Mastery Learning at EFS

Elmwood Franklin School uses a “mastery learning” approach in Upper School to build students’ skills and confidence and to prepare them for the academic rigors to come. Mastery learning assures that all our students reach a level of understanding that not only builds their confidence but also gives them the foundation upon which to build future learning.

Mastery learning uses what’s known as “formative assessment.” Testing is still employed as a way to gauge students’ understanding of material or concepts presented; it’s what educators then do with that information that distinguishes formative assessment from the more traditional model. Instead of simply entering a number or letter grade to correspond to each student’s varying level of understanding and then closing the book, literally and figuratively, teachers refer to those levels to determine how instruction should progress. After all, our job as educators is to ensure that each student is learning successfully. This is what mastery learning enables.

Most of us went to schools at which time was a constant, and achievement and understanding were the variables. For example, a unit in math class might take two weeks, and at the end of those two weeks there is a test. Those who have mastered the material receive an A; those who have not receive a lower grade; and then everyone moves on. At EFS we believe that time should be the variable, while achievement and understanding are the constants. As a small school where teachers know each student and her/his learning style well, we can take the extra time to ensure mastery of whatever skill, concept, or content is being taught. The goal is to have each student achieve true understanding, and there are many ways this can be realized. Our teachers have a full arsenal of methods at their disposal to diagnose the problem and to realize this goal.

At EFS we believe that mastery learning fits our mission to prepare children for success in school and in life, and many years of our graduates excelling in the most challenging high school and college programs is clear evidence of its effectiveness.

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