Mastery Learning at Hawken

Mastery Learning at Hawken

Personalized approaches to education, designed to match each student’s strengths, needs, and interests, supports an iterative process that enables students to fail and try again as they persist to mastery. In recent years, Hawken teachers and administrators have focused on finding ways to create an individualized pace and path for each student; to give them choices and a voice; to ensure that learning is meaningful and connected to real-world problems so that students feel a sense of agency and purpose; to make learning and assessments as authentic and constructive as they can be; and to create an environment of belonging, inclusion, and collaboration to support academic success. These approaches not only bolster analytical and creative thinking; they also strengthen the character and intellect of students.

It will clearly take time for Hawken to fully move away from the worst parts of the industrial production model of education and personalize the journey for students in all divisions and programs. There is much more work to be done as we move away from short-term memory learning, assessed by the regurgitation on command of knowledge soon-to-be largely forgotten – a paradigm designed in the 19th century when performing repetitive tasks that required a library of content knowledge held in your brain made sense. While globalization and technology have brought about change in most areas of our lives, education has changed stunningly little in over 140 years. It is well past time to bring forth a new, better model, and Hawken School is in position to lead the way, to be a school that helps to redefine “school.” And the better model they are building is based on a concept known as Mastery Learning.

As Hawken Head of School Scott Looney explains, “We are striving to create more meaningful, lasting lessons as we move away from the concept that time is fixed and achievement is variable; away from the viewpoint that school is a game to win; away from the mindset that talent is reserved for the few; and away from a disconnect between learning and passion that so many students have experienced under the industrial model of education. We are on that path, and the progress has been invigorating for administrators, teachers, students, and parents alike.”

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