The mastery model in middle schools is becoming a more widely used instructional approach that has teachers changing their approach and scheduling to allow individual students the ability to only move onto the next lesson when they have mastered the one before it.

At Piedmont Middle School in Alabama, students entered a technology lab and began the first step of many activities they will encounter this year.  The objective was to build towers from a bag of materials which consisted of spaghetti noodles, tape, string, and jumbo marshmallows.  In 18 minutes the students in small groups were to build a tower that would stand and not collapse.

The Mastery Model in Middle Schools

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“It’s very, very important to make sure you have a good foundation,” teacher Stephanie Steward said, speaking not only of the project, but of the students’ educations. “Every day, every year, you’re adding to that foundation.”

This school year, Piedmont Middle is building its own foundation, one that local educators say will change the way students experience school in the middle grades. Under this emerging model, the educators say, teachers will further shift the focus from whole-group learning to a style of learning that allows each to progress at his or her own rate.

Called a mastery model, it’s one that will allow students to advance once they’ve grasped a new concept. To achieve this goal, educators are changing classroom schedules and grading scales.

But the students are already catching on to the teachers’ concept.

The Mastery Model in Middle Schools

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“I was used to the other way, but I think going at your own pace will help more people,” said seventh-grader Marley Propes, who said the new schedule might be a little tough to get used to.

The transition will be prompt but gradual. On the first school day of the new year, the students were introduced to their new schedules. Monday they’ll receive their school-issued laptops and by next Friday they’ll be learning under the new format.

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