustrates the method.

Have students anonymously write down a question on a piece of paper, an index card, or to a Google Form with their laptop or mobile device; from a lesson that was unclear or confusing to them.  This question can be about specific content from a video lesson or text, a concept, or a related problem they need assistance with.  Students can submit their question to a box at the end of the class session or submit electronically (such a Google Form, Learning Management System, or other similar means).  Spend some time during the next class session in answering some of the questions or general themes you are finding in the submitted questions.

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What are your thoughts or experience with using the muddiest point assessment technique?  Share your ideas in the comments section below.

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