Part 8: It’s Time to Show What You Know

Every student is different. I know this is not really a revelation for most of you, but do we really try to adapt our instruction with this concept in mind?

My family is full of very different learners. My husband hates reading (especially instructions), but he can do anything hands-on. He wants to take things apart and then put them back together to see how they work. On the other hand, my brother-in-law wants to read about everything and completely understand it before he attempts any sort of hands-on learning. I am somewhere in between.

I think my students follow this same pattern. Traditionally, school has been aimed at book learners. I have many students who struggled with tests and paper assessments but were great at labs. I wanted to even the playing field in my class so that these students could be successful also. I also feel like knowing something and applying it are two different things, so I decided to add in Mastery Demonstrations.

What are mastery demonstrations? Glad you asked. Mastery demonstrations are a time for my kids to show what they know. I typically use these after we have learned the material as a hands-on assessment.

How do mastery demonstrations work? I first tried this with my Circuits & Electricity Unit in Physics. I created two different demonstrations for this unit.

Mastery Demo #1: I put everything a student would need to build a circuit in a basket. Their task was to build a complete, working circuit using everything in the basket. They had ~8 minutes to complete this task. To prevent cheating, I had different materials in each basket in the lab. Once they had a complete working circuit, they had to draw the schematic diagram for their circuit.

Mastery Demo #2: I placed all of our circuit building materials on a table. Each student was given a schematic and required to build a working circuit that matched their schematic. They had ~8 minutes to complete this task.

How did it go? Students found this challenging. For my book learners, they had struggled to apply what they had learned. They did not understand circuits nearly as well as they thought they did. However, my hands-on students had no trouble at all. They met this challenge and blew it out of the water. Mission accomplished.

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