Throughout the country, many schools and states are having conversations about mastery based learning. I have had the great fortune to listen to colleague and national expert on the topic Tom Guskey explain mastery learning on multiple occasions. The concept is simple; rather than moving through material after a predetermined amount of time, students move through as they master the content. Mastery learning is something most educators would agree makes sense, but the conversations about implementation get much more difficult for some. My post isn’t intended to address the conversation around mastery based learning with students, but rather as a unique approach to professional development around technology integration. My thoughts are outlined below as “what ifs”:
- rather than requiring all teachers to attend professional development, those who had mastered the content didn’t need to sit through the training?
- school leaders and integration coaches developed assessments for teachers to demonstrate their understanding prior to PD sessions?
- those teachers who needed extra support and help got it, and those who didn’t need the extra support weren’t forced to sit through PD about a topic they had already mastered?
My thought is that if schools implemented this type of PD, they would actually get MORE out of PD with teachers. Those teachers who needed more help would receive training in a smaller group that was tailored to their needs. The other teachers would be more than pleased to demonstrate their mastery prior to attending PD if it meant that PD time truly became their time.
“Day of Discovery”
This model isn’t unique, and some of your schools may already be implementing such a program. During my tech-savvy superintendent interviews that are archived on blog talk radio, one of the superintendents discussed how he was implementing a similar program with his school administrators. After clearly identifying the technology skills he wanted his administrative team to master, he created an assessment aligned with those skills. Those administrators who didn’t master the skills on the initial assessment were given extra support until they mastered the skills. It wasn’t punishment, and eventually the ENTIRE team mastered the skills that had been identified as important for the district. There will certainly be some challenges to implementing this system, but it should pay dividends in the long run! It would move your PD away from the “time=learning” mentality in which one size fits all.