What do we mean by ‘mastery’?


This extract has been taken from Mastery and Depth in the National Curriculum by Clive Davies. You can view sample pages by clicking here.  This publication is designed for school leaders who want to explore the concepts of greater depth. It is written in such a way that it guides the reader through a process to explore these, posing questions and possibilities.

To have an accurate and robust assessment you need to think about there essential questions.

  • Have you discussed what it means to meet end of year expectations?
  • Have you had a discussion as a staff team about what you mean by mastery in your school?

Whilst the term mastery has been used in relation to the new national curriculum, the concept of deep and shallow learning have been used for some time. Have you discussed the terms shallow, deep and mastery as a staff? What do they mean? What might they look like?

There are no absolute definitions to these terms but the discussion around them will firstly engage teachers and secondly help you ensure that you have some commonality of understanding within your school.

The thoughts below are hugely simple but summarise the conclusions from discussion with many groups of teachers and leaders…

Shallow learning Surface, temporary, often lost
Deep learning It sticks, can be recalled and used
Mastery learning Can be transferred and applied in different contexts

A different way to consider mastery is to think about the process we go through in order to be at mastery level.

Psychologists often talk about the ‘four stages of competence’ as a way to exemplify mastery learning. This model was first introduced in the 1970s and can be a useful discussion point.

See the diagram on the next pages. Follow it from stage 1 to stage 4 and reflect on your own learning.

The four stages of competence

Stages of competence

What does it not mean?

Whilst on first take mastery can be tricky to define and understand, we can be clear on what it doesn’t mean.

  • It is not working on content from the next year group.
  • In mathematics is not practising the same concept with bigger numbers.
  • In reading is not necessarily reading a more challenging text.



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Greater Depth in the English Curriculum

What is Metacognition?

Weaving Mastery and Greater Depth in the National Curriculum


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