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Mastery Learning

Mastery learning is a type of learning method that focuses on the idea that just about any child can learn if they are learning within the right environment. The idea behind mastery learning is that children should not move on to another subject until they have mastered a current topic.

Mastery learning is a learning concept first developed from the Mastery for Learning Model created by Benjamin Bloom, an American educational psychologist. An example of mastery learning is that a child in their early years of school will need to master the concept of writing their name or writing the alphabet by hand before moving on to writing sentences and paragraphs. This idea of mastery learning consists of topics that children will begin on the same level to master. The children who do not master will not move on to the next part of the learning experience until they master the current concept. They often will be given extra help, more one-on-one time until they succeed. 

The Basics of Mastery Learning:

There are a few elements of mastery learning that are required for most children to see success. While some require more help than others, the mastery learning concept is ideal to help every child succeed according to each topic or lesson. Children that are more capable of learning on their own and have a higher rate of success with mastery learning are more likely to focus on independent study, while the children that take a little longer to grasp and finally master certain concepts will be given more one-on-one time with an instructor. 

Students must usually show at least 80 percent proficiency in a subject before being allowed to move on to a more difficult set of material. The children who struggle will often get more help through group learning, more homework, peer monitoring, tutoring and additional attention from the instructor. The concept of mastery learning is most effective in high school and elementary age children and students. Another reason this concept of learning is so successful because many students might struggle in the beginning to master a certain level of learning, but will have a higher likelihood of succeeding later on in their school years because they have such a tight grasp on the fundamentals of the concept, which makes learning easier to do later on even with more in-depth concepts. 

Mastery Learning in Schools:

Research on the mastery learning method indicate that children that show prior struggles to this method actually improve significantly more than the children who struggle through traditional means of learning. In fact, overall studies have shown that Mastery Learning is more effective for most students than with traditional learning models. The success of this learning style can be attributed to the behaviorism principles of operant conditioning. According to the idea of operant conditioning, learning occurs when there is an association that is formed between a stimulus and a response. Because with mastery learning, the lessons are broken down into distinct bits of information to be learning, that association between learning and the concept are now closer, which will provide for a more effective learning.

Despite studies showing mastery learning as being more effective, most public schools continue to follow that traditional method of learning. The mastery learning method was introduced in American schools in the earlier part of the 1920s. While the method initially took off in success, the resources to sustain such learning methods was simply not available. That is probably the biggest reason mastery learning is not really used as frequently because mastery learning would require more commitment from the teacher and most public schools don't have the resources to accommodate this level of need. Because essentially every student would be on their own level of learning, it would take longer to singly instruct, make lesson plans as well as assignments and tests dedicated to just that student. 

However just because most public schools do not function on a mastery learning basis, there are some private and charter schools that do. There are also tutoring options apart from public schools as well as homeschooling options that might allow for parents to further look into the idea of mastery learning. 


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