Mastery Map and Standard-Based Peer Tutors

In a self-paced or mastery based learning environment, building a mastery map and a network of student experts can help
208 teachers like this strategy
Mastery Map and Standard-Based Peer Tutors Walk-Through

About This Strategy

This strategy will help you build a visual and a system to create a network of student tutors available to support other students with a particular standard/skill once they have reached mastery of this same standard/skill and if they applied to be one of these mastery tutors.

In a mastery-based learning system, students master skills or standards at different paces, and are not constrained to be in the same unit or lesson at the same time as each other. This creates many new opportunities, and this strategy will help to harness the power of having students in the same room at different levels of mastery of different standards, and create a student centered support system able to adapt to the needs of a diverse group of learners.

Implementation Steps

45 minutes
  1. Start by creating a large class poster allowing you to display the different standards and skills of your curriculum. If the idea of having all of them for the year feels too big, consider having all the standards displayed for an upcoming quarter.
  2. Design this poster in a way that can allow students to place a post it note or sticky note with their name or initials in a standard when they master it. Consult the Mastery Map to Organize Skill Tutors template below to get started.
  3. Determine how students can move their post it toward the mastery zone. Consider the following elements:

    • How can students elect to be assessed for mastery at their own pace in a given standard they have not mastered yet? (One strategy to check out for this is Battling the Boss.)

    • When can students update their status on the mastery map (specific time of the class, anytime, etc…)?

  4. Give students a choice to apply to become a skill/standard tutor in the skill/standard they just mastered. Not everyone will want to do this and that is absolutely fine!
  5. Make available to them an application letter. Take a look at the Template for Map of Mastery Poster in the resource section below, for example.
  6. Make also available to students a simple rubric such as this one from GPP30 or at least a checklist with criteria that make a good tutor. Even better, as you introduce the system, ask your students to help you define this checklist. They will love doing so and it may teach you about what is important to them in a teacher.
  7. Establish rules and procedures for students to request support of a tutor in a specific skill/standard, and collaborating with the tutor. See the "Colored Cups or Cards for Student Feedback" strategy for ways for students to request support and feedback from a teacher or a peer.
  8. Celebrate and highlight good tutorship every week, provide constructive feedback when necessary, and pay attention to the students who respond the best to being tutors or to work with a specific tutor.

From Peer Tutor to Peer Teachers

Students who gain mastery of a topic can take on a larger "teaching" role within a classroom, through a process that insures both that the "master" student isn't prevented from moving forward in their own learning and that their teaching is guided to be an effective learning tool.


Implementation steps:

  1. Review assessment data to determine what you want to tutor and reassess. One to two topics that need reassessment is preferable because it can be possible to set up tutoring groups where each student acts as a tutor for the other. When selecting topics and looking at the student data, keep in mind mastery tutors are not replacing the complex teaching that you do, they are supplementing and supporting. See coach tips below for more information.
  2. Write a script and make copies so that each student tutor has one copy for each topic and each student they help. 

  3. Set up tutoring groups. As shown in the Master Tutor Partner Setup example in the resources below, highlighters are used to identify students who were not proficient in a particular topic. These students are paired with another student who could act as a tutor expert. See tips for success below.

  4. If this is the first time implementing this strategy, it is critical to add the following steps:

    • Set the purpose as inclusive, and democratic; celebratory of all students because the tutoring role is accessible to all students. Reiterate the difference between a classroom of "ones" and a community.

    • Model the script. Try to expand, as you are modeling, to make it interactive. To do this have some students in mind who can begin to take on the voice of the mastery tutor.

  5. Have resources ready. For example, printouts of the assessment results, the original assessment, relearning activities and new assessments.

  6. Set up the room where students have dedicated space to spread out their resources. Maintaining a quiet work environment contributes directly to the efficacy of the Master Tutor Project, so help students to work quietly. A quiet environment can be helped by the way tutoring groups are set up in Step 3 above.


Mastery Map and Standard-Based Peer Tutors For Distance Learning

Caitlin MacLeod-Bluver
BetterLesson Instructional Coach

In a distance learning, self-paced or mastery based learning environment, building a mastery map and a network of student experts can help all students. 

Implementation steps: 

  1. Create a digital mastery map of all the skills or standards you expect students to master in a given unit or the whole year. Consider using a Google spreadsheet or document and enabling students to view and comment. 

  2. Determine how students will be able to demonstrate mastery on each skill or standard. For example, students might complete an online playlist using Deck.Toys, Problem.Attic, Sutori, or Gooru. Students could also post on a Padlet, FlipGrid, or on your learning management system, such as SeeSaw. Other tools such as Socractive or GoFormative allow for students to demonstrate mastery. Consult the Better Lesson strategies Systems of Assessment and Battling the Boss for more ideas. 

  3. When students have demonstrated mastery on a specific skill or standard, give them the opportunity to apply to become a standard-based peer tutor. Invite them to complete an online peer tutor application through Google Forms. Another option would be to interview interested peer tutors in a 1:1 video session.  

  4. On your original digital mastery map, display tutor's names next to their standard or skill. 

  5. Ensure that all students know that they can reach out to the peer tutors for support as they work on mastery of a specific skill or standard. 

  6. Determine how students will sign up for access to a peer tutor. They could comment at the peer tutor on the Google Spreadsheet, email the tutor directly, chat the tutor during a live synchronous session, or message the tutor via text, WhatsApp, or MarcoPolo. Consider modeling how to do this for students by creating a screencast with Screencastify or Loom. 

    • Alternatively, if all work is displayed in a public space (such as a Padlet, FlipGrid, or posted publicly on Google Classroom or SeeSaw), tutors could be responsible for providing feedback to other students before they reach out for support. 

  7. Have students engage in either synchronous or asynchronous tutoring. 

    • For synchronous tutoring, peer tutors could offer to host their own small group sessions on a video platform, host 1:1 support with the student, or message the student directly through text, WhatsApp video call, or MarcoPolo. 

    • For asynchronous tutoring, tutors could create videos using and Screencastify. Tutors can then share these videos with the students requesting support, or respond to emails or messages. 

  8. Consider having students reflect on how peer tutoring supported them to overcome their challenge and demonstrate mastery. To do this, consider a Google form reflection, a Padlet, or a FlipGrid. Also consider reflecting with peer tutors about what they have learned from supporting other learners. You may choose to create a small group synchronous video session with the tutors to do this.

Special Education Modification

Nedra MassenburgDEMO
Special Education Specialist

Using a mastery map to build a system to create a network of student tutors is an excellent way not only to help students with disabilities keep track of their own mastery, but build their capacity to teach and learn from their peers.

Successful use of a mastery map and peer tutoring system requires teachers planning for the variety of skills required of students: emotional regulation,  significant executive functioning skills (task initiation, prioritization, working memory, etc.), written expression skills, reading skills and verbal expression skills.  In order to support students with disabilities who have difficulty in these areas consider the following modifications:


  1. Teachers should think carefully about the approach of quality over quantity when helping students with disabilities track their mastery.  Special emphasis for all students could be put on mastery of the highest leverage skills in a unit.  Visual mastery maps could also display a smaller set of skills (i.e. weekly goals) for students with disabilities that affect their emotional regulation (i.e. anxiety). 

  2. Teachers should consider having students spend time identifying their personal learning styles to have more data to use when pairing peer tutors to increase overall student buy-in. 
  3. Depending on the percentage of students with disabilities present in a classroom, a teacher may increase the amount of modeling time built in to prepare students for peer tutoring and increase the frequency and duration of feedback to peer tutors. 
  4.  If multiple teachers are present in a setting, consider having one teacher work in a small group of students with more intensive disabilities to help provide more targeted guidance on when and how to deploy mastery maps and peer tutoring.

EL Modification

Shannon Coyle
English Learner Specialist

English learners benefit from being developed as tutors by practicing authentic academic English language skills with peers and gaining confidence. English learners receiving support benefit from developing questions and peer interaction. Using this strategy gives teachers an opportunity to guide English learners in sharing their expertise with others through important academic skills like asking questions, explaining topics, and presenting materials. 

English learners participating in this strategy are required to read and write in order to apply for tutor status or to request tutor support. English learners engaged in tutoring need to listen and respond to peers. In order to support English Learners consider the following modifications:


  1. Ensure English learners understand the language in mastery maps and tutoring applications. For instance, ask learners to restate directions or use TPR, e.g., thumbs up. Give learners hard copies of all referenced materials to follow along. Consider previewing or 1:1 check-ins to read aloud and/or go over maps and applications. 
  2. Explicitly encourage learners who have achieved topical mastery to apply as tutors. English learners may be concerned their language skills are not fluent enough to work as tutors. Anchor learners in the evidence of their mastery of topic. For lower-level language learners, consider partnering with learners’ language specialist to preview or role play tutoring. 
  3. Explicitly encourage learners who have not yet achieved topical mastery to seek out tutelage. English learners may be nervous to use their academic language with a native speaking peer. Consider pairing tutors of the same home language with English learners who are receiving tutelage so they may use their home language for clarification. 
  4. Ensure mastery assessments are fair and accurate assessments of learners. Consider accommodating, modifying, or creating alternative assessments for English learners that aim to distinguish between linguistic and content mastery so their goals may be focused appropriately. Devise a variety of ways for English learners to express their learning. Consider consulting with learners’ language specialist. 
  5. Consciously group English learners. Alongside assessment data, consider social dynamics as well as language skills to ensure learners’ participation. Consider anchoring learners at lower levels of proficiency with tutors who speak the same home language to allow for idea and question generation and clarification in the home language.


Coach Tips

Romain Bertrand
BetterLesson Instructional Coach
  • Do not be afraid to have a public representation of the level of mastery of your students in each standard. In a mastery based progression, students learn quickly that the key word is not yet. In other words, they understand that this map is fluid and that students can move up and down on the map as they progress. Plus the fact that there are so many different standards creates opportunities for everyone to be a tutor at some point for a given standard.
  • One important thing to decide will be if you want students in need of a tutor to be able to select a specific tutor or not. If the answer to this question is no, then student tutors in a specific standard will have to pay attention to the signal you have decided to use for students to ask for help in a specific standard.

  • If every student has access at all times to a device, you could consider using a tech tool for students to submit a request for help instead of post-its or colored cups. The questions to ask yourself then become:

    • Why would this be better for you?

    • Is it worth the trouble then?

    • If it is, would you be the one centralizing the messages asking for help and assigning student tutors to help or would you like your students to have direct access to this backchannel?

    • If you want your students to run this backchannel themselves, you will have to think about the potential issues arising there so that you could anticipate them.

Master Teacher Tips

Erin Greenwood
BetterLesson Master Teacher
  • Any topic works for student mastery tutors, but students acting as tutors have better success on skills and/or concepts that rely less on difficult conceptual understanding. With practice throughout the year, students gain confidence in their teaching skills and can be reliable tutors of concepts of increasing complexity.

  • When setting up groups account for personality type, friendships, learning style, level of perseverance, gender and level of teaching/learning aptitude. This sounds complicated, but it only took about 10 minutes per class to develop the tutoring groups.

  • Maintaining a quiet work environment contributes directly to the efficacy of the Master Tutor Project, so help students to work quietly.

Check out my "Mastery Learning in Science: Students as Teachers" lesson  included in the resources below to see how I structures mastery tutoring.