What is Mastery Learning and How Can it Improve Your Child’s Learning?
Are you a parent? Well, then you are probably an expert mastery teacher. When you taught your child to tie shoes or ride a bike, did you give a lecture and then a quiz the next day? Of course not! You probably showed your child how to do ride and then coached him through the steps. And when they didn’t quite get it on the first try, I bet you said, “Try it this way,” or “Give it another try.” As a parent, you know that children learn from their mistakes, and they should keep trying.
Remember this popular adage by Edward Hickson?
If at first, you don’t succeed
Try, try again
See? I knew you were a mastery teacher!
Mastery is the way we learn. The surgeon does not get licensed until he or she has practiced many times; the gymnast and musician practice daily to hone their skills; professional golfers play hours every day to keep their skills – they ‘Try, try again”.
Unfortunately, most schools are unable to teach using this mastery approach because of deadlines and scheduled exam dates. Teachers must get through the textbook in the typical 180-day school year. And, all students are expected to move through the textbook at the same pace. This can result in students being pushed ahead to more difficult concepts before they are ready. My daughter did not understand Chapter 1 of Algebra, but the class moved on to Chapter 2. Very quickly she felt lost.
Mastery-based learning, also known as competency-based learning, means your child gets to try, try again. Through positive teacher feedback, students revise their work until mastery of the topic is achieved. True mastery-based teaching offers this approach in every lesson. Some schools may claim to be mastery-based however, students may only be allowed to retake failed exams.
The benefit to students is that they move through the course at the pace most comfortable to them. Students are never pushed ahead before they are ready, and they are not held back by the pace of other students in the class.
Through mastery learning, the time-limit obstacle is removed. Students can delve deeper into subjects. They gain and retain course knowledge, and also develop important life skills such as time-management, independence, effective communication and self-confidence.
Ellen Ray, Principal and parent of Alina, 2009 GraduateSee all blog posts