Mastery-based Learning with Launch School

It’s a new week, so we have a new podcast episode for you. Matt and I spoke with Chris Lee of Launch School about his approach to online education. We discuss the different tradeoffs and considerations that come into play when a curriculum is being put together.

To my mind, mastery-based learning — where you don’t advance to the next stage until you’ve really mastered the topic at hand — really shines for things where you have some kind of longer-term goal. Just because it’s a good approach doesn’t mean it’s easy, though. In Chris’ words:

We started this to try to figure out education. It was not a money making endeavor. So to us, teaching became the engineering problem to solve. I was not a proponent of Mastery Based Learning before Launch School. Mastery Based Learning or Competency Based Learning is not unique to Launch School, it’s a well known pedagogy in academic papers. But it’s really hard to implement.

Think about a physical classroom. Mastery Based Learning means that a student gets to occupy a seat in that classroom for an indefinite amount of time. That’s a really hard promise to make when our schools are tasked to usher through students. It’s not about training students and making sure they understand every topic, but getting people through.

You can download and listen to the episode over on the main Sources & Methods website here.

New Year, New Arabic-language Podcast

This year, in combination with my publishing a book about getting from intermediate-advanced level in Arabic, I wanted to find a way to stay committed to improving my own language. So I’ve started a mostly-Arabic-only podcast.

There are two episodes up already, both from the ‘Jordanian Dialect’ series. This series is recorded with co-host Lina Obeidat, my good friend and Arabic teacher of several years. (Book lessons with Lina on iTalki here. She’s also a regular contributor to talkinarabic.com’s Levantine materials).

During the first episode, we talked about the winter and the rain in Jordan (where we’re both based), and I learnt about the existence of a period of 40 days when the weather is much colder. In our second episode, we talked about taxis in Amman. We struggled to find many positive things to say about the system or the drivers of taxis, but tried to see things from their perspective. At the end, I learned a new proverb that was appropriate to our discussion.

In the coming weeks I’ll be adding more shows to the podcast. There will be a show focusing on Classical Arabic texts. There will be a show on Modern Literature. Potentially we’ll have a show for Egyptian Colloquial (sigh!) but that depends on my finding someone to host it (let me know if you’re interested).

I’m looking forward to recording more episodes. Please leave a comment over on Soundcloud with any feedback you might have. Also, subscribe on iTunes by clicking on this link or search my name and you should find it. The podcast is also available on Overcast. Just search the name and it’ll show up.