FacultyEnlight

Teaching Trend: MASTERY LEARNING

Imagine a college classroom where students work at their own pace and move on to the next learning module only when they have mastered each particular lesson. In this scenario, professors can give individual coaching, students perform better in class, and everyone comes out ahead. It’s called “mastery learning,” and it’s a learning method that, thanks to modern technology, is becoming popular after decades of development.

Started in the early part of the 20th century, mastery learning was always something that was proven to have positive effects on learning. Those who have experience with mastery learning believe that all children can learn if provided with the appropriate conditions, but due to traditional classroom teaching methods, complete mastery of a subject by every student has never been a realistic possibility. Mastery learning truly puts the student in command and allows the teacher to give individual attention while in class. Because teachers couldn’t possibly teach ten different levels of learning at once, though, the movement never fully caught on. Teaching individually, assessing and testing without having students cheat, and simply having time to devote to each learning group during short class periods was impossible. But now, thanks to modern technologies, possibilities in mastery learning are now in teachers’ hands.

The flipped classroom is the most useful tool teachers use in mastery learning. Posting lectures online and reserving classroom time for going over questions means students no longer need to work at a uniform pace. True mastery learning, however, goes far beyond the “standard” flipped classroom. By definition, students cannot move on to the next teaching segment without mastering the current one, so class time can get hectic. Many professors stress that class scheduling and classroom management (video) is the real difference between successful mastery learning in a flipped classroom and chaos. With a schedule nailed down, students can concentrate on teaching themselves how to learn and think for themselves rather than passively listening to a lecture.

When it comes down to it, mastery learning while in class becomes all about applying, not just learning. The learning happens at home during what used to be homework time, and is then truly understood while going over problems and projects in the classroom. Interestingly, the entire mastery learning platform is much like home schooling, where students learn on their own and consult their parents or tutors when they don’t understand an issue. Mastery learning may take more time investment and effort to perfect the art of mastery learning, but the incredible results from educated students and satisfied staff undoubtedly make the process worth it.