Teaching Practices for Mastery: A Manifesto

The forces of the traditional educational system are aligned against the teacher and the student. These forces pressure the teacher to keep moving forward, no matter how much or how little the student has mastered the previous topics. The system demands it. Students are powerless to resist it. Teachers are against it. A poorly designed educational system perpetuates it.

This battle is but a collection of individual struggles: the teacher and student against the many allied forces of the status quo. But while collectively the battle may seem lost, a revolution is afoot. Lone courageous teachers are fighting back and winning. They are reclaiming the high ground in the teaching profession, beating back the educational system and helping students fulfil their potential. They are building stronger practices amid the forces of the ordinary.

This treatise contains the ten proclamations of a Mastery Teacher. It describes a trail blazed by creative teachers who have made the difficult decisions and transformed their students’ lives, and the way they go about educating them. They have resisted the profession-wide pressure to rush through the syllabus. They have gone from teaching shallow knowledge to teaching real knowledge and skills. Their path, described in these pages, may not be your path. Not everyone has the heart or stomach for revolution. It is up to you to read and decide for yourself if you will follow.

  1. We will set high academic expectations for all students; we will drive students towards high achievement by instilling a 100% mindset; we will train our students to aim for 100%, not settle for 50, 60, 70%, etc
  2. We will plan for success; we will acknowledge that in our quest to help students fulfil their potential, their steps towards mastery need to be clearly laid out and designed to be achievable for all.
  3. We will create a ‘safe to fail’ environment; we will acknowledge that failure is a crucial part of a student’s journey towards mastery and every student will be taught to embrace failure and then learn from it.
  4. We will model and describe; we will provide students with models of successful writing examples and describe why they are successful
  5. We will use research-based techniques; we will base our teaching on methods that have been proven to work, not just those which are handed down to us through tradition
  6. We will learn from our experience; we will acknowledge that in order to adapt research-proven techniques into our teaching, we will need to combine them with our experience of teaching for the best result.
  7. We will teach students how to become expert learners; we will support our students in the quest for mastery by helping them become expert learners with evidence-based learning techniques
  8. We will strive to help our students become truly educated; we will focus on developing successful intelligence in our students and avoid the trap of focusing on ‘teaching to the test’.
  9. We will give our students frameworks to approach their subject in a successful way; we will support our students’ journey towards mastery by providing proven frameworks that assist them in developing intelligent questions
  10. We will develop a culture of deliberate practice; we will isolate students’ weak point and support the students in turning those weaknesses into strengths.
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