As the world emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic and prepares for its first post-pandemic school year, the results of a new Khan Academy survey of teachers offers hope for a brighter future and, at the same time, reaffirms education’s deep commitment to staying laser-focused on recovery.
The findings show:
- Nine out of 10 teachers say they’ve been able to identify learning gaps that need to be addressed.
- 84% of teachers believe mastery learning can help address learning loss from the pandemic.
We wholeheartedly agree. Mastery learning ensures each student has the opportunity and incentive to master a concept before they stop working on it. It’s the philosophical core of Khan Academy, and decades of research shows that mastery learning works.
The nationally representative survey of teachers shows that the majority of teachers are using mastery learning or would like to. For example:
- 53% of teachers use mastery learning in their classrooms.
- An additional 35% would like to use mastery learning.
While this news is encouraging, the survey also shows the profound impact of the pandemic:
- More than 80% of teachers say that when introduced to new concepts, their students need more help than they would have needed before the pandemic.
- Only 59% of teachers say their students mastered the content they needed to last school year.
Mental health and behavioral support were also prominent threads. After a tumultuous two years, teachers identify student mental health needs and a lack of behavioral support as major barriers in the classroom.
Mastery learning can fill in the learning gaps
We believe mastery learning can accelerate pandemic recovery. Sal Khan, our founder, is a longtime advocate for mastery. Unlike traditional learning, students in mastery-learning classrooms are not pushed ahead in lockstep, which can cause the accumulation of knowledge gaps. (Sal calls these “Swiss cheese gaps.”)
Last year, in the wake of pandemic school closures, several large school districts, including Los Angeles Unified, turned to elements of mastery learning to address lost learning time. Six superintendents published a high-profile op-ed advocating for the widespread adoption of competency-based learning, which shares many of the same tenets.
“It’s terrific to see so much enthusiasm for mastery learning,” Sal says. “Mastery can play a critical role in recovery. It allows teachers to personalize learning so that each student can progress through their grade level while also addressing the areas where they may need extra help.”
Mastery learning allows students to progress at a pace that’s right for them under the watchful eye of expert teachers who make decisions about instruction.