This book opens with scenarios of successful classrooms and teachers who have the ““gift.”” Jackson identifies the gift as a ““mindset, a disciplined way of thinking about teaching”” and details seven mastery principles that constitute this mindset. ““No one person is at the center of the classroom,”” she writes. ““The classroom is a community of learners.””?
The highly appealing title encapsulates the partnership that ““mastery teaching”” forms, in which students learn to use multiple currencies that reconcile the beliefs and values that drive successful classroom collaboration. The book's introduction includes a Mastery Self Assessment and scoring guide that encourage taking an introspective look at how one teaches, an appendix with supportive tools, and a Web site, http://www.masterteachermindset.com.
Jackson uses the metaphor of classroom currency to identify the value of capital (knowledge and skills) that students, who do not naturally value the classroom currency, need to acquire. Different forms of currency do not imply different levels of ability; rather, the master teacher ““should reshape the approach to instruction to capitalize on student currencies.”” Chapter 1, titled ““Start where your students are,”” suggests that a teacher with the gift ““rewards students in their own currency to help them learn to value classroom capital.”” Jackson encourages teachers to pay attention to what their students value, and to use rewards they will value.?
Each chapter is devoted to one of these seven mastery principles and opens with an anecdote that illustrates common educational practice and how the mastery principle is put into practice. ““Try this”” sections are bullets that help the reader implement the mastery principle. By Chapter 2, ““Know where your students are going,”” Jackson offers a new look at standards and empowers educators to ““decide minimum evidence that students have achieved the standard”” and use the evidence of mastery in designing appropriate assessments. Jackson addresses the fear of ““dumbing down”” the curriculum by suggesting strategies that help students not fear high standards. Chapter 4 tells us to ““support your students”” in a way that ““demystifies the academic process““ and to use ““feedback to coach students toward better performance,”” working from a plan of action that guides and supports learning. A graphic organizer called the Frayer Model, in which wrong answers were assigned to the non-example quadrant, is given as a feedback example to address students' fears of giving wrong answers.
The author identifies frustrations that teachers share and offers solutions for trying things differently based on substantial research (offering pertinent ideas from Robert Margano, Ken O'Conner, Jonathan Saphier, Grant Wiggins, and Jay McTighe, to name a few) and direct classroom observations. While the assessment tool itself is somewhat tedious, the mastery themes that may require more self-intervention are handled in each chapter. Mahatma Gandhi's words, ““It is the quality of our work which will please God and not the quantity,”” introduce Jackson's sixth principle. She suggests looking at the ever-expanding curriculum with an eye to teaching skills and refocusing on quality rather than quantity. This reviewer became keenly aware that many well-intentioned teachers are enabling rather than helping students when they do all the work. Chapter 8, on the evolution from practitioner to master, emphasizes what a teacher should stop doing, a shift that ““lets kids take on most of the work of learning for themselves.””?