One of the most common questions I get from other teachers is why I chose to use mastery learning in my classroom. To be honest, there are a lot of techniques, best practices, and research studies out there, but for me, mastery learning includes and incorporates the most successful and practical pieces of all of them.
Mastery learning makes even more sense in the classroom if you consider how all children start to learn: through failure.
Recently my 1-year-old daughter learned how to walk. She stumbled, fell, tried again, and then again, to take those first steps. Now, out of breath and running after her through the house, it’s hard to remember a time when she couldn’t walk. I didn’t try to teach my daughter how to walk one day and test her on it the next day. Think about that. What I did this way. What if she failed and my wife and I just said, “Oh well, I guess you aren’t going to walk…on to potty training!”
Naturally, this would be ridiculous.
However, it is this same mentality many teachers have in the classroom. We teach a lesson or concept, assess, reteach if needed, and then move on. A lot of times there are a large number of students being left behind or getting overlooked when they just need more time to “stumble” through the material.
Why not give our students the opportunity to fail? Let them have multiple chances. Make sure they know what they are supposed to know before they move onto the next task. If you design your classroom to be flexible enough to manage this, the results are astonishing.
I have more students succeeding, fewer management issues, and the best evaluations of my career.
When I started implementing mastery learning I told myself I would focus on these few tenants:
- Students don’t move on until they demonstrate mastery of a task at 85%.
- Students should be allowed to work at their own pace through the material so that they have time to master it.
- Students should have multiple opportunities to succeed.
- Immediate feedback on performance should be targeted and efficient.
- The class structure must allow for the management and the organization of all of these components.
For me, the easiest way to do all of these things was to develop a system. Since implementing mastery learning, I’ve never looked back. My students are learning more than ever, my stress levels are lower, I love my job, and I truly feel like I’m reaching ALL my students instead of just a few.
Mastery learning and the system I’ve created have truly changed my career for the better and, more importantly, it has impacted my students and their learning in the best way possible.
So my question to you is this: Do you let your students stumble? If so, I’d love to hear your story. If you would like to talk about how to implement mastery learning in your classroom, reach out here or send me an email!