Diagnostic Teaching, Mastery, Numeracy

Mastery Approach to Teaching and Learning

Kiera McDonnell – Lead Practitioner for Maths

What is Mastery?

More traditional teaching methods assign a set amount of time for coverage of certain topics. However, over the past decade, theory has made a notable move away from teaching to a time constraint, to varying the time to ensure that pupils are confident and proficient in the outcomes and objectives before moving on to new content. To summarise, there is a far greater emphasis upon depth of understanding rather than a thin breadth of understanding.

The Mastery approach, first proposed by Benjamin Bloom in 1968, considers the critical links that pupils must make in their learning and that without certain concepts and processes true understanding is not possible. It would be unrealistic to think that a student could understand division without a deep understanding of multiplication. If the bedrock of understanding is not secure, any additional content or learning will not be either.

blur book stack books bookshelves
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Mastery is less effective if high prior attaining students are accelerated through the curriculum, thus widening the attainment gap. Stretch and challenge are, instead, achieved through deep questioning, both by the teacher and by the student, and a demand for greater precision. In the same way, support is provided through strategies such as varied and multiple representations. Promoting a growth mindset mentality, the Mastery approach is built upon the belief that all students can reach a desired outcome with the right support.

How effective is it?

Due to the targeted and individualised nature of this teaching and learning approach, research clearly shows that Mastery has a very positive effect on student learning. Studies also show that, not only has there been a positive impact on attainment but that student enjoyment, confidence and sense of achievement is also augmented; this student confidence and enjoyment is also transferred to other school learning. The impact of Mastery as a Teaching and Learning strategy has also been found to be particularly effective when pupils work collaboratively, either in pairs or small groups. Learning from peers and supporting classmates in their learning not only improves cognitive understanding but, again, can also increase overall enjoyment. Finally, research evidence also shows that the process yields improvements in students’ confidence in learning situations, school attendance rates, involvement in class sessions and attitudes toward learning.

What are the implications for day-to-day practice?

Moving towards a more Mastery based approach in your classroom clearly requires planning. The need for continual, meaningful in-class feedback in order to effectively respond to the particular needs of your pupils is key. The provision of additional and alternative representation and models, alongside deep questions and problem-solving tasks that challenge students’ understanding, all require rigorous and careful planning. However, through implementing these strategies and introducing the idea of Mastery to your students you have the potential to instil in them the belief that they are capable of learning, and learning well, which, in turn will support them in their journey to reaching their full potential at school and beyond.

 

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Reflection

Reasons to be Cheerful?

Duncan Bowyer – Associate Senior Leader and Lead Practitioner

If you are anything like me the New Year can start with many a good intention – New Year resolutions being one of them! How long will they last I wonder? A few days, a few weeks? I am sure there are many of you reading this who are much better at sticking to a resolution than I (my new gym bag still lies in the hall unused!).  

January is a time for reflection; the perfect opportunity to remind ourselves of why we teach.

joy painting brush
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Given the pressures that we face in our working lives it is sometimes challenging to remember why we do the job that we do…but for many of us the answer is simple – it is because of the students. We do this job because we want young people to have all the opportunities they deserve! We want our colleagues to get the opportunities that they deserve!

The reality is that this profession has a huge number of challenges;  larger class sizes, diminishing budgets, colleagues being asked to take on extra responsibilities without extra money or time being able to be offered to them. For many of us this time of year means the mocks and trying to fit in the marking of these exams in an already packed schedule.

It may sound ‘PollyAnnaesque’ but it is at these times of pressure when we can see the reasons why we went into this profession in the first place. Many years after training I can still hear my PGCE Tutor’s voice resounding in my mind highlighting  the joys that we have in our jobs everyday.

So, remembering the words of that tutor here are some little reminders of what she always said can bring us joy…

  1. Our students: Of course this had to be number one. Seeing how students progress, grow and mature is the main reason why we come in everyday. If we know that a student is able to have much better life choices thanks to the efforts of a school then surely that is enough to help spur us on when the going gets tough.
  2. Our colleagues, our family at school: In times of stress we see how a school can band together, can protect, support and develop staff. Aside from the students it is the staff in all aspects of school life who are the beating heart and soul of our education system. Like many of you I have lifelong friends who I have met in school. Where else can you soak up the years of wisdom and experience that we have in many staff rooms up and down the country?
  3. Our subject: We all picked our subject for a reason – in what other job are we lucky enough to spend all day talking about the one thing we have a real love for? I will never forget as a student seeing Mrs Hudson crawling along the floor in our English lesson pretending to be the monster from Beowulf, or Miss Hardy painting numbers onto the piano to help us all learn our scales more effectively. In what other job can we escape into the wonderful world of Science, see the beauty of Maths, or help students communicate with each other in melodic and exciting different languages?
  4. Our resilience: We can take anything that gets thrown at us! We can remain calm, focused and support those students and colleagues who at times are struggling. This gives us a massive advantage in life – dealing with the education of hundreds of young people can prepare us to take on the world!
  5. Our joy: A recent study highlighted that those who work in a school laugh – on average – 20% more a day than those who work in an office! That has to make us feel good.

Finally – we are human, we have days where we are stroppy and stressed. However, I am sure that if we think about some of the above reasons to be cheerful then it will make scraping the ice off of the car first thing on a cold winter’s morning that more bearable.