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Understanding Mastery-Based Learning

As a teacher, the chances are you hear about ‘mastery-based learning’ on a regular basis, but do you feel all your colleagues and students’ parents understand the benefits of implementing this style of learning in your school?

Let’s begin with outlining what mastery-based learning is. Mastery-based learning is an instructional approach where students need to demonstrate a deep level of understanding of a topic or subject area before progressing onto another topic or subject area.

Essentially, having the ability to solve a calculation is not enough; students now need to have the ability to justify their calculations, saying it is correct or incorrect because…, and they must be able to solve related word problems in context.

Mastery-based learning surrounds itself in the premise that different students will take different paths to attain the desired understanding, and different students may need more or less time on topics or subject areas than others.

It covers the fact that there needs to be more personalized support so that students can master concepts before they move onto another. This eliminates the need for some students being bored as they cannot move faster in an age-based group classroom scheduled on covering certain areas of a curriculum within a timeframe, and it also helps some students who are unable to keep up with the pace of learning.

With the rise of technology to support mastery, and a more refined and proven understanding of mastery-based learning as a concept itself, many schools are adopting it around the world.

EducationCity’s ThinkIts are very good for mastery and also, the Activities are useful for mastery because we’ve taught the lesson, and then the children go off and actually do it. So therefore they are applying, and therefore they are gearing themselves up towards getting mastery of that particular subject area.”

Mrs Papworth, Year 1 Teacher, North Downs Primary School

What are the student benefits?

  • Learn deeply in ways that are best for them.
  • Have engaging and meaningful ways to demonstrate mastery.
  • Personalize the learning experience to them and learn at a pace that best suits their needs, whilst providing the right balance in terms of how challenging learning should be.

Some parents will wonder whether students having their own differing learning paths and differing speeds of learning will mean some children will learn less, more slowly. In fact, research shows that schools that implement mastery-based learning have higher overall student attainment progress. It doesn’t mean that students learn faster, but that students have higher levels of learning within the curriculum. The overall experience means students move ahead with a similar range of speed but they learn better too. Students won’t have gaps in learning like in today’s model.

So how do I implement a mastery-based learning model?

There are a few questions to consider when implementing a mastery-based learning model which should be considered before using this strategy in your learning environment.

1. Planning for change and reviewing success

When implementing a mastery-based learning approach, do you have the tools in place to plan for changes and assess whether it is successful in your learning environment?

2. Monitoring and communicating student progress

In this approach, you will need to evaluate whether your students have successfully mastered a concept before moving onto the next, so how will you monitor and communicate student progress?

3. Support between students

How are you going to provide opportunities for students to help each other master content?

4. Choosing topics and concepts appropriate for mastery-based learning

Mastery learning can be effective as a teaching strategy in addition to those you already use. How are you going to select and choose the topics and concepts that are appropriate for a mastery-based learning approach?

5. Providing help and support

For those students who take a little longer to master concepts and attain the required level of knowledge for each unit, how are you going to provide additional support?

By implementing mastery-based learning, the focus is placed on the student and maximizing every student’s potential to ensure success is the only option, and that they are ready for college and their future careers.

One thought on “Understanding Mastery-Based Learning

  1. Thank you for explaining the benefits of mastery based learning. It seems like a very student centered model where students truly demonstrate understanding of content.

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