UD Update

The Mastery Learning System
Julia Chun

At Avenues, we endeavor to provide transformative, world-focused learning experiences for our students. This requires that we continually consider our work and seek to build upon proven practices and current research in education. What already distinguishes our school and our graduates is the Avenues Mastery Program for students in the upper grades. This program provides students both time and space during the school day to devote to the achievement of an exceptional skill in a desired domain. A year-long program, it allows students to pursue their passions with the support of faculty, staff and accomplished specialists within their field of study. The sky is the limit, and past projects have included video game design, musical instrument construction, film animation and a study of educational inequities.

In this spirit of continued innovation and improvement, our Mastery team, led by Mark Gutkowski, questioned whether one class per year could in fact lead to mastery. They’re taking this initiative a step further and worked diligently to design and launch the Mastery Learning System, an opt-in pilot for 10th-grade students that will run during terms 3 and 4 this year.

The Mastery Learning System is visionary in the way it restructures time and space in the school day and in how it challenges students to view their Mastery work in the context of a transdisciplinary, real-world approach to learning. With more time to devote to their pursuits, students who are participating in the pilot will dig deeper into their Mastery work by trading in their project-block classes (art & design, English, science and World Course) to work in various learning modalities that not only connect to their project or idea, but also focus on real-world experiences. And while the pilot will take them away from the more traditional stream of daily coursework, they will still be responsible for working within the same thematic elements through their mastery work by connecting their studies to the Avenues World Elements, such as Identity, Global Trends, Ecosystems, Beliefs and Design.

For example, if a student is passionate about music, she might research a specific genre that sparks her interest. And from there can come a study of the time period in which this style of music emerged. From that, she could dig deeper into the societal and cultural factors that contributed to the creation of the art form, write or perform her own pieces and even welcome other artists and musicians to share their work, passions and ideas at a student-led conference. The possibilities are endless and students are limited only by their imaginations.

The Mastery team recently presented this new Learning System pilot to 10th-grade parents whose children are participating in the Mastery program and received an overwhelmingly positive response, with 15 families electing to participate in this experience. We’d like to applaud our pilot families for their dedication to innovation, for their courage, and for their encouragement in helping us deliver on “a new school of thought” in education. We look forward to all of the discoveries to come.