Sal Khan: Let’s Teach for Mastery – Not Test Scores (A TED talk video)

Sal Khan Let's Teach for Mastery

Written by Lisa Bean

Lisa is the founder and head of school for IGNITE: An Acton Academy. She is a Mom of two boys, an entrepreneur, and a coach for high-performance businesses, leaders, and parents. She is passionate about re-defining education for the 21st century, and is adamant that learning be a fun and engaging experience that honours a child's unique strengths and passions.

January 8, 2022

Would you build a house on top of an unfinished foundation? Of course not! So, why would you layer new material onto a student’s learning when they haven’t yet mastered foundational skills? In this video Sal Khan discusses the need for and benefit of a mastery model. 

Sal Khan is a leader in educational technology, having created Khan Academy, a free educational platform, after tutoring his niece and seeing the need for a different kind of education model. 

Khan Academy is used as just one of the adaptive technology tools at IGNITE: An Acton Academy. What we look for in the tools and programs that we use is their ability to adapt to the user. This means that they assess and evaluate and then provide a lesson plan that is suited to the individual learner. 

In the above video, Sal Khan talks about the mastery model of learning and how it allows us to fill in gaps that may exist in our knowledge and skills as well as learn new material without gaps. 

You don’t move onto new material until the foundational skills have been mastered.

In comparison, the traditional educational model forces you to move forward regardless of gaps. While previous studies found that the mastery model does produce a better outcome, it was rejected as a possibility because it wasn’t scalable in large schools. One teacher at the front of the room had to teach to the average, that means moving forward at a set pace, regardless of whether the material was mastered. 

Unfortunately, when you move forward on a shaky foundation the cracks will eventually break down and the gaps will prevent you, sometimes many years later, from understanding and moving forward. At that point, the learner hits a wall in their progress. 

Fortunately, with the developments and use of educational adaptive technology this no longer has to be the case. Sal argues that all schools should change their model to allow learners to work to achieve mastery at their own unique pace. 

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