We are embracing a ‘mastery model’ of teaching and learning in the Middle Years. This means that students’ progress is mapped against the New Zealand Curriculum subject specific ‘achievement objectives’. This changes the question from “What grade did I get?” on an assessment to “How far am I along my learning journey”. It is Learner Agency at its best. It is holistic learning that will better prepare students for their senior education years as they progress along each NZ curriculum standard.
Mastery-based grading is an innovative system for assessing learners that promotes deeper learning. The idea behind this fresh grading concept is to structure your courses in a way that allows learners the time and flexibility to focus on mastering a standard rather than achieving a certain number or letter grade.
Mastery-based grading encourages student agency
How many times have your learners asked what the “minimum grade” I need to is achieve to pass? This question makes teachers cringe because we know that it means their goal is to invest the least possible effort into their success.
Good news, mastery-based grading encourages learners to transition from a minimum mind-set to a growth mind-set.
One way to support learner understanding is to spend the time to create a single-point rubric for each standard. This means providing them with a rubric that explains all of the elements that learners must demonstrate to accomplish mastery and label it “meets expectations.” This makes creating a rubric for learner mastery easier and simpler to understand because any work that does not meet that criteria is considered “below expectations,” and anything that goes above and beyond what is outlined in the rubric “exceeds expectations.” To avoid confusion, make sure that your rubric only includes the elements from the standard, and not extras like “grammar” or “spelling” if that is not explicitly outlined in the standard.
The results of mastery-based grading systems
Mastery not minimum
One interesting development of mastery-based grading is that learners will stop the “minimum grade” mindset that often keeps them from developing a deeper understanding of the material, and transition into a true growth mindset. With the new system, learners will stop placing so much emphasis on the letter or number that appears on their report card, and spend their energy zoned in on ensuring they level up their learning based on the mastery rubric they receive for each standard. .
In conjunction with the single-point rubric, learners have the freedom to develop artifacts that demonstrate true mastery of the standard and even build an impressive student portfolio.
A mastery-based grading system is only successful when students are the drivers of their own learning. When students take ownership of their learning, it gives them a greater understanding of how they learn and why they learn. This means that learners take guidance from teachers on how to develop solid executive functioning skills so they can manage their digital environment and track their progress.