Mastery Learning

There’s a fantastic video floating around of Khan Academy’s Sal Khan, who makes the case for mastery teaching and mastery learning. He makes a clear point. Would you choose to build a house on top of an unfinished foundation? Of course you wouldn’t. So why do we do it in education?

He explains it well. In our current educational system, we teach a subject and practice for a few weeks after which we do a test. The test might show that student A understood 75% of the material, where student B understood maybe 90%. At that point, the teacher will have identified exactly what parts of the learning material wasn’t understood by the students. However, instead of focusing on filling those gaps, the entire class moves on to the next, more advanced, subject. And this subject builds on the foundational material the class didn’t understand fully.

That’s strange. And that is why SOWISO has implemented a new mastery learning system.

Mastery Learning with SOWISO

For a long time, SOWISO students would have access to all the content at once (or whenever a teacher made it available). Scores were based on the average score over all the attempts made by a student.

But no more. We have updated our platform to support mastery learning. This means we have made the following adjustments:

  1. Students will now see their mastery score during practice.
  2. Mastering a subject means the student was able to finish a number of exercises without mistakes.
  3. Students can now easily redo individual exercises without having to run through the entire set of exercises first.
  4. We have added colors to show whether or not a student has met the mastery requirements of each specific exercise.
    1. Red denotes that the question hasn’t been answered correctly, or with more than two mistakes.
    2. Orange means that the question was answered correctly in the end, but the student made two or less mistakes along the way.
    3. Green denotes that the question was answered correctly, without mistakes.

Mastery Learning


The Benefits of Mastery Learning

This way, we keep it open when and how long students work on the material. This has a number of benefits.

First of all, students feel motivated when they can see they are mastering a subject. They take ownership of their own learning. They see a clear path and a clear goal. They want to have every box green. That’s why we use colors and text to show them how well they are doing and where they are on their personal learning path.



Students disengage when we do not fill the gaps in their knowledge. This makes sense; when we ask you to do advanced math when you haven’t mastered the fundamentals yet, you wouldn’t know where to start. Without teaching mastery, student will inevitable come across math they don’t understand because they haven’t mastered the foundation.

Mastery learning means students won’t be stuck with the idea that they can’t do math because they never had the opportunity to fill gaps. Our mastery system means that you only proceed to the next step when you’re ready, which makes that step easier and more engaging.

However, one of the most important things is that we do not punish students anymore for taking their own path through the exercises.

For example, with our old scoring system which took the average score over all the attempts, a student who wants to see the solution first and try the exercise afterwards would never be able to get a 100% score. Which is why mastery learning is a great step towards personalized online learning.

Let’s talk again soon,

Oh, and watch Sal Khan’s video. It’s truly inspirational!



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