The common traditional grading system being used is gradually failing to continue due to the disparities it causes among students making most people prefer mastery learning over it. This makes mastery grading, which is a new system, to be considered healthy even though concerns are being raised by traditionalists about how standards are lowered in schools as children progress with their education. The doubt now is likely to arise from the fact that changes are being hurried since the current system is disadvantageous to students from a different race and those from households with low income.
The traditional system puts much emphasis on deadlines, and its grades are based on how students perform outside class, causing disparities since reinforcement is based on resources and income.
The mastery-based and specifications grading methods are similar, and there are many writings about them in academia. However, schools chose to stick to the traditional system, which depends on students’ compliance such that they have to behave in class, complete homework, answer test questions correctly, and meet deadlines. Schools use it as a representation of learning instead of measuring the learning itself. This system has been a disservice to learners with no regard to whether they struggle or are gifted academically. The outdated system rewards students when they grub grades and makes them feel like failures when conditions at home do not allow them to meet the rigid deadline given by the instructor.
It would be better if there was a valid reason for rigid deadlines. Following arbitrary rules, which are sometimes biased, does not result in better learning. Schools should focus on evaluating the skills and knowledge acquired by learning together with their thinking capacity. Deadlines cause stress and anxiety in students and may make them less creative since their only focus is on meeting the deadline (Zimmerman, 2020). The modern system of education has some elements that help in prioritizing learning over obtaining grades.
Students getting a genuine grade on a first test or improving on a second one due to learning from their mistakes should not be a point of concern. Important skills gained in class can be best seen when students can redo a test several times. This is so that one can know whether they have grasped concepts of critical thinking and research as expressed in persuasive and well-organized sentences. Their willingness to keep trying until they have proficiency in a particular skill is something worth celebrating, while the traditional grading system penalizes them for their multiple efforts.
The mastery grading system sounds vague, and education professionals have pointed out that it is hard to implement in some ways. In this method, students are given specific information concerning their progress and what to do for improvement rather than receiving a grade or comment when they fail to meet several deadlines. More responsibility for learning is thus transferred to the student. Learners are given the time and flexibility needed to focus on learning instead of achieving grades. The system, therefore, encourages student agency where learners adopt a growth mindset. They stop putting much emphasis on grades and spend time improving their learning depending on the rubric given to them as a standard. As a result, students become more active and engaged in achieving success and can attain dexterity.
This model has already been adopted in some states like Maine in its public schools (Cooper, 2020). They have experienced a tremendous improvement in their students’ scores. This is so since the method is project-based, allowing students to demonstrate their skills in ways that fit their interests and learning styles. Authentic learning is, thus, promoted, and teachers guide learners throughout their personalized learning journey using digital resources for flexibility and transparency.
The concept of mastery grading starts with Benjamin Bloom, who claimed that students could perform at higher levels when given the right conditions. When remote learning was implemented, it familiarized learners with methods of using technology to learn. As the Times Editorial Board showed in a recent post, schools shifting to the mastery model encourage teachers to allow children to redo tests and base grades on what was learned. Teachers need to be trained and given time to understand, embrace, and start using these practices to instruct students and track progress.
Mastery-based learning becomes successful when learners drive their learning instead of having rigid deadlines since taking ownership enables them to have a greater understanding of how and why they learn. Students receive guidance from teachers on how to develop solid skills such as time management for managing their digital environment and tracking progress. Guidance enables them to manage their work effectively and obtain key functioning skills to avoid frustration during the learning process and ensure success. This model of learning makes students think about their progress which acts as an encouragement for improving their skills as much. If done right, this method can revive classrooms and grant learners a sense of control over their academic destinies.
Cooper, A. A. (2020). Techniques grading: Mastery grading for proofs courses. Primus, 30(8-10), 1071-1086. Web.
Times Editorial Board (2021). How can kids learn without homework and rigid deadlines? Quite well, it turns out. Los Angeles Times. Web.
Zimmerman, J. K. (2020). Implementing standards-based grading in large courses across multiple sections. Primus, 30(8-10), 1040-1053. Web.