Mastery Learning at Stuart Hall


"Students have mastered a subject when they are fluent, even creative, in using their knowledge, skills, and understanding in key performance challenges and contexts at the heart of that subject, as measured against valid and high standards. We want students to ‘persist to mastery’ rather than just move on when the semester is done.”

 --Grant Wiggins, internationally recognized expert on assessment

Mastery Philosophy

Mastery Learning is an approach to education that focuses on the acquisition of core competencies rather than rote memorization of content. The most tangible difference is that grades will no longer be a motivating factor, but learning will take top priority as students work towards mastery of skills. Furthermore, rather than time spent on a subject determining progression, students must instead demonstrate a deep level of understanding of a topic, subject area, or skill set. This approach provides faculty feedback and guidance until successful mastery is achieved. Skills may be learned within the context of traditional classes, but the pace and path to mastery, as well as the form of assessment and skills demonstration, may be individualized. Skills may also be developed outside of the traditional school day, or as part of the residential curriculum, as learning doesn’t end at 3:00 pm. 

Stuart Hall's six Graduate Goals of Critical Thinking, Creativity, Communication, Citizenship, Collaboration, and Well-Being remain foundational to our academic program, framing the skills to be mastered before a student launches into life beyond high school. The tangible difference is that grades will no longer be a motivating factor, but the learning will take top priority as students work towards mastery of skills. 

Comparison of Traditional Pedagogy to Mastery

Practice Traditional Mastery
Acquisition of content knowledge 

Lectures, note taking, rote learning and memorization (few facts are retained long-term)

Key performance challenges require students to creatively apply knowledge to real world problems (applied knowledge and learned skills become deeply ingrained)
Approach to instruction

One way street: Teachers know the goals and design lessons to teach them. Lessons are designed for generic student with limited varieties of learning styles

Two way street: Students  actively involved in designing the process by which they acquire skills/meet goals. Meets each child where they are building on strengths.

Teacher role Presents material in lecture and assists child in understanding content, Designs and grades assignments Empowers students to make decisions about their learning pathways. Mentors students to mastery through frequent constructive feedback and continual support. Helps student design assessment
Assessment Grades based on test scores, papers, and projects aimed at demonstrating knowledge acquisition and research Assessment is a meaningful, positive, and empowering learning experience for students that yields timely, relevant, and actionable evidence. Mastery Credits awarded based on authentic (real-world) problem solving
Parameters Learning is over when the grade is received; time is the fixed variable; achievement is the flexible variable Learning is iterative, one lesson building on another through feedback; mastery is the fixed variable, time is the flexible variable
Transcripts Two dimensional, paper document. Courses listed by semester, Grades, GPA and Class Rank: predictors of how you will perform in class. No room to showcase skills and abilities beyond the classroom Multidimensional, interactive computer document. Courses listed by category, and mastery skills. No grades or GPA. Relative performance to other students demonstrated through comparison of number and proficiency level of mastery credits. Portfolio of student mastery projects showcased and accessible
Management of learning differences Students whose strengths lie outside the traditional test-centered paradigm are trained to make due and adapt Innovative learning environments organized around the needs of students who learn in different ways and in different time frames
Other skills  Note taking, memorization, test taking Self-awareness, growth mindset, self regulation, social-emotional learning, habits of success, understanding of the iterative effort/feedback/improvement life-long learning process 


Timeline to Full Implementation of Mastery Learning and Mastery Transcript

While Stuart Hall teachers have been teaching towards the skills outlined in our Six Grad Goals for years, beginning with the 2021-22 School Year Stuart Hall will begin phasing in Standards Based assessments. These assessments will be showcased as Mastery Credits in the interactive, multi-dimensional MTC Mastery Transcript® developed by The Mastery Transcript Consortium in collaboration with dozens of college admissions offices.

For the academic year 2021-22:

  • All courses in 9-12 will have standards/mastery credits identified with rubrics for each.
  • Grading will be standards-based but still roll into letter grades.
  • Portfolio building will begin with guidelines for 9-12 students.
  • 9th grade will have standard and Mastery transcripts running simultaneously.
  • Advisory structure will be in place to help guide the process.
  • Residence LIfe Curriculum will begin to include standards/mastery credits that apply towards graduation.
  • First official use of Mastery Transcript for college applications will begin with seniors graduating with the class of 2025.

Learn How Colleges are Welcoming the Mastery Transcript in this Stuart Hall interview with Mastery Transcript Consortium’s Ben Rein.

Stuart Hall Voices

"Stuart Hall is a really diverse, but inclusive place where you can explore your passions and make friends quickly and easily." 

—Kate '21