Blended Learning without Mastery Learning: The Failure of A New Initiative Without Proper Scaffolding

Rae HughartBlog, Class Management, Competency Based Learning, Innovation, Lesson Planning, Mastery Learning, Self-Paced Learning

Blended Learning without Mastery Learning

Post Highlights

  • Blended Learning is an idea and new district initiative taking over many areas around the country.
  • Blended learning is any formal education program in which a student learns, at least in part, through online mediums.
  • A mastery learning classroom is a commitment to students’ ability to master content before moving on to more challenging information.
  • It is possible to have a Mastery Learning classroom without it being blended.
  • Attempting a Blended Learning classroom without Mastery Learning can be a disservice to your students.

Have you ever experienced the implementation of a new initiative that seems to skip a piece of the process? For example, you roll out Standards-Based Grading without first exploring the standards? Or you implement Universal Design for Learning without any discussion of what differentiation actually looks like?

Blended Learning is an idea and new district initiative taking over many areas around the country, but our determination to dive into this new way to facilitate student learning can actually result in poor instruction. How can we fill the gaps to ensure we do not fall into the same pit as hundreds of other educators?

Well that’s easy! You need to understand ONE piece before making your shift: Mastery Learning.

Let’s start by making sure we are all on the same page using similar vocabulary.

BLENDED LEARNING

A blended learning classroom utilizes face-to-face and online instruction by allowing students to work through checklists – often called “Playlists” – to complete instructional opportunities.

But, what’s the biggest difference between a traditional classroom with student choice and a blended learning classroom? The option for students to essentially be anywhere in the world while doing it.

Blended learning is any formal education program in which a student learns, at least in part, through online mediums and includes some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace. Often online learning extends to other types of control outside of just pausing a video. For example, students may be able to choose the time at which they do their online learning, or the path they want to take to learn specific concept.

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MASTERY LEARNING

A mastery learning classroom is a commitment to students’ ability to master content before moving on to more challenging information. A classroom utilizing this concept meets the students where they are, developmentally, and provides them with the support necessary to build a concrete base of knowledge and scaffold content from there.

Essentially, it’s the permission every student needs to learn and grow at their own pace, while getting exactly what they need at exactly the time they need it. This structure often results in a student-focused and student-driven classroom with differentiation and personalization as the key pillars of conversation.

While it is possible to have a Mastery Learning classroom without the flexibility of space a Blended Learning classroom provides – the reverse is not possible. A German Shepard is a dog, but not all dogs are German Shepherds – right?

You are doing a disservice to your students if you are aiming to incorporate Blended Learning into your classroom before identifying the need and structure Mastery Learning provides teachers and students.

I often challenge teachers to take risks. “You’re not hurting students”(often said to me early in my career by one of my favorite mentors) gives us the “go ahead” to take a risk and try something new. However, you may be at risk of losing touch with your students success and struggling to build effective content facilitation, if you implement progressive initiatives without the proper support for your students.

So, what’s the solution?

Should you drop all the work you’ve been doing and be concerned your choices have negatively affected your students growth?

No way!

Lets simply make it a priority to set up a learning space dedicated to utilizing mastery learning before we further explore opportunities for students to gain instruction. Then, go change the world!


About Rae Hughart

Rae Hughart is a Middle Level Math and Writing Educator in Illinois and the Director of Training and Development for Progressive Mastery Learning, LLC. In 2017, Rae was honored with the Illinois State University Outstanding Young Alumni Award – inducting her into the University Hall of Fame.

 

Photo by Patricia Prudente on Unsplash