We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. By continuing to browse this repository, you give consent for essential cookies to be used. You can read more about our Privacy and Cookie Policy.

Durham Research Online
You are in:

Making sense of ‘mastery’: Understandings of a policy term among a sample of teachers in England

Simpson, Adrian and Wang, Linda (2021) 'Making sense of ‘mastery’: Understandings of a policy term among a sample of teachers in England.', International journal of science and mathematics education. .


This paper considers the term ‘mastery’ as used in mathematics education across different times and locations. A case study from England is offered to show how these pedagogical approaches morph as they move from one territory to another, in the context of each territory’s history. The paper first examines English policy documents, research and published curricula for their use of the term. This suggests that ‘mastery’ in England has become associated with mathematics teaching practices used in high-performing territories such as Singapore and Shanghai (China). But the efforts to transport approaches predominately from East Asian sources, against the background of an existing Western set of meanings for the term, has led to considerable inconsistency in interpretations and definitions of the ‘mastery approach’. A subsequent case study of eight teachers involved in developing mastery approaches in England explores how they make sense of ‘mastery’ in the context of these inconsistent messages. We suggest that this generates challenges for teachers tasked with implementing mastery approaches, with the danger that anything can be done in the name of mastery.

Item Type:Article
Full text:Publisher-imposed embargo
(AM) Accepted Manuscript
File format - PDF
Publisher Web site:
Publisher statement:This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of a journal article published in International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education.
Date accepted:03 April 2021
Date deposited:16 April 2021
Date of first online publication:2021
Date first made open access:No date available

Save or Share this output

Look up in GoogleScholar