Teaching with Radical Optimism: Mastery Learning in Music Theory

Garrett Michaelsen


In this essay, I discuss how mastery learning may be used to transform assessment in music-theory curricula. Mastery learning is a learning theory that posits that most students are capable of achieving mastery of a subject if given enough time and instruction. Students are therefore assessed based on their abilities to demonstrate mastery and, if they have not yet achieved it, continue to work towards that goal until they do. I discuss the methods I have used to structure my music-theory classes around mastery learning, in particular by employing a mastery-learning rubric that clearly defines a passing level for each assessed task. I propose that setting mastery as the expected standard is a radically optimistic approach to student learning.


assessment; mastery learning; pedagogy; rubric

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.18061/es.v7i0.7370


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Copyright (c) 2020 Garrett Michaelsen

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