Focusing on Mastery Part 1: Planning for Mastery

Focusing on Mastery

Planning for Mastery

Like most teachers, teachers in the schools NCUST has studied planned. However, their planning was not focused simply on complying with a principal’s mandate for a plan. They were not planning merely to ensure compliance with a district pacing chart. Instead, we found teachers who planned strategically how they would lead the specific students in their classrooms to master specific concepts and skills. The goal of planning was not coverage. Instead, the goal was student mastery. Teachers planned with their students in mind. Teachers considered, “What do my students need to see, do, hear, touch, and experience in order to master this important concept?” Teachers considered the prior knowledge, backgrounds, and interests of their students. They considered the vocabulary students might have previously mastered and the vocabulary students were less likely to know well. They considered how textbooks and workbooks might help them guide their students toward mastery, but they also considered where published materials might fall short and other teaching aids, metaphors, manipulatives, technology, or experiences might help their students achieve mastery of the important academic concepts and skills they sought to teach.

Wiggins and McTighe (2005) encourage educators to focus less on “covering” content and more on planning lessons that lead students to master important content. In the award-winning schools NCUST has studied, we consistently found lessons that were planned to lead students to mastery.

What It Is

Planning with a focus on increasing the likelihood students will understand the specific concept/skill by the end of the lesson

Example: The teacher plans three or four different activities that are likely to help her students understand the concept she wants them to learn. The teacher anticipates what students will need to know in order to make sense of the concept. The teacher plans questions she might pose or tasks she might design that would help her determine if students are progressing appropriately toward mastery. Also, in planning, the teacher anticipates possible inaccurate answers and possible misconceptions. She deliberately plans activities, examples, and illustrations that will help avoid misconceptions and maximize the likelihood that all students will achieve mastery.

What It Isn’t

Planning with a focus on covering the pages in the text, following the manual, or completing available worksheet pages

Example: The teacher plans by following the outline of the teacher’s manual and adds a few worksheets that are somewhat related to the objective.

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