Mastery-based learning is an educational approach that focuses on helping students achieve a deep understanding of a subject or skill, rather than simply covering a set of predetermined content or meeting a certain grade level.
In this model, all students are given the time and support they need to fully master a subject before moving on to the next one. In this article, we will explore the history and principles of mastery-based learning, as well as how it is implemented in schools and its advantages and challenges.
History Of Mastery-Based Learning
Mastery-based learning has its roots in the work of educational reformers such as John Dewey and William Kilpatrick, who believed that education should be focused on helping students develop a deep understanding of a subject rather than simply memorizing facts.
In the 1960s, Benjamin Bloom and his colleagues developed the concept of mastery learning, which focused on using individualized instruction and formative assessments to help students achieve mastery of a subject.
Since then, the concept of mastery-based learning has evolved and been applied in various forms, including competency-based education, standards-based grading, and personalized learning.
It is currently used in many schools including virtual learning academies in the United States.
Principles Of Mastery-Based Learning
Mastery-based learning is based on several key principles, including:
- Personalization – Mastery-based learning is personalized to meet the individual needs of each student. This means that students are given the time and support they need to fully understand a subject before moving on to the next one, rather than being held to a predetermined pace or schedule.
- Formative Assessment – Formative assessment is a key component of mastery-based learning. This involves ongoing assessment of student progress and the use of that information to adjust instruction and support student learning. It allows students to get timely feedback on their progress and to address any areas of weakness before moving on to the next subject.
- Student Ownership – Mastery-based learning puts students in charge of their own learning. This means that students are responsible for setting their own learning goals and seeking out the resources and support they need to achieve those goals.
- Flexibility – This type of learning allows students to progress at their own pace and to choose the learning pathways that best suit their needs and interests.
Implementation of Mastery-Based Learning
Mastery-based learning can be implemented in a variety of ways in schools, including:
- Competency-Based Education – is a form of mastery-based learning in which students are required to demonstrate mastery of specific skills or competencies before moving on to the next subject. This can involve assessments such as projects, essays, or performance tasks.
- Standards-Based Grading – is another form of mastery-based learning in which students are graded based on their mastery of specific learning standards rather than on a traditional A-F grading scale. This allows students to focus on learning and understanding rather than on grades.
- Personalized Learning – is an approach to mastery-based learning that involves using technology and data to customize instruction to meet the individual needs and interests of each student. This often uses adaptive learning software or other tools to create customized learning plans for each student.
Advantages of Mastery-Based Learning
Mastery-based learning has many potential advantages for students, including:
- Improved Academic Achievement – Research has shown that mastery-based learning can lead to improved academic achievement, as students are able to focus on learning and understanding rather than on grades or meeting predetermined standards. This can lead to a deeper understanding of the subject matter and a greater ability to apply what they have learned in real-world contexts.
- Increased Motivation And Engagement – Mastery-based learning can also increase motivation and engagement, as students are able to choose their own learning paths and focus on subjects that are meaningful and interesting to them. This can lead to a greater sense of ownership over the learning process and a stronger commitment to learning.
- Greater Equity – This style of learning allows students to progress at their own pace and to receive the support and resources they need to succeed. This can be especially beneficial for students who may struggle in a traditional classroom setting or who may have different learning styles or needs.
Challenges Of Mastery-Based Learning
While mastery-based learning has many potential benefits, it also comes with its own set of challenges. Some of the challenges of implementing mastery-based learning include:
- Time And Resources – Implementing mastery-based learning can be time-consuming and resource-intensive. It requires ongoing formative assessment and the ability to provide individualized instruction. This can be a challenge for schools and teachers who may not have the time or resources to support this approach.
- Parent And Community Buy-In – Another challenge of mastery-based learning is the need for parent and community buy-in. This can be difficult, as the approach may be seen as unfamiliar and may require a shift in traditional ways of thinking about education.
- Student Readiness – Mastery-based learning may not be suitable for all students, as it requires a certain level of independence, motivation, and self-direction. Students who are not ready for this level of responsibility may struggle in a mastery-based learning environment.
Mastery-Based Learning In Virtual Homeschool Programs
With many Atlanta schools going virtual, it begs the question of whether mastery-based learning can still be sustained in virtual academies. The lack of physical interaction surely makes it challenging to assess student progress but with modern techniques, it can be done.
The best virtual high schools in Georgia have the necessary resources and expertise to ensure that no students are left behind.
While mastery-based learning has many potential benefits, including improved academic achievement, increased motivation and engagement, and greater equity, it also comes with its own set of challenges. These challenges include the need for time and resources, parent and community buy-in, and student readiness. Despite these challenges, mastery-based learning has the potential to be a valuable and effective approach to education, particularly for students who are motivated and self-directed learners.