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Mastery-Based Learning

Posted in Ed Tech 101 on December 23, 2013 by

What is… “mastery-based learning” or “mastery learning”?

Whether or not you’ve heard the term “mastery-based learning,” you’ve probably encountered it in practice, in school or on the job. In any situation where you’re given a set of labs, problems, or activities where your progression is dependent on successful completion of various tasks rather than seat time, you’re engaging in mastery-based learning. In other words, it’s all about measuring outcomes versus punching the clock.

In the classroom, it’s a teaching method premised on the idea that student progression through a course should be dependent on proficiency as opposed to amount of time spent on academic work. For example, rather than requiring a classroom to study fractions for a full week before progressing to the next concept, individual students who understand fractions could move ahead when they are ready.

Key features of mastery-based learning (MBL):

1. Curriculum design hinges on assessments.

2. Assessments may take any form as long as they determine proficiency.

3. Graduation to the next grade/level/topic is contingent upon successful completion of prerequisite assessment.

4. Curriculum is committed to the success of all students; students are not “allowed” to give up.

For more on mastery-based learning, check out my article on myths around mastery-based learning.

Other Resources:

Mastery-Based Assessment Helps Build Accountability by Mariko Nobori

Building Motivation, Instilling Grit: The Necessity of Mastery-Based Learning by Michael Horn

5 Tips: Learn more effectively in class with mastery learning by Relly Brandman

Have you heard or encountered this term before? What’s your most memorable mastery-based learning experience?

Here at Knewton, we love geeking out over ed tech – the people, the technology, and its potential to change the world. As part of our participation in the community, we’re putting together an “Ed Tech 101” glossary to explore the language itself – the buzzwords, the jargon, the neologisms, and everything in between. Have an ed tech word or phrase you’d like us to feature? Leave a comment!