Mastery in Drama

The dual purpose of assessment

Assessment has a dual purpose in education. On the one hand it is there to help teachers understand what learning has occurred and what interventions need to take place to ensure that any gaps in knowledge are addressed. On the other hand, it is to measure how much a learner has understood of the topic that they are learning.

As a result of this dual purpose there are two forms of assessment: formative and summative. Formative Assessment is the assessment you use on a daily basis to help you check a learner’s understanding and identify any gaps in knowledge that needs addressing. Summative Assessment is a measurement of how much a learner has understood something. This can be designed and assessed at a local level, within the school (or cluster of schools) or at a national level by exam boards.

The current idea of assessment is very much linked to the concept of mastery. The central principle of mastery is enabling learners to move forward by developing a rich, broad and deep understanding of subjects, to become, essentially, masters of a subject.

Knowledge and mastery

The knowledge rich curriculum demonstrates much of this opportunity to develop mastery. Knowledge has been broken down into small steps, which presents us with mastery thresholds that learners must achieve before they can move on. Learners are able to demonstrate their mastery in increasingly complex tasks which both challenge them and build greater schema within their Long-Term Memory.

What you need now is an assessment strategy that allows you to assess the learner’s mastery of a subject. A strategy which is based on demonstrating how they use the knowledge and understanding rather than the amount of knowledge they have. In this respect there are no levels of specific knowledge to work towards. Instead there is a range of depths at which learners are working.

Two sides of mastery

Mastery exists on two planes. The first is within the specific unit, where we can see how different learners might interpret and employ the same knowledge. The second is how mastery builds over time and how different learners employ their accumulation of knowledge.

What is clear from the Mastery Model is that knowledge builds and facilitates mastery. The lower levels of mastery are simply knowing and understanding key terminology. Quite often this happens with singular chunks of knowledge that have not been processed properly. Learners will often act upon the new information without processing it. This is why we often see learners take on basic performance roles based on cultural or occupational stereotypes. Learners at low levels of mastery have not processed the knowledge and built up interlinking schema within their long-term memories.

This is why we break knowledge down into smaller chunks and make a clear and conscious effort to guide learners in processing that information into schema through guided practice, retrieval practice and deliberate practice.

To achieve higher levels of mastery, learners need to draw on more knowledge. They also need to draw together knowledge from a range of different areas and experiences in order to enrich and improve the performance. This higher level of mastery is where learners can be at their most creative. Having an expansive, broad and deep source of knowledge to draw from gives access to greater opportunities to be creative with that knowledge. Knowledge builds mastery and mastery builds creativity.

Here is what this model of mastery looks like in general.

Here is an example of how this model of mastery looks like for performing a character:

The Drama Teacher’s Handbook

This is an excerpt from the book “The Drama Teacher’s Handbook : A guide to creating and teaching a knowledge rich, practical and comprehensive Drama curriculum”. Order your copy from here.

The book gives you ideas to help you review your curriculum and set about establishing a framework from within which you can begin curating and creating your ideal Drama curriculum. It guides you on how to organise, design and realise a courageous, challenging and coherent Drama curriculum. It is a complete practical handbook for teaching knowledge rich Drama which you will use on a day to day basis.

What is Burt’s Drama?

Burt’s Drama is a website for all Drama teachers. It is a place for inspiration, insight and information on everything to do with Drama. Every week there is a new CPD article posted on the website. New articles either cover Teaching and Learning in Drama or focus on subject content in the Drama Teachers toolkit. Make sure you come back every week, or, even better, sign up to receive new posts direct to you email.

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