11 April 2022 - Education

Why Mastery Matters

Oxford English DictionaryMastery (of something): great knowledge about or understanding of a particular thing

Learning and mastering the basics of any discipline is crucial to being able to refine and develop an advanced skill set. There are many different parts of traditional education, particularly early education, which are based on the requirements for students to master the first step or skill set before they can move on to the next. Learning the alphabet, basic mathematics, reading, writing; all of these skills are taught in this way and it’s only after we advance that mastery based learning starts to fall away. The mastery learning method is a great approach for children who want to learn how to use programming languages. This is because it gives them the schema and analysis skills to really understand the code at more advanced levels.

The Benefits of the Mastery Approach

Mastery-based learning teaches persistence and patience, but also allows children to gain the real understanding required for lateral and creative thinking. There are some wider benefits for their future, too!

Providing a Solid Foundation for Progress

One of the most potent benefits of the mastery approach to coding is the way in which it builds a strong foundation for progress. The ability to use language, mathematics, artistic tools, or even the human body to be creative and push the limits of capability requires solid, foundational knowledge and understanding.

Increased Retention of Core Understanding

Young children in particular are built to learn and learn quickly. At this stage of life their brains are like sponges, hungry for knowledge. Because of this it can be hard to get them to slow down and really grasp what they are learning, especially once they reach school age. Many forms of traditional education create a “cram, pass, discard” approach to learning in children whereby the learn as much as possible to pass a test and quickly forget it afterwards (because it was shoved into their short-term memory). Mastery-based learning functions on a retention basis and favours slowed progress for long-term gain.

ForbesStudents who were taught with a combination of mastery learning and one-on-one mentoring outperformed 98% of the students who were trained in the classroom alone.

Ironically, despite seeming to slow progress the mastery-based approach has been shown to accelerate the learning process over all. The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) has found that a mastery based approach to STEM subjects across an average school year can be as effective as an additional 6 months of learning! For non-STEM subjects this benefit is still present at half rate (an additional 3 months of learning).

The Downsides of Mastery-Based Learning

There are some potential downsides to a mastery-based approach, and they mostly concern the kind of learning a child prefers. Firstly, not all children find the mastery-based approach beneficial and it can certainly be hard to implement in traditional education because of curriculum pressures. Secondly, children who find it hard to stay motivated when undertaking repetitive learning may find it difficult to remain engaged with mastery learning processes. These issues can be addressed, however, by providing a range of learning tools and approaches, e.g. visual, practical, and group learning. In the end, it’s about finding a solution for each child.

Why We Use the Mastery Approach Matters for Children Learning to Code

At Abiliti, we believe mastery based learning is ideal for children who want to start coding. If your children master the basics of coding languages like Java, Python, or Lua they will be able to push their limits and create new and exciting things. Children are already creative powerhouses; mastery-based learning gives them the tools they need to bring their creativity into the world and make something from it. This can encourage further learning, and if it does they will have a good foundation for progress. Likewise, when your children are taught code with a mastery-based approach they will retain and understand the basics rather than forgetting them as they progress to the next level. In short, we use the mastery approach because we believe it will set your child up for future success and impart transferable skills such as collaboration and leadership. The mix of individual and group tasks that we provide is designed to give children a rounded and stimulating educational experience that instils and nurtures a love of code and a hunger for learning.

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