Why class size and student mindsets are not barriers for flexible pacing | Jon Bergmann | 7 Min Read

Are some of your students way behind? Do you feel like you are holding back some students in order to accommodate those that struggle? At what point do you simply move on and hope that those students who are behind will catch up? Mix in a little pandemic teaching and now this problem is multiplied by some crazy number.  

Enter Mastery Learning where students only progress when they master the content. Since students learn at different paces, it just makes sense that we should allow them to learn at their own pace. But making that a reality, well — it seems daunting — even impossible. And if you teach six classes a day with 30 students in a class, how do you make this work? 

This article is one in a series where we will discuss how you can make mastery learning a reality. I will share how I, and thousands of other teachers, have transformed classrooms into a place where every student succeeds. In my previous articles, we learned that you don’t have to lecture to the whole class at the same time ever again. Today we are going to focus on the logistics of a flexible pace. 

You Do have to Set a Pace

First, read carefully, I didn’t say at their own pace. I said, at a flexible pace. In my experience, if I let all students move at their own pace, some students would not have a pace. They would choose to do very little and would learn nothing.

In most Mastery classrooms, the teacher sets an ideal pace. They tell students that they need to have accomplished x by time y. In my class; I give students weekly targets. They must master through, say objective 15.4 by the end of the week. If they don’t, then their grade will suffer. In most cases, this is sufficient motivation to get them to keep up. 

Instead of all the students being in the exact same place in the curriculum, they are at similar places. This is critical because there is only so much chaos that I will allow in class. This problem is exacerbated in my science classes because labs will not all be done at the same time. This means that I have a lab set up for about one week and students must complete it during that window.  

The Biggest Problem: What  to do…

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Jon Bergmann

Jon Bergmann is one of the pioneers of the Flipped Class Movement. Jon is leading the worldwide adoption of flipped learning by working with governments, schools, corporations, and education non-profits. Jon is coordinating or guiding flipped learning initiatives around the globe including China, Taiwan, Korea, Australia, Singapore, Thailand, the Middle East, Iceland, Sweden, Norway, the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, Mexico, Canada, South America, and the United States. Jon is the author of 10 books including the bestselling book: Flip Your Classroom which has been translated into 10 languages. He has been an educator since 1986. He has served as a middle and high school science teacher, the lead technology facilitator for a school district in the Chicago suburbs, as well as a consultant/public speaker. He currently is teaching science and leading staff development at Houston Christian High School.