The Art of Cultivating Growth Through Self-Paced Mastery Learning

Contributed By

Matt Essert

Contributing Writer

The Art of Cultivating Growth Through Self-Paced Mastery Learning

Posted in Community | December 10, 2015

How do you teach a classroom full of students that all have different needs and learn at different speeds? This was the battle Glen Irvin—a Spanish teacher at Wabasha-Kellogg High School in Wabasha, Minnesota—faced for years.

Now, after integrating Schoology into his classroom, Glen has completely transformed his daily teaching strategy from the “sage on the stage” to a student driven self-paced model.

Recognizing the Areas for Growth

Glen had been teaching Spanish for 12 years and was often dealing with the same set of problems. Because he held all the information, his lectures and activities “were all targeted at the middle achieving groups,” he says.

“There was little or no authentic differentiation,” explains Glen. “If students were absent, there wasn't an authentic way for them to make up their work. Students that needed remediation, rarely received it, and those students that needed to be challenged were bored.

Putting Students at the Center of Their Learning

After introducing Schoology into his classroom roughly two years ago, many of the perennial problems Glen faced began to dissipate. He went from being the gatekeeper of information to a facilitator, helping his students discover new information on their own.

In this new instructional model, the students who need extra help can now easily access all materials provided for the course without having to go through Glen. And the students who are excelling can work ahead on more challenging activities.

How exactly did Glen pull this off? One secret to his success is Schoology’s Student Completion Rules. Glen also acknowledges Chris Aviles, a.k.a. The Teched Up Teacher, as having been a major influence on his strategy and course structure.

Student Completion Rules.PNG

Glen's use of quizzes and Student Completion Rules in his Mastery Learning environment gives him "instant feedback (formative assessment) that I can use to immediately provide high-quality corrective instruction to those students that have not learned the key concepts or skills." 

"This is usually done in small group instruction, but can also be one on one," explains Glen. "It's important that I offer intense individualized assistance in the early parts of each unit because that leads to less remediation needed later. This also helps to pace the learning and not overwhelm the students with too many concepts."

"They get the time and opportunity to truly "master" the material," he continues. "Schoology allows for the true implementation of 'mastery learning' without overwhelming the teacher."

According to Glen, the Student Completion Rules allow for deeper enrichment for the students that master skills at a faster rate than the rest of the class. Glen references the "Free Play" activity as an example of these expanded learning opportunities.

Student Completion Free Play.PNG

"This is the grounding activity I use I call a Free Play. Students choose from some of my above and beyond projects or they create their own. My upper level students have been able to take their learning to levels that were impossible before because of this."

Opening Up Lines of Communication

Furthermore, Glen has noticed an increase in communication across the board. The platform’s messaging tools and notifications have made it easier for Glen’s students to stay in touch with their teacher.

Parents are also getting more involved in the learning process. The ease of communication keeps them in the loop and provides them with more transparency into the classroom. And when parents and teachers are on the same page, they bridge the gap between the classroom and the home, increasing the opportunities for learning.

All of this has made Glen’s goal of having each and every student master the language skills needed to pass the class, much more attainable.

When the focus is on the students instead of the teacher, the learning environment is that much more effective—and to Glen Irvin, that transformation has been invaluable.

“My school year just ended yesterday, and I am already looking forward to next year’s classes with Schoology.”

Glen Irvin
Spanish Teacher
Wabasha-Kellogg High School
Educator of the Year Finalist

Written by Matt Essert  

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