In my last post, I talked about getting beyond the Three R’s to develop higher level thinking skills in your student. At Revolution, we have developed an approach to instilling what we call the Three M’s in every student with whom we work. The Three M’s are Mastery, Management and Mindset. Today I am going to dig into Mastery—what it is and some steps you can take to develop Mastery in your student.
If you’re following my blog, you already know that we use Bloom’s Taxonomy to measure a student’s mastery of a topic. Our tutors are trained to bring students from the lowest level, remembering, where schools typically leave off. They focus on bringing students up to evaluating and creating based on what they know. As a parent, understanding Bloom’s Taxonomy will enable you to propel your child into higher order thinking—from simply regurgitating what they learn to really GETTING IT.
Eventually mastery depends on the learner’s ability to evaluate and create ideas based on what they’ve learned. Nathaniel Bloom created his framework in the 1950’s. I prefer to use this revised framework emphasizing creativity for 21st century careers.
When you ask your child “what did you learn in school today?” you’re asking them simply to remember the knowledge they gained in school. It’s as if you’re telling your child: “Please regurgitate something you remember taking notes on today.” Asking this question is reinforcing the notion that it is ok to stop at the lowest level of learning.
So what can you do instead?
Ask what they discussed in history class. Find ways to connect it to your child’s interests. I’m sure you know that it’s easier to train a cat than force interests on your child. And forcing interests (even your child’s own interests) will almost definitely backfire. You already know what interests your child. Tie something from their class discussions or readings in history, math, English, or science class to what interests your child outside of school. It’s not as hard as it sounds…“How would Abraham Lincoln have shared his message with an Instagram post?” can make for an engaging and fun car ride home from school while moving your child’s thinking on the subject of the Civil War from remembering to creating.
When we break from asking questions that require remembering and regurgitating, students will pull their way to evaluation and creativity.
Deeper understanding is the ability to connect what they already know to what they learn. This is what Bloom’s Taxonomy is all about.
These are things that our tutors do daily with their students. Tutors play a very different part from parents and teachers. They are role models. They have a unique authority that better propels learning. For instance, one Revolution Tutor works on reading comprehension by challenging some of her elementary and middle school students to handwrite and mail a letter to her as if from one character to another. Then the tutor responds from the other character’s perspective. The student has to use knowledge of the story, the characters, and especially the themes of the novel to create a pen pal correspondence adjacent to the novel.
Think about your most memorable classroom moments in high school or college. Even now, twenty plus years after the fact, there are still lessons—well, activities in classes—that I can remember. They were tied to something more and let me make deeper connections based on what I knew.
Using this framework, ask questions that cause your child to pull themselves into concept mastery.
Your student will be far more prepared for advanced classes, college and a career. They will engage in school. You will also make dinner table conversations and your commute so much more interesting and engaging.