Teaching for Mastery by Mark McCourt.
John Catt Educational Ltd. 2019
- First Published: 8 Jul 2019
- ISBN: 9781912906185
Teaching for Mastery is a masterclass in how to deliver EdResearch, give a convincing argument and layout instructions in an easy to digest, yet authoritative voice.
You could read other books on the topic but you’d have to read quite a few to get the same understanding as you would by reading McCourt’s brilliant book.
Yeah, it’s that good!
McCourt is to the mastery approach what Yoda is to the Jedi….A master!
Who is Mark McCourt?
Mark McCourt is the UK’s leading expert on teaching for mastery and has trained thousands of schools across the globe how to implement mastery models. Mark is first and foremost a Maths teacher, having taught students at every age from age three up to PhD and has done virtually every role there is to do in education; from school leader to school inspector to teacher-trainer.
Most recently he founded La Salle Education in 2013, where he aims to support schools around the world and in 2015 he launched Complete Mathematics, a rapidly growing (and now largest) professional learning network of Maths teachers.
You can find Mark on Twitter: @EmathsUK
Yes, but is the book any good?
What is Teaching for Mastery?
The mastery model is based on the belief that all students, not just the more gifted, can learn well and be successful. It was initially formulated by Carleton W. Washburne but has since been refined and improved by the likes of John B. Carroll, Benjamin S. Bloom and Thomas R. Gusky not to mention supported by decades of cognitive science research.
It isn’t a new pedagogical fad, it’s been around since the early 20th century and unlike other pedagogy, the mastery model hasn’t been discredited, it has grown in its support. In essence, it is, as McCourt puts it, “a responsive cycle of teaching”, where no child is left behind and all will succeed.
In Teaching for Mastery, McCourt takes you on Bilbo Baggins-esq journey! (sadly there are no dragons or magic rings)
Mastery Based Learning.
Part one starts with the initial development of the model and how it evolved, culminating in the core elements of the mastery model.
- Diagnostic pre-assessment with pre-teaching.
- High-quality, group-based initial instruction.
- Progress monitoring through regular formative assessment.
- High-quality corrective instruction.
- Second, parallel formative assessments.
- Enrichment or extension activities.
In part two, McCourt deals succinctly with the implementation of the mastery model. I say succinctly because he deals with this section in ten pages, but he needs no more.
McCourt’s writing seems to break physics; it feels like there is more information in this section than should fit on ten pages. Incredible writing!
Cognitive Science and Teaching for Mastery.
Part three is a deep dive into modern cognitive science and its support of the teaching for mastery approach to learning. Again McCourt’s no-nonsense writing, which, having never met him, I assume is a mirror image of his actual voice, speaks volumes. It is extremely detailed yet very easy to read and hugely beneficial for any teacher or school leader.
The largest section of the book, a mathematic diversion, is part four. Here McCourt returns to his home turf. Using his own subject, maths, he gives a vast amount of examples of how mastery can be used.
To non-maths teachers, this idea may seem a little inaccessible. However, the explanations and diagrams he uses again make it effective for any teacher (caveat, this section does require a little more concentration if you are not a maths teacher).
The last main section, Phasing Learning, is, in my opinion, the best. It is McCourt’s own proposition on how mastery can be implemented. In his words, he sees it as “a logical conclusion of a synthesis of well-thought-through, tried, tested and observed approaches and outcomes carried out and measured by educators over many, many years“.
Teaching for mastery is in itself, a masterpiece.
Within its 320 pages, McCourt lays out a blueprint for a complete model of schooling, one that allows all students to master any topic, regardless of any perceived “ability”.
Whether or not you subscribe to the mastery approach or not, you will gain a huge amount from this book. It is, in my opinion, essential reading for any educator or anyone interested in learning.
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