March 12, 2021
Schools closed. Remote learning. Exhausted teachers. The pandemic has had a huge impact on schools around the world. Perhaps the biggest issue we face now and going forward is the impact of learning loss and learning gaps caused by the pandemic. According to a paper by Libby Pier and others, they reached two key conclusions about the results of the pandemic on education:
- There has been significant learning loss in both English Language Arts (ELA) and Math, with students in earlier grades most affected.
- The equity impact is severe — certain student groups, especially low-income students and English language learners (ELLs), are falling behind more compared to others.
They summarized it in the graph below:
The big question is how do we teach in light of the growing learning loss, especially with some of our most vulnerable students. Is there a way that we can reach students of a wide variety of ability levels in the same classroom? How can we catch students up? How can we work with such a wide range of comprehension and mastery?
Semi-Asynchronous Mastery Learning
In 2012 I co-wrote the book, Flip Your Classroom with Aaron Sams. In the second half of the book, we talked about how we merged Flipped Learning with Mastery Learning and dubbed it Flipped-Mastery Learning. Since that time, thousands of teachers worldwide have implemented the Flipped-Mastery model with great success. Though it has many iterations, the basics of it remain the same.
- Students move through the curriculum at a flexible pace, and at the end of each unit of study, they are assessed.
- If they have mastered the curriculum, then they can move on to the next topic.
- If not, they don’t move on. For those students who don’t demonstrate mastery, they get remediation and then retake the summative assessment. They do this until mastery.
Mastery Learning isn’t a new concept. Doctors have to pass the Board Exam, lawyers the Bar Exam, and most of us took a driver’s test. All of these are examples of mastery learning. But how can the average teacher implement this when they teach 30 students per class and six classes a day? What overwhelms most isn’t the concept of mastery; it is the logistics of implementing it on a day-by-day basis.