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Key Elements of Mastery-Based Lesson Plans

Mastery-based learning system helps educators encourage students to take productive risks that demonstrate their competencies. Other benefits of the system include improved decision-making, more insight, encouraging self-reflection, and ensuring progress.

However, to achieve results, some key elements of mastery-based lessons must be adhered to.

Understanding the Key Shifts 

Before implementing the mastery-based system, learning and understanding the objective is vital for its success. What do you want the students to learn? 

The objectives for mastery-based lessons should be specific, clear, and demonstrable. Educators must understand the objectives, and the students must demonstrate their mastery.

The key shifts from the traditional teaching methods to the more advanced and effective mastery-based system include:

  • Having modular and flexible schedules
  • Structuring time according to competency-based learning
  • Allowing for personalized learning

Defining Mastery, then Building Policies Around it 

“Mastery” can mean different things depending on the context and field. For some, the term means the students’ ability to grasp at least 80% of what is being taught; others define it as “advanced,” while the rest do not have a clear definition. There is a need for more clarity and thoughtfulness when defining mastery. From there, you can focus on building your policies around it.

You can define mastery using rubrics, scoring rules, calibration protocols, or a rating system. Anything that allows proper and consistent measuring can be of help. Generally, you have to answer the following questions:

  • Mastery of what?
    • At what performance level?
    • On what types of assignments?
    • How many times?

Applying the 80/20 Rule 

The Pareto principle states that, for many events, roughly about 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. This principle emphasizes focusing your efforts on the 20% likely to generate the other 80%. Similarly, you can use the rule to ensure the maximum effectiveness of your mastery-based lessons.

Usually, you develop mastery using the 80/20 rule through practice. As soon as you introduce a student to a new concept, allow them to practice that skill. Focus on the practicing stage because that is where the learners develop a true understanding of the idea.

Effective Application of the Material 

Productive practice goes hand in hand with applied learning. This can be achieved through readings, worksheets, discussions, labs, asking questions, and other similar activities. As the lessons advance, expose the learners to more challenging tasks, bringing them closer to mastery.

Allow for Collaborations 

Collaboration is another aspect that brings out effective practice and mastery. Create an environment that allows students to work together, ask questions, and challenge each other. The aim is to provide a students’ with a centered learning environment, with the teachers only serving as guides.

Conduct Revisions 

After an assessment, assignment, or exam, revision is needed. Interestingly, many students do not like this; you can expect pushback, which is good. Rather than students turning their assignments in and never seeing them again, focus on giving them feedback and indicating the areas they need to improve. Constant revisions help learners familiarize themselves with the concepts passed across, which eventually aids in their mastering.

Having a Clear Process to Assess Mastery 

Once you have developed a plan of how your students will demonstrate mastery, you must develop proper assessment methods.


As much as the student’s mastery might be self-evident, teachers need to evaluate their work and ascertain that they have mastered the concepts. You might use alternative learning methods for learners who have difficulties grasping and attaining the objectives.


Mastery-based lessons involve every student, every learning objective, and every teacher. The idea is to have students who exhibit mastery of concepts instead of those who simply take tests and move to the next level. On the other hand, the teacher’s work must be managed to make it easy to assess students without straining. Everyone involved must be at their optimum levels for effective mastery-based learning results.

Automatic Grading 

Automatic grading helps teachers save significant time. Considering the intensity of mastery-based educational systems, this grading method gives educators more time to focus on helping the students learn. Aside from that, it eliminates the possibility of teacher judgment when determining whether students have actually mastered the concepts.

The Key Takeaway

There is no doubt that mastery-based lessons effectively cultivate well-educated learners. It provides students with more insights, encourages them to keep going, and makes them more involved in their success. However, this can only be so if the key elements of mastery-based lesson plans are adhered to.

Written by Mary Joseph
Education World Contributor
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