Feedback for Learning: An Assessment System Beyond GradesJune 9, 2021
Mastery Learning in Practice: Insights from Pandemic-Era PioneersJune 10, 2021
It’s a busy time for gym owners here in Boston. Six months ago, almost no one wanted to work out indoors. Today, the phone is ringing off the hook with people who want to get sweaty. At my gym, on-boarding new members takes some finesse; it’s one of those “high intensity” outfits where you swing kettlebells, toss medicine balls, or plank on gymnastics rings. On the one hand, this is a draw — 100% of passers-by will say “wow, those folks are really working!” — but on the other hand, it’s also a barrier: how do you convince normal folks that this stuff isn’t crazy, and that they can do it too?
In our case, the solution is two-fold. One part is programming — everything we do, no matter how complicated or advanced, can be broken down into manageable steps and logical precursors: there is nothing the super-star athletes are doing that can’t be modified for beginners on day one of their journey. The second part is community — the owners and coaches have taken pains to create a place where all are welcome, everyone is friendly, and you can at once admire someone who can walk on their hands, and also not feel intimidated if you’re still walking briskly instead of sprinting around the block.
I’ve been thinking about programming and community a lot as I finished my first month as CEO of MTC. For me, that journey involves talking to as many member schools as I can, and while I’m just getting started, it’s clear to me that we can evolve our programming over the coming year to make sure all members get what they need. We’re incredibly proud of the 12 schools that sent transcripts this year, and the fact that 25+ schools are planning on sending them next year. However, in our community of nearly 400 schools, those early adopters are the ones slinging heavy barbells overhead, and we want to be equally supportive of the schools that are still warming up.
With that in mind, we’re actively working on some things that you’ll start to see roll out over the coming year:
- Options to use the Mastery Transcript without “sending transcripts.” Most members aren’t yet ready to “send transcripts” to colleges without grades; but all members will be able to use Mastery Transcript tools to exhibit evidence of learning towards mastery of key competencies, and/or curate and reflect on portfolios of student work within a competency-based structure.
- A new home for our MTC Community that isn’t a separate website, but one that is fully integrated into the same tools you use to build and manage transcripts. Members tell us that connecting with and learning from peers is one of the main reasons they join MTC: moving forward you’ll be able to connect, collaborate, and build, all in one place.
- Interactive self-assessments and diagnostics that you can complete with your leadership and faculty. You will be able to identify where you’re making progress on your Journey to Mastery, and find targeted resources that will be most helpful at that stage.
- Structured supports for regional cohorts and working groups, so that schools with similar challenges and opportunities can collaborate and share resources more easily.
- More tools to help our partners in higher ed admissions. These include integrations with Slate — the system most schools now use to read/review applicant folders — and collaborations with NCAA, who have already used the Mastery Transcript to verify eligibility this year, but are eager for tools that let them work with member schools and their athletes at scale.
- Resources and tools for your college counselors, including materials they can share with the colleges they’re speaking with, systems to more easily flag colleges that need targeted outreach from MTC, and stories/cases they can share with parents who need reassurance that the Mastery Transcript will truly help their kids.
- Pilot projects with after-school programs and employers that help us take what we’ve built — a digital competency-based credential that helps seniors apply to college — and extend it so that it can be used for students who are applying for internships and jobs, or who are demonstrating mastery of skills in structured programs outside of school.
Overall, what’s most exciting to me is all of the above is only a partial list: the things our team is most confident about based on where we are today and where we think we can go next. Yet every time we speak with members, we get more great ideas, and our plans get even better.
If you haven’t spoken with anyone at MTC in a while, and would like to share your ideas about where we can go next, let’s change that: please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear how we can be most helpful to you and your colleagues as we turn the corner from this uniquely challenging year, and get back to working hard together. Who knows? Maybe with consistency and a bit of sweat, by this time next year we can all be walking on our hands.
Mike Flanagan is the CEO of Mastery Transcript Consortium (MTC), leading the strategy and development for both the Mastery Transcript and for services for member schools. He is an experienced education technology executive, a father of teenagers, and on weekends he coaches CrossFit near his home in Winchester, MA.