A Curriculum With Purpose

Mastery planning and assessment

Pedagogical research reports conclusively on the value of formative assessment – the need to provide students with precise, regular feedback on how to improve. Last year at SIS, mastery planning was introduced to ensure a precise focus upon learning objectives and success criteria. This year, we have further strengthened our assessment framework to ensure that there is progressive and ambitious challenge in long-term planning so that there is a clear narrative of assessment within half-termly units of work: assessment tasks of increasing complexity are the stepping stones to more formal and more substantial assessment activities later in the unit. After each short assessment task, students are given guidance about how to perform better in the next task. Using Assessment for Learning (AfL) routines, we are seeking to establish a culture where students habitually reflect upon their own work and consider how to improve. Our mastery curriculum breaks down the key knowledge relating to each subject area into units with clearly specified objectives which are pursued until they are achieved. Learners work through each block of content in a series of sequential steps. Students must demonstrate a high level of success on assignments that test this material. Retention of this knowledge is then assessed in future testing and the gaps which emerge are addressed. When using a mastery curriculum, teachers seek to avoid unnecessary repetition across years by regularly assessing knowledge and skills. Those students who do not meet their progress criteria targets (see below), or who do not reach their required CAT targets are provided with additional tuition, peer support, small group discussions, or homework so that they can reach the expected level. Students who demonstrate more advanced levels of knowledge or who acquire the knowledge covered within a unit more rapidly, are required to complete more challenging tasks which demand higher order thinking skills or work on similar tasks using a higher range of knowledge. This we call “Moving Beyond.”


Example of Mastery Model: Geography Field Trip – Protecting the Rainforest


This mastery model should be shared with all students in their books and be used as a self-assessment tool throughout the units. At the end of each unit there should be time for reflection between staff and student based upon progress to that model, giving opportunities to close the gap, or extension, for all.



Mastery assessment – progress criteria.

Initial thoughts on assessment for discussion between teacher and student.

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