Mastering Assessments in Your Mastery Learning Classroom

Heading Back to mastery / Lead Features September 19 / September 21, 2019

– Jon Bergmann –

Teaching is hard! Harder than I remember it. In my seven-year sojourn away from the classroom, there were days where I had the luxury of going to the local Starbucks and writing and thinking. That isn’t happening now. I feel like I’m the first to get to the school and the last to leave. Don’t get me wrong; I’m loving every minute of it. My daughter (who is also a teacher) called me the other day and said, “Dad, you are having fun!” And she was right, I am!  

Preparing videos, editing videos, designing engaging activities, writing tests, learning how to implement mastery, new technology, student names, students with learning challenges, meetings, and learning the ins and outs of a new school’s culture, is just plain exhausting. My commitment to Mastery Learning also adds to the stress and workload. I have to be super-organized and ready for students at different levels and different paces. Frankly, I feel like a new teacher all over again. 

What’s working

One thing that is working so far is the summative mastery checks. I have chosen to introduce some minor gamification elements, so the summative tests are called “boss battles.” 

The biggest challenge for the boss battles is how do I ensure that if a student retakes the boss battle, they will get a different test? If a student retakes the same test multiple times, they can memorize the questions and answers instead of really learning the content. To solve this problem, I am using the quizzing feature in my Brightspace LMS that allows me to have each test compiled from a “pool” of questions. Pool questions are essentially a question bank. Questions are automatically selected, withdrawn, and used to customize tests for each student based on where they are in the process.

Assessing their learning

Below is a matrix of the system I used in my physics course. Once students have mastered each of the quests (a quest is a learning objective), they are ready to have the “boss battle.”  

Essential Question: What the heck is physics and how do we measure stuff?

Differentiating with technology

Note that I have varying levels of difficulties. When I write the test questions, I put them in one of the five quests in the question library of my Brightspace LMS. I label them as follows:


When students “challenge the boss,” the software selects a specified number of questions from each library, and thus every student gets a different test every time. Below is what the boss battle looks like from the teacher perspective.

The teacher dashboard

 Notice that I have written 27 questions in 1.3 Dimensions Easy and students will only face four of those questions.  

Simplifying and refining the process

The key to this is having a lot of questions in each folder. This is a big-time commitment as writing great questions is a challenge. I have outsourced some of my questions and have used some questions that I have gotten from our textbook maker. The textbook came with ExamView questions, and I found that it was easier to classify questions in ExamView and then export them into Brightspace as their own library.  

When students take the tests, I have a few rules:

    1. They must sit in a designated area, screens out and all other browsers and tabs closed.
    2. The tests are password protected and I have to enter the password.
    3. Students can use a blank piece of paper to show work they will turn in to me.
    4. Once they complete the boss battle, those questions that are computer-gradable are graded, and those that aren’t I have to go over.  
    5. This brings up the “Boss-Battle Debrief.” During these debriefs, students know (most of them by now) that when I go over their online submission, I can add partial credit and their score can only go up. So they like doing the debrief.  

Gamifying Mastery Learning

Lastly, I was trying to think of a way to celebrate the winning of a boss battle, so I have created some badges in Brightspace for each time someone defeats the “boss.” I have also introduced a class theme song, and whenever anybody defeats the “boss,” we hear a few seconds of the song. The students have responded well to these little mini-celebrations. 

The Brightspace LMS I use was specifically developed for Mastery Learning. If you have more questions about how I set up my boss battles or my Brightspace LMS, feel free to comment below.  You can also watch my Mastering Mastery Learning video series here.  If you would like to learn more about the Brightspace LMS contact D2L here.

I hope this helps!

Jon Bergmann
Jon Bergmann Bergmann
Jon Bergmann is one of the pioneers of the Flipped Classroom Movement. He is leading the worldwide adoption of flipped learning through the Flipped Learning Global Initiative (FLGI) He is working with governments, schools, corporations, and education non-profits. Jon has coordinated and guided flipped learning projects around the globe. Locations include: China, Taiwan, Korea, Australia, the Middle East, Iceland, Sweden, Norway, the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, Mexico, Canada, South America, and the United States. Jon is the author of nine books including the bestselling book: Flip Your Classroom which has been translated into 13 languages. He is the founder of the global FlipCon conferences which are dynamic engaging events which inspire educators to transform their practice through flipped learning.

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1 Comment

on October 1, 2019

Awesome to hear how you are getting teaching again! I’m looking forward to hearing more!
I think this style of summative assessment works with objective content but in a lot of subjects we cannot assess ‘mastery’ like this. Have you planned any subjective boss battles or have any thought about how this could work?

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