Mastery – Top tips

Intrigued by Mastery? Read on...

As a long-serving, some may say long-suffering teacher, I have seen many educational theories, innovations, new practices and buzz words come and go. The latest idea, or buzzword, is ‘Mastery.’ As a Maths coordinator, I was introduced to Mastery teaching via the Singapore Method.

The Mathematics Mastery programme is a whole-school approach to teaching mathematics that aims to raise attainment for all pupils and close the attainment gap between pupils from low-income families and their peers. The programme aims to deepen pupils’ conceptual understanding of key mathematical concepts. Compared to traditional curricula, fewer topics are covered in more depth and greater emphasis is placed on problem-solving and on encouraging mathematical thinking. 

Education Endowment Foundation

I was, and am intrigued by Mastery. Lots of the ideas and theories make sense to me so I embarked upon some research of my own. This consisted of lots of reading, attending training, some observations of mastery in practice and discussions with fellow professionals both locally and further afield.

My next step was to adapt the Mastery approach to suit both my teaching style and the needs of my class and pupils in our school.  Below are some of the tips and techniques I am using to teach using a mastery approach in my own class and those shared with the teachers in our school.

Pre-teaching

As differentiation doesn’t take a high profile in Mastery it is essential to ensure that the pupils who may struggle with the initial input of a lesson are pre-taught to enable them to keep up with the pace of the lesson itself. I have found this an invaluable method as the pupils then go into the lesson itself bristling with confidence knowing they can join in from the outset. They are on an even footing with the rest of the class. Pre-teaching generally takes place either the day before or ideally just before the lesson. This may be during registration or assembly. It should only take about 20 minutes.

Immediate feedback

An absolutely essential element of any teaching should be immediate feedback. If a pupil has got it wrong, made a mistake or totally misunderstood, to find out the next day is too late. The moment has passed. With immediate feedback, the errors, mistakes, misconceptions are ironed out immediately allowing learning to take place. In my class, immediate feedback takes place during the lesson. How??

Challenge Activities

When a piece of work has been completed pupils in my class collect their challenge activity cards and choose, independently, a challenge to complete. They have 8 challenges in maths and 10 in English. The challenges are carefully chosen to allow them to ‘master’ key skills. In maths, this includes number bonds, times tables and the four operations. In English, they are SPAG related. Whilst they complete challenges I am free to give immediate feedback to groups or individuals. It takes some time to set up and to put the rules and routines into place but it works like a dream.

Purple Perfectors

These are essential to the success of immediate feedback. When a pupil makes a mistake they immediately correct it using a purple pen. This is then brought back to me to show they have understood my feedback. The children love it because they get to write in purple pen, they see it as a positive not a negative.

I also facilitate ‘conceptual understanding’ by the use of concrete resources to allow pupils to explore and play around with what they and learning. This takes place during most lessons as part of maths challenges but essentially when introducing a new concept.

As you can see I have adapted the mastery approach to suit me and passionately believe that this is an essential part of being a professional. We cannot take every new initiative on board verbatim but what we can do is apply our professional judgement, make our own decisions based upon the knowledge we have of the pupils we teach every day.

I hope you find some of my ideas helpful maybe even inspiring! Let me know what you think.


This is a re-blog post originally posted by Diane Kenny and published with kind permission.

The original post can be found here.

Featured Image source: Via cucchiaio on Flickr, under (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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The Editorial Account of UKEdChat, managed by editor-in-chief Colin Hill, with support from Martin Burrett from the UKEd Magazine. Pedagogy, Resources, Community.

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