Essential learning skills for a grade level need not be confused as minimum standards, but as readiness for being successful at the next level. Thus, essential learning consists of the concepts and skills that teachers will continue to teach and re-assess until they are learned well or at the mastery level by most students.
Educator and researcher Heacox observes, "We
cannot even begin to think about differentiation (how we teach, how
our students learn) without first considering our standards (what
students will learn)."
For example in Canada, in many schools, nine academic skills, namely, reading, document use, numeracy, writing, oral communication, working with others, thinking, computer use and continuous learning are being emphasized that have been interwoven into the age-grade appropriate subject matter of various disciplines."
Under the schemes of essential learning, the schools and teachers assure that their actions and efforts will make all students learn at a high level of performance or mastery level. The main guiding principles for ensuring success for most students need to be such as: focus on learning; creation of a collaborative work culture and a robust support structure for effective teaching.
Moreover, under essential learning programmes, schools need to plan ahead carefully, implement the school plan with deadlines met with; and review work periodically with mid-course corrections. Also, for students, a periodic diagnostic assessment and tutoring plan should also be prepared to achieve mastery over essential learning.