System of Assessments to Demonstrate Mastery

When students have control over the pace and focus of their learning path, teachers need to create ways for them to prove mastery of a skill
146 teachers like this strategy

About This Strategy

In a Mastery-Based progression, we gradually move away from a system in which the teacher dictates the pace, and organize the curriculum in a linear fashion. Instead we give access to students right away to a Mastery Map with all the different standards/skills of a given curriculum or unit with the intent to give them opportunities to practice at their own pace the skills they need the most help with.

The natural continuation of this effort is to give students access to simple standard/skill-based assessments allowing them to test for mastery when they feel ready; an "A La Carte-At Your Own Pace" system of assessment so that students can prove themselves and their teachers that they have indeed become a master of a given competency.

This strategy will give you ideas and tools to create a system in which students can prove mastery of a skill when they are ready and in different ways. It is applicable at any grade level and to any content area.

Implementation Steps

60 minutes
  1. Use the Mastery Map and Standard-Based Peer Tutor strategy in the BetterLesson Lab to help create a map of the different standards/skills students should master in a given unit or year, and set up a student-centered system of support.
  2. For each given standard/skill create first two short assessments that students could take when they are are ready to prove they are masters at this. The number two is not arbitrary, it will allow you to have a back-up assessment they could use the 2nd time around if the first assessment score does not indicate mastery. A website like Problem-Attic or Mastery Connect (which are both explained in the tech tool section below) can make the creation of these mini-assessments much easier thanks to their expansive banks of questions.
  3. Consider next how students will access, take and get a score on these assessments when they are ready to take them:
    • Would you like them to take them on paper copies? If so where will you store these different assessments in your room? Will you be the one scoring them or will students have access to an answer key?
    • Would you like students to take the assessments digitally for immediate computer-based scoring? If so, how will they access the link to a standard-based assessment? (QR Code, link in a site like Google Classroom, etc).  Tech tools like Mastery Connect or Formative (which are both further explained in the tech tools section below) can help you deliver these self-paced digital assessments.
    • Would you prefer for them to take them quickly one-on-one with you at a station? If so check out the “Battling the Boss” strategy in the BetterLesson Lab and have an organized battery of questions at your disposal every day to quickly be able to assess their level of mastery on the spot.
  4. Finally consider what students will do once they get a score on these assessments:
    • If the score indicates mastery, what will students do? Options can include:
      • Updating the status of this standard on a public Mastery Map (See “Mastery Map and Standard-Based Peer Tutoring” strategy in the BetterLesson Lab )

      • Updating the status of this standard on a private Mastery Tracker (consult the “Progress and Mastery Tracker” strategy in the BetterLesson Lab )

      • Updating you in person by showing you the knowledge they learned

    • If the score does not indicate mastery yet, what will students do? Options can include:

      • Joining a small group intervention about this skill

      • Meeting with the teacher for tutoring during class or after

      • Re-taking the course/playlist aligned with this standard

      • Meeting a standard-based peer tutor to analyze mistakes

      • Having access to specific remediation resources

  5. As you iterate on this system, consider the idea of giving students over time choice over how they can be assessed for mastery beyond the mini-quiz. Options can include:

    • Battling with the Boss, a strategy located in the BetterLesson Lab that puts the teacher or other students gatekeepers in charge of organizing a quick "video game like battle" with students who think they are ready to show mastery.

    • Create and teach (or record) a mini lesson that would demonstrate mastery of this skill.

    • Creating a product that would demonstrate mastery of this skill.

System of Assessments to Demonstrate Mastery During Distance Learning

Caitlin MacLeod-Bluver
BetterLesson Instructional Coach

Using digital systems of assessments for students to demonstrate mastery is a powerful tool for students to take ownership over their learning in a distance learning setting. 

Implementation steps:

  1. Create a digital mastery map of all the skills or standards you expect students to master in a given unit or the whole year. Consider using a Google spreadsheet or document and enabling students to view and comment. 

  2. Determine how students will be able to demonstrate mastery on each skill or standard.

    • For example, students might complete an online playlist using Deck.Toys, Problem.Attic, Sutori, or Gooru. 

    • Students could also post on a Padlet, FlipGrid, or on your learning management system, such as SeeSaw. 

    • Other tools such as Socrative, Mastery Connect, GoFormative allow for students to demonstrate mastery. 

    • You may choose to have students take a self-creased quiz using Google Forms or a quiz from a resource, such as Khan Academy. 

    • Consult the Better Lesson strategies Mastery Map and Standards Based Tutors and Battling the Boss for more ideas. 

  3. Consider how students will access the assessments and get a score on these assessments when they are ready. Review the following questions as you determine how students will access the digital or virtual assessment: 

    • Do you want students to demonstrate that they practice a skill or standard before taking the assessment? 

      • If so, you can require students to complete steps or a playlist before they can access the assessment. 

    • If you prefer students to take an assessment with you, how will students indicate to you that they are ready to take the assessment and how will you set them up to do this? 

      • You could require students to email or message you when they are ready for the assessment and schedule a 1:1 video session with you to take the assessment. For an asynchronous option, students could create a recorded video of themselves completing the assessment using Loom or FlipGrid. 

    • How will you score students' assessments? Will students receive an automatic score or will you have to score students' individually? What systems will you use to communicate students' scores?

      •  Consider using the Mastery Map that you created to digitally move students' names when they have mastered a skill or standard. 

  4. Once students receive their score, consider what you will do if students achieve mastery or if they need more practice. 

    • If students achieved mastery, consider using the BetterLesson Standards Based Peer Tutors strategy. Students could become tutors to other students on a specific skill or standard. Also consider extension activities for them using any number of digital tools (Sutori, GoFormative, Problem.Attic etc.). You could also have students post a reflection to a FlipGrid about their learning process, what helped them achieve mastery, and what they learned. 

    • If students need additional practice, consider creating an additional playlist of tasks for them to complete using Sutori or another similar tool. 

    • If students need to be retaught a lesson, you could either record yourself teaching the lesson using Loom or Screencastify or schedule a virtual individual conference with the student. If you need to use a whiteboard, consider If you think students need a synchronous 1:1 or small group session, encourage them to sign up via Calendly. 

    • For students with limited technology, call or text students directly to offer them 1:1 support over the phone. 

Special Education Modification

Nedra MassenburgDEMO
Special Education Specialist

Using a system of assessments to demonstrate mastery can help support students with disabilities keep track of their own mastery and help them build self-advocacy skills.

Successful use of a pacing calendar and self-paced assessments requires teachers planning for the variety of skills required of students: emotional regulation,  significant executive functioning skills (task initiation, prioritization, working memory, etc.), written expression skills, reading skills and verbal expression skills.  In order to support students with disabilities who have difficulty in these areas consider the following modifications:


  1. Traditional paper-based, written methods of assessment may limit the ability of students with disabilities to demonstrate their learning. In conjunction with traditional assessments, consider giving these students the opportunity to demonstrate their learning through: conferences, take-home reflections, oral presentations or re-tellings, learning logs, graphic organizers, cloze exercises, visual/image representation, etc. See the resource in the resource section for more information.
  2. Teachers should think carefully about the approach of quality over quantity when helping students with disabilities track their mastery using a pacing calendar.  Special emphasis for these learners could be put on mastery of the highest leverage skills in a unit. 

  3. Depending on the percentage of students with disabilities present in a classroom, a teacher may either increase the amount of modeling time built in to prepare learners for a self-pacing curriculum.
  4. If multiple teachers are present in a setting, consider having one teacher work in a small group of students with more intensive disabilities to help provide more targeted guidance on how to use pacing calendars and determine when they are ready to take assessments.


EL Modification

Shannon Coyle
English Learner Specialist

Student-driven pacing is an important academic skill for English learners to employ to achieve life-long learning goals. This strategy supports guiding learners in self-assessment and remediation at their own pace. 

English learners may be required to use all four domains, reading, writing, speaking, and listening during assessment activities. In order to support English Learners consider the following modifications:


  1. Ensure assessments are fair, accurate assessments of learners. Consider accommodating, modifying, or creating alternative assessments for English learners that aim to distinguish between linguistic and content mastery. Consider partnering with learners’ language specialist. See the following resources in the resource section below for more information: "Using Informal Assessment in the Classroom," "WIDA Can Do Descriptors," and "Assessing ELLs in ESL or Mainstream Classrooms: Quick Fixes for Busy Teachers."
  2. Provide a variety of ways for learners at lower levels of proficiency to present their learning, including visually and with limited, scripted, or pre-recorded speaking. Consider cloze exercises, portfolios, learning logs, oral presentations, 1:1 conferences. Consult learners’ language specialist and use data about learners’ language levels to determine appropriate assessment formats. See the "WIDA Can Do Descriptors" and "How to Use Can Do Descriptors to Design Learning Activities" resources in the resource section below for more information.
  3. Consider adding language assessment to content assessment. Conveying knowledge and information, and interacting with teachers and peers are important parts of mastering any skill for English learners. Use student-friendly rubrics to evaluate language skills used to show content mastery. See the "ELD Student-friendly rubrics" in the resource section below.

Coach Tips

Romain Bertrand
BetterLesson Instructional Coach
  1. Start small with two short multiple choice assessments per standard and try to keep up with the system first before adding elements of choice

  2. If you are providing opportunities to assess when ready, have students track their progress in a public and private tracker at the same time. It is the combination of these strategies that really creates momentum and help students feel in control of their learning progression. When this feeling comes, your students can reach a new level of motivation and engagement.

  3. Do not feel like you have to throw away traditional unit or benchmark assessments in such a system. They can and probably should co-exist as our students are expected to take longer assessments at the end of the year, with a combination of skills tested at the same time.

  4. One way to create synergy between a mastery-based progression and traditional assessments is to allow for the mastery based progression to support also re-mediation after a benchmark assessment. In other words, a student might have moved all his standards to mastery via short standard-based assessments, but a unit test shows that once assessed on all of them at the same time, the score is different. Help students reflect on this contradiction to identify what needs to happen differently moving forward. Some options are:

    • Student needs additional practice on this particular standard despite having reached mastery at some point.

    • Student needs to make better decisions when an assessment is not focused on one standard. If so, what methods could you teach them to support this decision making process

    • Student needs regular practice with mixed skills assignment alongside the standard-based assignments.

Tech Tools


  • Formative allows students to take a digital assessment when they are ready and teachers to track progress and scores live! Assessment can be created based off their library or any of your own assessments. It includes a PDF transformation option so that you don’t have to type up questions and answers inside the tool.

  • This tool makes creation of digital assessments easier. Students can take multiple standard-based assessments using links generated by Formative, and data is tracked inside the tool.

Mastery Connect

  • Masteryconnect makes it possible to create standard-based digital trackers for your classes as well as standard-based assessments that can be easily scored digitally if taken on the site directly or scanned by a webcam or a phone/tablet camera. The scores are then automatically versed into the digital tracker

  • Mastery-Based digital tracker makes the process of monitoring progress easier. Assessments can be easily delivered and scored, on paper or digitally.


  • Problem-attic is an expansive database of test questions taken directly from State assessments. You can create an assessment in seconds, as well as an answer key. You can also deliver the assessment digitally or print out a PDF version of it.

  • In a mastery based progression, it is vital to be able to create quick multiple versions of standard based assessments. This tool can help streamline this process.


  • Quizizz is a free platform that allows you to assign self-paced and self-scored quizzes to students. You can easily add gifs to the questions, and students can complete a quizizz when they feel ready to prove mastery, even if the rest of the class is not.

  • Quizizz supports this strategy by providing teachers an easy way to give students self-paced assessments, that they can elect to take when ready. It is also a bonus that the platform makes the idea of taking an assessment quite fun by its gamified aspect.

Pear Deck

  • Pear Deck is an interactive presentation and lesson delivery tool. Students use their devices to follow along with the teacher's slideshow on a classroom screen. Throughout, teachers can pause at points where they've added interactive questions and collect real-time data about student understanding. 
  • Pear Deck supports this strategy by allowing teachers to check student understanding throughout class at key moments and respond to student-specific and whole-class mastery data in the moment.