Mastery: Knowing the child

We cannot master what we do not know about. So if young people are to eventually take control of themselves and their own lives, independently – they must be able to come to terms with any learning difficulty or disability. Mastery is as much about the self as it is about specific areas of learning. Indeed, when individuals master a particular area of learning, do they not need to do this in their own unique way?

We are venturing into differentiation; the means by which teachers try to adapt teaching strategies in class to suit the needs of different children. Differentiation is difficult. I know because I have done it. How can any teacher know the needs of thirty children and adapt their styles of teaching to suit each one? They can’t. But of course, it doesn’t work quite like that. Lessons mainly follow the National Curriulum, and most teachers start from average expectations – what most children in the class are expected to do and achieve.

From this average, differentiation happens in two ways: by either simplifying work for children at the lower end of the ability spectrum – or by creating further challenges for those at the higher end. This adaptation of challenges is only the starting point.

Learning happens when the characteristics and personalities of individual learners are considered and taken into account. Most of the thirty or so children in any class learn differently. The more teachers know about children as individuals, the greater the potential for learning. In any classroom, the psychology is as important as the topic. It is not only the WHAT – but the HOW.

The HOW applies to all children: the psychology of learning is not necessarily confined to those with special educational needs or disabilities, yet it is children with learning difficulties who are mainly referred to an Educational Psychologist. In my view, psychology is the key. By knowing the child we can surely use what we know to reach inside the psyche of each learner, tease out potential and enable success for all, ie. mastery.

Who needs to know? As children grow and become better able to understand themselves and their learning, they have an important voice. So my answer to the WHO question is – all three: learner, parent, teacher – working together. Imagine the strength that could emanate from such psychological collaboration and consistent intervention. How much further might some children progress, given this trio of knowledge about the individual at the centre of learning- the child. So let’s first make sure we know, then work together, to help each individual to understand their own personal learning strengths and weaknesses. Mastery depends on it.

Start by finding out WHAT your child learns and HOW. My books will help – Support Your Child with SEND (Book 1) and at successive Key Stages (Books 2 to 4), by Sylvia Edwards, are available from Lulu in printed form, and from Amazon, in printed form and ebooks. Visit my website:

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