Classical education is a time-respected model. How did it work in the past?
We are all here at Christiana because we want our children to have a quality classical education- an education that will teach them how to think, not what to think.
However, in past times, a classical education was often available only to a small elite- just those who could afford tutors to work individually with their children. These tutors weren’t teachers in the sense that we understand the word today- but mentors, modeling the process of learning and inspiring students to imitate that process. Students taught in this way are met at the level where they are, and guided into taking charge of their own learning.
Structured this way, students learned better and more thoroughly than they do now in modern-day schools. Those who learn how to learn well, naturally learn what they want to learn, far better. This is why students taught classically in the modern day have been shown to outperform their peers who are taught by traditional methods both on standardized tests and in college.
What does it look like to learn how to learn?Among many others, one of the best tools we have to help students in their classical education is mastery-based learning. Put simply, mastery-based learning focuses on mastering one level of a topic, before moving onto the next level. This is an important part of understanding how learning can build on itself.
What is mastery-based learning, and why is it important?Mastery-based learning applies to any subject where students need to draw on prior knowledge to understand the lessons which come later. Mathematics, Latin, and Reading are some of the main areas at Christiana in which mastery is most necessary before moving on. In any mastery-based subject, it’s essential to learn what comes first thoroughly, before moving on to what comes next.
Imagine being asked to translate a sentence from Latin to English…without knowing any Latin words. Or being asked to do multi-step algebraic equations involving fractions…without understanding the basics of how fractions work and what they represent. Would you have a positive experience? Most people would quickly decide that what was being taught “just isn’t for me,” or that they are “just not good at it.” Yet these very same people might actually have great aptitude for either one of these subjects- if only they had mastered the right tools so that they could follow along with what was being taught.
Any student can learn any subject- as long as the material is presented and learned in the right order and in the right way.
This is just Part 1 of 3- stay tuned for next week’s Board Bit: “How does mastery-based learning work for my child’s benefit at Christiana?” and “But students don’t all learn at the same rate. How can I make the group setting at CHA work for us, while still ensuring that my child can be met at his or her own level?