I’ve taught AP Statistics for six years, and every summer when I review student feedback and summary reports from my AP scores, I notice that one unit in particular stands out as being tough for students to master: probability. Although pieces of probability are explored in other math classes, when students get to my classroom, they’re often hearing of topics like discrete random variables and Bernoulli trials for the first time. The lack of a frame of reference can cause these topics to feel more puzzling for students. Rather than continuing to teach the material in exactly the same way as I’ve done in the past, I decided to take a different approach to this material in hopes of finding a way to make the mastery of this chapter more attainable for students.
As an experiment (albeit a not particularly well-controlled one), I decided to switch the traditional model of classwork and homework for the month in which probability is introduced. Rather than introducing new material in class together and sending students home with problems with which to practice on their own, I decided to flip the model. I used my iPad and a few apps to record a series of interactive videos that I posted to EdPuzzle, a website that allows video uploads. Each video is assigned for students to watch at home, and I added questions and checkpoints along the way to monitor student understanding.
The feedback from students was immediate. Students loved the ability to learn at their own speed, and on their own time. Videos could be paused, rewound, and re-watched to allow students to fully understand an example or review for an assessment. When students came to class the next day, we tackled some of the tougher free-response questions together, building on their introductory knowledge from the previous night’s video. My goal was to give students autonomy in their own learning process, while still providing them with structured support for mastering even the (historically) tougher concepts. By working through more challenging questions together in class, students were able to have the support of their peers and get immediate feedback on their instincts and answers in solving problems.
While I can’t prove statistical significance from this small, non-random sample, the student feedback (and boost in scores on the AP Exam for this section) has provided me with encouragement that this non-traditional approach to learning has been helpful. Personally, it’s also allowed me a chance to reflect on the ways in which I teach. I’ve been able to use technology as a tool to improve my teaching in a way that I couldn’t even 10 years ago when I first started teaching. I hope to continue to expand my teaching strategies for helping students master new material as I explore technology offerings in the future.