Is my classroom mastery-oriented?

Having spent the past year trying to understand and utilize the International Baccalaureate Organization Primary-Years-Program for the first time, I’ve applied a great deal of planning and instructional time to inquiry. I strongly believe in the model and its apparent intention to emphasize much more than academic performance in the education of children. It compliments my previous experiences perfectly and my students and I have enjoyed our journey thus far.

Last week, however, I received my class’ results from the International Schools Assessment. Results in Mathematics were impressive, Reading were acceptable, but the Writing results were disappointing, especially non-fiction.

What happened?

This guy is clearly master-oriented.

I have already identified one problem: When our Language Arts curriculum was correlated with the PYP sample Program-of-Inquiry, the units on persuasive and informational writing were pushed to the end of the school year, after the testing in February, although we did practice essay writing as part of every History unit and the entire class made documented progress in every domain on our own formal summative assessments.

There were also several school events in the same month as the tests, which may have contributed to fatigue or a lack of focus, and certainly interfered with opportunities for explicit test-preparation.

Certainly this will be an area of focus for me in the near future. Perhaps it’s time to pull up on the inquiry reins just enough to allow for more formal writing development and mastery of grammar techniques which seem to be the focus of that assessment, but have not been our focus this year.

Should they have been?

Being mastery-oriented means a great deal more than simply meeting learning objectives. At least that’s my new understanding after beginning to read Carol Dweck’s Self-Theories.

It’s a state-of-mind, intellectual and emotional. The PYP is clearly oriented toward developing mastery-oriented people willing to pursue goals and take risks. While I believe that is much more important than marching through a mastery-oriented curriculum, perhaps my emphasis has been askew.

I would like to explore the possibility of a writing program which not only motivates and inspires children to write, but also ensures that they master the grammar and vocabulary they need to be truly confident and fluent communicators.

Published by

Bart Miller

Father, Teacher, Composer, Philosopher

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