Mastery-based education focuses on one of the oldest teaching methods: apprenticeship. It’s a method where trusted adults help students work towards mastery of specific skills, knowledge, and habits described in the Mastery Standards.
At the Mastery School of Hawken, we rely on the discoveries and insights of cognitive neuroscience to inform our approach to teaching and learning rather than the inherited traditions of the factory model of the 19th century. We’ve discovered that putting research into practice makes school not only more purposeful, but also more engaging and fun.
Research supports the notion that learning endures when students are emotionally, psychologically, and intellectually engaged and when they feel safe, seen, and supported. Guiding students to build on strengths rather than focusing on deficits results in deeper and more enduring learning. (Lopez and Louis
). When we remain focused on students’ strengths, they are better equipped and more motivated to improve areas of relative weakness.
Research also tells us that a key element of deep and enduring learning is reflection. Metacognition, or thinking about thinking, allows students to “understand how we best learn and develop skills to think about, connect with, and evaluate our learning and interactions each day” (Poth
). This kind of thinking is a skill that takes time, effort, and commitment to master, which is why it’s woven into our program elements.
These scientifically backed discoveries and insights have led us to employ the methodology of the Korda Institute for Teaching
and to design unconventional schedules, assessment strategies, and program elements that support these approaches to learning. Through Wayfinding
, for example, students and mentors plan an individualized journey that includes Macros
and is designed to enable each student to capitalize on their strengths while working to bridge gaps in skill sets and/or knowledge.