Mastery paths – securing understanding for the next stage of learning

Sequences of learning that require secure understanding before the next topic/section is presented ideally would check for that understanding before introducing the next topic/section. The formative assessment that does the checking, usually in the form of a quiz, can be set up in such a way as to help students correct any errors they may make before moving on, creating a context of mastery. Currently, there exists the necessary technology to make this a realistic goal.

When designing mastery paths, the designer takes into consideration the fact that students who get questions wrong need to be removed from the core line of questioning. Allowing these students to continue in the current stream may impact on future learning as gasps in the knowledge are evident. They need to be taken a step back in the learning to develop the knowledge that leads up to the current question. Of course, there may be a few reasons why a student may get a single question wrong, so the test will be designed to have 2 or 3 questions of the same level of difficulty on the same topic to weed out the random errors from the genuine errors. When a student is taken back to the developmental stage, if errors still persist, then it is clear that they need to go further back into the knowledge base – to more foundational knowledge.

The video below illustrates this process.


It may take some students longer to arrive at the required level of knowledge, but at least they will eventually arrive – without any gaps.

I’m Paul Moss. I’m a learning designer at The University of Adelaide. I’m on Twitter too

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