When students graduate having mastered essential academic skills and understandings, they are better prepared to succeed in college and careers. Yet conventional grading systems can make it difficult to know whether students have actually mastered these skills since often students are graded on the quantity of tasks they have completed or their recall of information on multiple-choice tests. In contrast, instruction, assessment, and grading in a mastery-based learning system are designed to focus on how students are progressing toward mastery of essential skills and understandings. In effect, these systems are more equitable: teachers assess and give feedback to students in transparent ways, more accurately based on learning rather than perceptions of behavior or attendance.
The sessions in this series explore the principles and elements in a mastery-based learning system and small steps that teachers can take in their own grading, assessment, and instructional planning to implement these elements.
In contrast to conventional grading systems, where instruction is organized around time-bound tasks, a mastery-based learning system places essential skills and understandings at the center.
Ideally grades should communicate to students what they have learned and what they need to work on.
When the learning goals that teachers set are meaningful, empowering, and cognitively demanding, they can form a foundation for assessment and instruction that lead to mastery of those goals.
When teachers know exactly what students have learned so far, they can individualize support to help those students focus on learning the skills and understandings they need to move to the next level.