Mastering the 3 Biggest Challenges to Flipped Mastery

Heading Back to mastery / Lead Features October 19 / October 22, 2019

– Jon Bergmann –

Student grades are due at the end of this week, and I am reflecting on what has gone well and not so well in Flipped Mastery. Three things have surfaced: Time Overload, Pacing, and Deadlines.

Time overload

When I started teaching again after seven years, I committed to implementing Flipped Mastery in all of my classes. Little did I realize just how big of a commitment that would be. The number of moving parts has been at times overwhelming.

    • Mastering the Content: Since I am teaching new classes (Physics and Geology), I am having to master the content before I teach the students to master the content. In Physics especially this has looked like me doing all of the Physics problems I am assigning before I assign them. And this may sound a bit sick, but I have loved solving physics problems – There is something gratifying about the laws of Physics (I know; I am a total nerd)
    • Creating the Flipped Videos for all lessons: Because of the time to create well-edited lightboard videos I have started making some of my videos using Camtasia, which is a screencasting software that saves me time. My basic filter for lightboard vs screencasting video has to do with the number of images that are needed. In general, I am finding that physics videos are better suited for the lightboard and the geology is better suited for screencasting.
    • Curating Group-Space Activities: I am not really creating many group-space activities, but rather curating ones that I find on the internet. In the case of my Physics curriculum, I am finding that the textbook labs are sufficient as they have a bent toward inquiry. For the Geology class, I have looked far and wide to find deeply engaging group-space activities. Some of the activities have been great and others will need to be replaced for next year.
    • Summative Assessments: I have been using our LMS (D2L Brightspace) to assess students in a mastery model. Though the tool is great, the time to create mastery tests is huge. The materials from my textbooks have been a great resource, but their questions are not always the best way to assess.


Trying to determine just how hard to push students towards mastery is a fine balance. I teach at a high-performing school in which much is expected. Our students are amazing, but I am aware of just how hard we are pushing. Since I am teaching new content, I don’t have a real sense of how much to expect from each given topic. What has helped me with pacing has been as I create our Quest Guides, I estimate how much time each activity will take. (See the charts below).



Essentially what I do is add up the total time I expect students to spend working on given activities/videos/tests, and then compare that with the number of minutes of class time, and then figure out what a reasonable target is. However, what I haven’t done very well is to anticipate the typical student interruptions that invariably occur in the school schedule (Homecoming week, special schedules, etc). I feel that the process is almost there and that I will soon have a better idea about how to pace.

One last thing on pacing: I feel that pushing students a bit on pacing helps to move things along. And then if I have to dial it back towards the end of a week, the students are only thankful.

Deadlines & procrastination

What happens when students get behind? This is one of the biggest issues in a mastery class. As the quarter came to a close, I set expectations that students needed to have mastered up to level 3 (unit 3) in each course. This included them passing with a minimum of 80 percent on their summative tests. For most students, this was not a problem. They did well and “passed” on their first or second attempt. However, some of them took the exams four and even five times. Those students who took them over and over can be grouped into two categories

  1.  Able but Not Self-Directed. This group has the ability but isn’t really trying as hard as they should. Some of these students thought that mastery would be easy because they could do things multiple times. I feel like they haven’t taken the class as seriously as they could and this has made things hard. They hadn’t really tried to master the content in the first place and were taking the tests in “hopes” that they would be successful. From now on, I will be monitoring these students more carefully and insisting that they take the time to really master the material. This group of students has the ability but they aren’t applying themselves as much as they can.
  2. Those Genuinely Struggling: There is also a second group of struggling students; those students who are genuinely having difficulty with the content. These students have done all of the pre-work but the tests are proving difficult. With this group, I realize I need to dedicate more remedial time with them to get them up to speed.

One thing I want to change is to be more insistent on making the learning as close to the assessment as possible. Some students procrastinated taking their unit exams (Boss Battles), and by the time they did, the main learning for that topic had passed two weeks prior. This created a gap and students tended to struggle with the older concepts as we had moved on during the daily class time. However, in the end, they all passed their Boss Battles so it could be seen as a positive since students really had to know the content and not have just memorized it for the test.

As I continue teaching using the Flipped-Mastery model, I am finding more and more ways to tweak it and make it even better for my students.

Jon Bergmann
Jon Bergmann Bergmann
Jon Bergmann is one of the pioneers of the Flipped Classroom Movement. He is leading the worldwide adoption of flipped learning through the Flipped Learning Global Initiative (FLGI) He is working with governments, schools, corporations, and education non-profits. Jon has coordinated and guided flipped learning projects around the globe. Locations include: China, Taiwan, Korea, Australia, the Middle East, Iceland, Sweden, Norway, the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, Mexico, Canada, South America, and the United States. Jon is the author of nine books including the bestselling book: Flip Your Classroom which has been translated into 13 languages. He is the founder of the global FlipCon conferences which are dynamic engaging events which inspire educators to transform their practice through flipped learning.

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