Mastery is without a doubt the new buzzword in education, but what is it exactly?

The DfE has defined Mastery as ‘How a child can apply much of the curriculum as a whole in more complex and in-depth, cross-objective, multi-modal methods’. In simpler terms, previously attainment was measured by how much a child had learned. Assessments are now being designed to measure what parts of the curriculum the child has learned along with the depth to which they can use and apply their knowledge of the objectives. In essence, the DfE are now looking for pupils to apply their learning skilfully.

What does mastery look like?

Two pupils may have achieved the exact same age related objectives, but one may be able to use and apply their learning. In which case, they will score differently in the new style testing.

For example, if a child is taught to write a letter and they learn how to write a letter, they have achieved this objective. If a week later they are asked to apply what they learned by writing a letter of complaint to complain about their favourite TV being dropped and they write a very similar letter using the same structure, similar vocabulary and shows no visible signs of them altering their writing to suit the purpose of the letter, they have not shown that they have achieved the objective, but not mastered it. In contrast, a pupil who can write a complaint letter with a slightly different structure, vocabulary suited to the topic and purpose of the letter and visible efforts to include a range of learning concepts across the year is combining what they have learnt in creative ways has ‘mastered’ the objective.

This change comes in light of the changes made to the end of Key Stage 1 and 2 assessments. From 2016, tests will be designed to not include questions of objectives beyond the year group; therefore the DfE is expecting higher attaining pupils to demonstrate their abilities and understanding by applying what they know in more complex ways.

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