• Nonprofit organization’s mastery learning system available free for teachers and students
• School district reports 33 percent higher growth in middle school math scores and 19 percent higher growth in elementary school math scores.
As students and teachers across the country return to classrooms this fall, Khan Academy announces new features for mastery learning available for free at KhanAcademy.org. The culmination of years of research, the new features introduced today are a milestone in the evolution of the nonprofit organization’s mastery learning system. A school district near Philadelphia reports that middle school students who spent at least 30 minutes per week doing mastery learning on Khan Academy had 33 percent higher growth on the NWEA MAP mathematics assessment compared to students who used Khan Academy for less than 15 minutes per week. Elementary school students had 19 percent higher growth.
“We’re incredibly heartened by the improvements we’re seeing,” said Dr. David Baugh, superintendent of the Centennial School District in Warminster, Pa. “Mastery learning on Khan Academy has been transformative in our district. We see it making a difference in kids’ lives, and it’s helping us close identified gaps. We hope and encourage other school districts across the country to embrace something that will make a difference in student learning.”
Mastery learning is an educational philosophy centered on self-paced learning. Unlike traditional learning, students in mastery-learning classrooms are not pushed ahead in lockstep, which can cause the accumulation of debilitating “Swiss-cheese” gaps in knowledge.
“Some students are ready to move ahead, but other students need to go back and fill in those gaps,” said Khan Academy founder Sal Khan. “The gaps aren’t the student’s fault, and they’re not the teacher’s fault either. It’s just a side effect of the fixed paced, nonmastery system that most students learn in.”
In mastery learning, students learn at their own pace. They progress through questions and quizzes at just the right level for them. They get feedback as they learn and help when they need it most. Teachers track student progress, identify gaps and give students one-on-one attention to help them succeed.
“We believe mastery learning is the key to accelerating learning and transforming education,” said Khan.
Watch Khan Academy video on mastery learning
Mastery learning is backed by decades of research. The noted researcher Benjamin Bloom first coined the term mastery learning in 1968 and published a seminal 1984 study that documented its promise. A 1994 analysis of nearly 300 studies on mastery learning found that mastery learning has a “positive effect on achievement at all levels and for all subjects and results in positive affective outcomes for students and teachers.”
In an analysis of the Centennial School District, more than 1,000 students in fourth grade through seventh grade used mastery learning on Khan Academy during the 2017-2018 school year. Students who used the system for an average of 30 minutes per week:
- Scored on average 31 points higher on math in the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) than students who used Khan Academy for less than 15 minutes per week.
- Were more than 2.5 times as likely to meet state standards with a score of proficient or advanced compared to students who used Khan Academy for less than 15 minutes per week.
These findings hold true across ethnicities, family income level and English-language learner status.
The Centennial School District is comprised of 425 teachers and nearly 5,600 students. Approximately 40 percent of students qualify for free and reduced-price lunch, and 26 languages are spoken in the district.
“The findings from Centennial School District are significant and reflect the positive findings in mastery-learning research over the years,” said Kelli Millwood Hill, director of efficacy and research at Khan Academy. “Student learning can be accelerated in a mastery framework.”
As students use the mastery learning system on Khan Academy, their progress is visible to both them and their teacher. Khan Academy provides encouraging feedback throughout the process, and students become active drivers of their own education.
“Every teacher I know aspires to meet the individual needs of each student. However, traditional tools and curricula require teachers to make unrealistic, superhuman efforts to attain that ideal,” said Khan. “Khan Academy’s mastery learning system now allows every teacher to cater to the individual needs of every student in a way that is intuitive and frees up their time.”
Mastery lessons on Khan Academy are available for K–12 math, grammar, high school biology, AP Calculus AB, AP Calculus BC, AP Physics 1, AP Statistics, AP Government and Politics, and AP Macroeconomics. Khan Academy will add new subjects with course mastery throughout the school year.