Sunday, May 20, 2012

Oh mastery teachers...a little help here!

My students are wrapping up their unit on multiplying fractions, so we are now doing some quick review before we take our assessment.  I had 2 students who did an entire review page without missing a single question.  The rest of the class...not so what do I do with them?  Make them sit through review that they don't need?  That brings me to my current issues, which all surround mastery teaching.

I've always been frustrated with the fact that as a teacher, I'm almost forced into teaching to the middle kids.  Going too slow for the high kids, and often too fast for the low kids.  I've found that my flipped class (as I currently teach it) allows me to reach out more to some of the students who are having issues.  It also allows the higher kids to proceed to extension projects.  Now I'll be the first to admit, my extensions need work (right now it's limited to things I can find on-line that are already created because I honestly just don't have the time to work on them).

I'm also finding that when it comes time to take our assessment, the students either totally get it, or totally don't-there isn't much in between.  Typically I spend a week reviewing before the test, in hopes that the students who didn't get it yet, will understand when it's not new content.  I think that catches some of the kids, but again, not enough.  Plus, what are the kids who already have it doing?  Twiddling their thumbs (obviously I don't have them sitting there twiddling their thumbs, they are most often helping other students).  But is that the best use of their time?  For some kids, maybe it is.  They thrive on being able to help others.  For others, perhaps not.  Their time might be better spent moving on.

So back to the topic...mastery teaching.  I would LOVE to have the freedom to let kids truly learn at their own pace.  I would REALLY LOVE it if my students took ownership of their learning.  Take the assessment when they are ready, when they truly have mastered the content. 

I brought this up to my principal, and I think I might have him on board with it for next year.  However, that makes me very, very, very nervous for several reasons.

Reason #1:  What if a student doesn't get through it all (all meaning the content)?
Reason #2:  What if a child lacks self discipline and doesn't do anything all year?
Reason #3:  What if a student gets through everything with a month left?

And what about these potential issues:
Issue #1:  How in the world do you keep track of where every student is at in the curriculum?
Issue #2:  Holy cow!  I could see having to have 5 different sets of materials ready for each day.
Issue #3:  Will I now need to make quizzes for each lesson objective to determine if the students are ready for the "assessment"?

Added bonus:
Bonus #1:  With the flipped class, assuming I use the same videos, I should be able to meet each kid at their level/content area.


  1. Hi Delia,

    I have incorporated Mastery Learning and Self-Pacing in my classroom as I feel they go hand in hand. It gives all of my learners something useful to do and ensures that by the time they are ready to take their summative assessment that they are ready. Here are my answers to your questions.

    1. I have never had a student not get through all of the content in the Flipped model. Although if a student didn't I would force them to attend my extra help sessions in the morning to get them caught up.

    2. You won't let kids do nothing all year. I give students a test deadline that gives them enough time to learn the material. If they need additional time we have a conversation to discuss what is happening and usually I let them take longer. As a teacher we continuously are monitoring and assessing our students, I don't see a student not doing anything. If they lack self-discipline the Flipped Classroom is a great way for them to work on those skills, skills that are probably more important than anything we can teach in math class.

    3. I have had students finish my course early. I gave them the option to do any re-tests they wanted to or prepare for their final exam. I have also offered, although nobody has taken me up on it, the opportunity to start completing curriculum from the next grade and even give them credit for it. My Principal approved!

    1. Keep track of students is not that hard. I have my entire class to move around and see what my students are up to. I also use Moodle for my assessments which gives me a snap shot of who is behind.

    2. I have my material printed and at the back of the class ready to go, videos are on youtube. Its possible!

    3. Yes, I have created a Moodle test databank and it makes it easy for me to generate unique quizzes as many times as I need for my students.

    I hope this helps a bit. Let me know if you have any questions. All the best.


    1. Thanks so much! This helps a lot. I am attempting some mastery/pacing on this last unit & it's going pretty smooth so far...Now I just need to wrap my head around how to make it work next year!

  2. that makes me think - what about cheating. Students taking a test, then telling their friends who haven't taken it already the answers, You have more than one test obviously, but then that could get complicated.