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What Do Students Learn in Mastery?

Mark Gutkowski, Global Academic Dean

Do you remember sitting through long classes, staring out the window and thinking you could be spending that time on something more useful and meaningful? Doing something that stirred your soul and inspired you to learn more? We remember, too. That’s why we created the Mastery program at Avenues.

When we use the word ‘Mastery’ at Avenues, we are referring to a rigorous learning experience that engages intrinsic motivation in the cultivation of one’s interests. Mastery students are given time and space during the school day to pursue interests and attain deeper levels of learning, consequently developing passion, expertise and a powerful sense of purpose.

But, what do Mastery students really learn?

The Power of Autonomy

Students learn how to handle the freedom and responsibilities that come along managing their learning. Further, we encourage our students to develop their work in collaboration with others. This way, students learn how their interests, initiative and work can profoundly impact their peers, communities, environments and the world.

How Deep Knowledge Gets

It has been said that traditional education can be a mile wide and an inch deep, meaning students learn broad surface knowledge but never achieve depth in their schooling. Because Mastery begins in 9th grade and culminates in 12th grade, students develop multi-year projects that compel them to push further into research and project work. The more we learn about something, the more we learn there is to learn. This is how Mastery students learn how deep knowledge gets and achieve bigger goals than they ever thought possible

Who They Are and Who They Might Become

The motto of the Mastery program comes from the ancient Greek poet, Pindar: “To learn and become who you are.” We ask our students to form visions of their futures and we support their work towards achieving those goals. While Pindar was somewhat deterministic in his quote, we celebrate the multitudes of experience. We encourage exploration, knowing that life is rarely a straight path and that road itself informs us. Through their work in Mastery, students begin to experience life on their own terms and define their identity in authentic ways.

What It Means to Inspire the World

The Mastery program at Avenues aims to inspire a world of happier, more meaningful lives through the engagement of one’s passions. Mastery students learn that their ideas have value and that their work--whatever it is--can be imbued with a sense of purpose. The quality of the work that our students produce is extraordinary and has gained the attention of professionals in their fields. That work inspires the next generation of Mastery work, which inspires the next generation, ad infinitum.

Their Unique Creative Capabilities Are Superpowers

Mastery students are required to develop a senior capstone project. At the same time, they explore academic research on creativity, with an eye to how it manifests itself in their field of interest. We help our students draw the roadmap towards achieving a level of professional creativity (Pro-C). It will take years for them to ge there, but we help them strategize towards that goal. Our program is a springboard for their futures and a high percentage of the students in college are pursuing studies related to what they did as seniors at Avenues.

In short, ours is a program that develops future world-wise leaders, who are uniquely equipped to understand and solve global-scale problems.

That is what students learn in Mastery and that is who our students become.

Mark Gutkowski is an award-winning educator and program designer, recognized by both Princeton University and by the New Jersey Department of Education. Mark joined Avenues in 2015 and is a Global Academic Dean responsible for the strategic development of the Mastery program at Avenues. You can view his TEDx Talk “Let’s Start Taking Genius Hour Seriously” here.