Learning Theory and The Odyssey Lesson Plan

Last week I created a lesson plan that asked students to demonstrate their understanding of the key story points of The Odyssey by creating a board game that incorporated the MakeyMakey kit.  Students will work together in a group to decide how to represent the key ideas of Odysseus’ journey home, incorporate the kit, and test the knowledge of others in the class.

This week in CEP 811 we studied various learning theories to see how our lesson plan stacked up to theory.  After watching the video Reimagining learning by Richard Culatta and seeing the results of a different lesson in my class last week, I have reevaluated my lesson plan.  One of the things Culatta talks about in his video is that teachers often stick to the schedule at the expense of learning. (Culatta, 2014)  It is possible that students could miss a concept and be dragged along to the next concept anyway, because that is what is called for in the lesson plan.

Last week in class my students worked on a lesson that demonstrated this very problem.  I was very excited about a lesson idea which incorporated Legos.  Each group was required to build something that represented the Trojan War, using Legos.  From the outside, the lesson went very well.  The students were working together, talking about the ideas, problem solving and being creative.  However, as I circled the room and talked to the students I began to suspect a problem.  Some of the students were able to articulate a clear understanding of the concepts I wanted them to learn, they were able to demonstrate mastery of the concepts, while others struggled to be able to tell me details that I had thought were obvious.  I came to realize that because this activity was in a group, it was possible for students to “hide” the fact that they hadn’t learned.  I confirmed this fact with a short 8 question quiz on Monday.  Many of the students got 80% or more, however there were several students who only got 50% correct.  This caused me great concern because I realized that my Maker Kit Odyssey Game Lesson would function in much the same way as the Trojan War lesson did.  While the lesson was learned in the Trojan War example (I will be working with the students who did poorly so that they can have an opportunity to re-learn what they missed) I don’t want to wait until the end of the Odysseus project to have students demonstrate mastery.

As Benjamin Bloom states in his article Learning for Mastery. Instruction and Curriculum. “Most students can master what we have to teach them, and it is the task of instruction to find the means which will enable our students to master the subject under consideration,” (Bloom, pg. 1, 1968).  Applying this idea to The Odyssey lesson plan means I must add two components.  I must find a way to assess students early and then provide multiple methods to ensure students the opportunity to learn what they missed the first time around.

As Culatta notes in his speech, technology is particularly suited to help with this problem (Culatta, 2014).  Assessing for understanding and giving instantaneous feedback is much easier with the help of technology.  My students and I already use Edmodo as a means of communication for my class.  I will utilize the quiz feature of this website to create formative assessments.  I will use these assessments as a way to measure student understanding of the concepts.  The quizzes allow for me to give instantaneous feedback to the students as well.  As Johnson M. Changeiywo, P.W. Wambugu and S.W. Wachanga demonstrated in a recent study, physics students who learned through mastery were much more successful in their end of term assessments. The researchers noted that motivation was tied to feedback and the belief that each student could in fact learn at a high level (Changeiywo, et. al, 2011).  The first assessment I give to students will act as a gateway to the bigger project.  Students who show they have an understanding of the order of events of the story will be able to move on to construction of the game.  Those students who need more instruction will have several options of how they will gain that instructions.  Groups will be formed organically, as students move through the first assessment.

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Edmodo has a great quiz option that gives instant feedback.

In addition to the first assessment, students who have moved on to the game board portion of the assignment will be asked to take short 3-4 question assessments, also on Edmodo, as an exit ticket each day.  These assessments will be designed to assess student understanding of the specifics of each stop on Odysseus’ journey.  Again, students will be given instantaneous feedback on their progress towards the ultimate goal, understanding the events of Odysseus’ journey home.  If at any point along the way students fail to show they understand the events, then the next day in class they will be provided opportunities to relearn the information.  The individual may ask his group to help him through a learning activity, or he may choose to complete an activity on his own, re-joining his group when he is finished.  Allowing students to choose from an assortment of activities for remediation will allow for a more individualized experience.  Based on a review of the study by Chun-Hung Lin, Eric Zhi-Feng Liu, Yu-Liang Chen, Pey-Yan Liou, Maiga Chang and Cheng-Hong Wu, at least one of the activity choices will be a game based activity.  Chun-Hung Lin, et. al, demonstrated in their study that both video tutorials and game-based activities provided an increase in understanding.  However, the game-based instruction showed a significant increase in student performance. (Lin, et. al. 2013).  I would like to incorporate as many game-based activities as possible for students to choose from.

Designing the lesson in this fashion will make for a much more fragmented unit, as individuals and groups will end up working at different paces.  However, the end result should be that each individual student is able to master the content.  Click here to see the updated version of my lesson plan.  It more fully incorporates the ideas of mastery and individualized learning.  I have utilized technology to help with the process of identifying needs and reteaching information to students who need extra support.  I have also incorporated a formal rubric for use once the game boards are complete.

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Rubric created using rubistar.com


Bloom, B.S. (1968). Learning for Mastery. Instruction and curriculum. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED053419.pdf

Changeiywo, J. M., Wambugu, P. W., & Wachanga, S. W. (2011). INVESTIGATIONS OF STUDENTS’ MOTIVATION TOWARDS LEARNING SECONDARY SCHOOL PHYSICS THROUGH MASTERY LEARNING APPROACH. International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 9(6), 1333-1350. doi:10.1007/s10763-010-9262-z. Retrieved from http://link.springer.com.proxy2.cl.msu.edu/article/10.1007%2Fs10763-010-9262-z

Culatta, R. (2014, July 14). Reimagining Learning: Richard Culatta at TEDxBeaconStreet. [Video File]TEDxTalks. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Z0uAuonMXrg

Lin, C., Liu, E., Chen, Y., Liou, P., Chang, M., Wu, C., & Yuan, S. (2013). Game-based remedial instruction in mastery learning for upper-primary school students. EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY & SOCIETY, 16(2), 271-281. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.proxy2.cl.msu.edu/docview/1355669564?pq-origsite=summon

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