Journey to Excellence

Mastery Learning vs. Seat Time

School leaders may create programs that allow students to progress by demonstrating mastery in key learning standards.

The change from the traditional practice of measuring student progress in learning by the time spent in a grade or class–seat time–to the mastery learning paradigm requires that we hold students and teachers accountable for demonstrating mastery in key learning standards. This monumental change will demand widespread stakeholder support, careful development of learning standards, as well as significant educational planning and professional development prior to adoption.

The current belief that seat time represents student learning is expressed by grade levels that are one school year in length or secondary courses represented by Carnegie or semester units that are defined by time units of the annual school calendar. But recent educational research and trends suggest more appropriate measures of learning should include demonstrations of what students know and are able to do.

In order for students to demonstrate mastery in challenging subject matter, appropriate to the grade level, educators must identify key learning objectives, effective teaching strategies, multiple methods for demonstrating mastery, and a wide variety of assessment practices.

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