In a recent Education Leadership article, UbD author Grant Wiggins wrote, “Mastery has been reduced to a high score on any old quiz…if you achieved 85 percent or 90 percent on any test of content, you would be deemed to have demonstrated mastery – no matter how picayune or low-level the test questions.”

The practice of reducing mastery to accurate recall of discrete facts and skills is tempting, common, and harmful… Although well-intentioned, this practice leads to needlessly fractured, boring, and ultimately ineffective learning that never prepares students to be fluent and skilled in authentic work” explains Wiggins.

So what’s the solution?

An important part according to Wiggins is defining mastery as the ability to transfer skills or knowledge to a new, authentic setting. “Mastery requires dealing effectively with varied and sometimes novel challenges of purpose, audience, and context,” he says.

We can’t assess complex learning by testing the individual parts; we need to ask students to put all the learning together.  

***For more on performance assessment, check out a recent blog from Tom Vander Ark, the author of Getting Smart: How Digital Learning is Changing the World and CEO of Getting Smart.***