Our outdated educational system falls woefully short when it comes to facilitating genuine learning and understanding. The widely-practiced assembly-line approach to education means that many students must complete rote curriculum modules that have little impact on overall thought development.
In contrast, students in a mastery-based educational setting must demonstrate understanding of a concept in order to progress. So why hasn’t this style of learning been adopted on a broad scale? It is not because it is a flawed concept.
This approach, first introduced nearly a century ago, aligns more closely with the brain's preferred mode of learning and provides a better mechanism to ensure that students are challenged and successful in the classroom. Studies have shown that in schools instituting a more intuitive, customized education plan, students develop positive feelings about learning and accept more responsibility for their education. In its early days, this type of learning was abandoned because of two things: entrenched, factory-like education practices and high implementation costs.
The first barrier has been diminished in part by a shift in culture. We have realized that our means of measuring students’ learning are inadequate, and our desire to improve the educational practices has helped loosen the hold of our engrained system.
The second barrier, cost, has also shrunk. We have reduced the expenses that were a barrier to instituting progress-based learning by replacing printed workbooks and paper tracking systems with online resources and intuitive software platforms.
The linchpin to success in understanding-based learning is an ability to monitor progress and make prescriptive interventions in real time. In modern classrooms, cloud and mobile technology are the missing links to enabling teachers, students and parents to observe and collaborate on these vital learning outcomes. We have seen the incredible things this technology has achieved in the workplace, leading to streamlined collaboration and increased productivity. It is time to implement these proven strategies in schools to build our educational system around how our students learn, rather than continuing to force students to conform to an outdated curriculum style.