|Effective Educational Practices (IAE - IBE - UNESCO, 2000, 24 p.)|
For subject-matter to be learned step by step, thorough mastery of each step is often optimal.
More than fifty studies show that careful sequencing, monitoring and control of the learning process raise the learning rate. Pre-testing helps determine what should be studied; this allows the teacher to avoid assigning material that has already been mastered or for which the student does not yet have the prerequisite skills. Ensuring that students achieve mastery of initial steps in the sequence helps ensure that they will make satisfactory progress in subsequent, more advanced steps. Frequent assessment of progress informs teachers and students when additional time and corrective remedies are needed. Mastery learning appears to work best when the subject-matter is well organized.
In the classroom
Because of its emphasis on outcomes and careful monitoring of progress, mastery learning can save learners' time. It allows more time and remediation for students who need it. It also enables faster learners to skip material they already know. Since mastery learning suits instruction to the needs of each student, it can work better than giving the whole class the same lesson at the same time. Such whole-class teaching may be too hard for some learners and too easy for others.
Mastery learning programmes require special planning, materials and procedures. Teachers must be prepared to identify the components of instruction, develop assessment strategies so that individual students are appropriately placed in the instructional continuum, and provide reinforcement and corrective feedback - while continuously engaging students in lessons.
References: Bloom, 1988; Guskey, 1990; Kulik, Kulik & Bangert-Drowns, 1990; Walberg & Haertel, 1997; Waxman & Walberg, 1999.