Mastery requires not just dedicated practice, but also belief in the possibility of success and resilience to continue through struggles.
Below are three things every teacher needs to know in order to help students reach mastery:
Challenges are inherently fulfilling
It’s important that we display waves of cognitive empathy toward students, always trying to understand them and working to like them, but not sympathy. To push a student just beyond what is comfortable to them is to give them an opportunity for extreme satisfaction and confidence. When we make things too simple, we rob them of that opportunity. But, to get this right, we have to really know our students.
“Success” needs to be clearly defined
Sometimes students don’t know what success looks like. We should try to include exemplars, success criteria, or discussions about what it would mean to be successful when assigning tasks. It undercuts the feeling of mastery when a student’s perception of success is warped or unattainable.
Don’t let externalism become the norm
Sometimes a visible scoreboard is helpful for young students or when learning new skills. However, we must beware of further incentivizing the “like” culture, where success becomes about the score, not the knowledge. Use external scorecards only as a bridge to more intrinsic motivation.
Learn more about supporting student mastery here.