What is Mastery Learning?

What is Mastery Learning?
You may have heard the phrase Mastery Learning being used more frequently in relation to learning and education recently but what exactly does it mean?

An intriguing term, Mastery is actually quite a simple concept that relies on teaching children about a particular topic one section at a time and not moving on to the next section until the child has fully grasped it. In a classroom setting, all children are taught the same thing in the same way with increasingly more difficult problems being solved to ensure that the children have a deep understanding of the topic before they move on. Each subject matter is broken up into individual pieces that have to be understood and this is usually demonstrated by the child receiving a pre-determined percentage on a test before they can move on from that subject matter.

Inspired by techniques from Asian countries such as China and Singapore, Mastery is not a new teaching and learning technique by any means. However, its recent introduction into everyday learning at UK schools means that we’ll be hearing more about this style of learning in the near future. In fact, the method is so popular that the government has announced that it is providing £41 million of funding over the next four years to help schools adopt a Mastery approach to teaching maths.

The technique is in contrast to more traditional learning styles where pupils are expected to understand a particular concept within a certain amount of time, before automatically moving on to the next concept whether they fully comprehend it or not. For example, when learning times tables in maths, the class may work on this topic for two months before moving on regardless of the children’s individual progress. Mastery works in a way that means each child develops a definitive understanding of a topic such as times tables before they are required to move on to the next topic, and those who don’t catch on as quickly will receive homework, group work, support and additional tuition to help them along the way. This approach not only helps each student’s understanding of the topic, but it has also been proven to be a much more enjoyable form of learning for the student.

As far as the effectiveness of Mastery goes, only time will tell but, for now, this technique seems to be one that reflects both common sense and really good, intuitive teaching and, with that combination, you can’t go far wrong.


By Laura Caldwell

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