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Managing the Chaos in a Flipped Mastery Classroom

Cara Johnson
Anatomy and Physiology Teacher
Allen High School
Allen, TX

February 2016


The flipped mastery classroom model provides many benefits. Using flipped lecture videos gives you time to differentiate your lessons to reach individual students. The mastery model allows students to learn at their own pace using techniques that best fit their learning styles.

The disadvantage of the flipped mastery model is the chaos that ensues from students working on different objectives through different approaches and at different speeds. These strategies can help you control that chaos.


Arrange the classroom to accommodate tasks

Simply arranging the classroom and designating areas to target specific learning needs is the easiest method to manage the chaos. For example, isolate the back portion of the class using tape on the floor for wet labs and the front portion of the class for assessments. Group desks for students to engage in a collaborative project, but also include areas in the class for students to work independently. The flipped mastery model gives students a choice in how they approach content. Pre-planning and structuring your classroom to accommodate various needs will reduce chaos and increase learning.


Prioritize student needs

Students need guidance when they struggle within the flipped classroom model. Unfortunately, your students’ needs will vary in importance and frequency. To prioritize needs, give students four plastic cups of different colors. Each color will serve as a nonverbal signal.

  • Red cups indicate that the student has an emergency and is unable to continue learning until the issue is addressed. 
  • Purple cups signal that the student is learning and working.
  • Green cups indicate that a student is ready to have an assignment graded.
  • Yellow cups mean that the student has a comment or question that can be addressed when you have time.

You can prioritize students’ needs with a quick glance at the cups. Red cups should be addressed first as the students are unable to learn until the related issue is resolved and green/yellow cups should be addressed second. Purple cups allow students to work with fewer teacher interruptions. Students love the cup system as they no longer need to try to get your attention or lose an arm from raising it for an extended period of time!


Teach and preach organization

The flipped classroom model encourages students to take ownership of their learning. However, because they have not yet learned important time management and organizational skills, many students struggle with delegating and conquering a list of objectives on their own. It’s important to teach and demonstrate these skills to ensure students are using class time to master the assigned content.

You can model good organizational skills by providing students with a pacing calendar, concise list of objectives, and activities to complete. Teach students how to develop a calendar to plan their learning and anticipate your students’ needs. Pre-planning the formative assessments and labs is a must, as you never know which activities the students will want to accomplish during class.


Increase student-teacher proximity

Flipped mastery classes can pose a challenge for many students. They often need redirection and encouragement to stay motivated to master the objectives, which you can address by establishing a close student-teacher proximity. Simply put, don’t sit at your desk—walk around and talk with the students. Don’t expect students to ask you for help when they’re struggling; instead, frequently check on their progress.

By increasing proximity, you can have more one-on-one and small group discussions with your students and develop a closer relationship with them, thereby making them more motivated to learn. This class time can also be used to grade assignments with students to assess their learning and provide feedback.


Give up control

This strategy can be the most difficult to implement but the most rewarding if you accomplish it: Give up control! Within the flipped mastery model, students will struggle and fail. However, it is through this struggle and failure that students will learn and grow. For most teachers, it is extremely difficult to watch and allow students to struggle. Teachers feel compelled to lead and guide students when there is confusion and misconceptions. Most good teachers feel the need to immediately redirect and reteach when a student makes a mistake, but for a successful flipped mastery class to operate, you must surrender control. With time, students gain effective learning skills they can apply to any class.

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