Mastery learning proposes that all children can learn when provided with the appropriate learning conditions in the classroom. According to Benjamin Bloom, he said that the core idea of mastery learning is the length of time it takes a person to learn not how “bright” a person is, i.e., everyone can learn given the right circumstances
Discussion on Mastery Learning
The application of mastery learning is based on Benjamin Bloom’s Learning for Mastery model, with refinements made by Block. Mastery learning is predominantly a group-based, teacher-paced instructional approach, in which students learn by cooperating with their classmates. However, some mastery learning strategies require students to work independently, rather than with classmates
According to John B. Carroll, Benjamin Bloom, and Madeline Hunter they believe that mastery learning can be handled in a normal classroom. Another group has developed a comprehensive curriculum system for use in reorganized schools. Ref: Individually Prescribed Instruction (IPI–Learning Research and Development Center of the University of Pittsburgh) provides for organization of schools and classes to provide for more individualized instruction than is possible in most systems. Mastery learning theorists, especially Bloom (1971), contend that mastery learning techniques reduce the amount of time needed to achieve mastery.
Base on Benjamin Bloom experience he asked his students to “think out loud” while answering exam questions. He found that many students who could answer short-answer questions were befuddled by thought questions. They did not know how to solve problems not limited to math problem solving–including questions like, “Give the reasons which would have influenced a typical Virginia tobacco farmer to support the ratification of the Constitution of 1789, and the reasons which would have influenced him to oppose theratification.”
Bloom said, besides mastery of the material to be learned, mastery learning increases the attitude and interest of students (Fehlen, 1976). He and his students have conducted many empirical studies that demonstrate the effectiveness of mastery programs in a wide variety of circumstances (Levine, 1987). Bloom suggests that mastery learning procedures are likely to enhance learning outcomes in most all subject areas. However, he suggests that effects will be largest in mathematics and science since learning in these subject areas is generally more highly ordered and sequential (Guskey & Gates, 1986).
Meanwhile, Block (1971) states that students with minimal prior knowledge of material have higher achievement through mastery learning than with traditional methods of instruction.
How Mastery Learning Affects Education
- Curriculum: Mastery learning does not focus on content, but on the process of mastering it. This type of learning works best with the traditional content-focused curriculum, one based on well-defined learning objectives organized into smaller, sequentially organized unit
- Instruction: This strategy captures many of the elements of successful tutoring and the independent functionality seen in high-end students. In a mastery learning environment, the teacher directs a variety of group-based instructional techniques. The teacher also provides frequent and specific feedback by using diagnostic, formative tests, as well as regularly correcting mistakes students make along their learning path.
- Assessment: Teachers evaluate students with criterion-referenced tests rather then norm-referenced tests. Mastery learning ensures numerous feedback loops, based on small units of well-defined, appropriately sequenced outcomes.
According to Notes from Benjamin Bloom lecture (ACSA, April, 1987) he said that there are 5 keys to sucsess:
a) Mastery Learning.
b) Home environment
c) Pre-requisite enhancement
d) Make reading automatic, beyond decoding
e) Emphasis on creativity, higher mental processes (upper levels of the Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, critical thinking, etc.)
Some advantages of learning by using mastery learning:
1. Students have prerequisite skills to move to next unit
2. Requires teachers to do task analysis, thereby becoming better prepared to teach the unit
3. Requires teachers to state objectives before designating activities
4. Can break cycle of failure (especially important for minority and disadvantaged students)