Conventional methods of teaching may look and sound organized. However, I question whether learning is actually happening. The mastery learning model ensures learning is happening.
In a mastery-based classroom, students are tasked with working towards meeting the objectives. They may do this at different times, with different assignments, alone, with a group or on the computer. Your classroom-management style changes. You begin to create ALL of your practice, formative and summative assignments up front. You create answer keys up front. You organize the objectives into checklists and task each student with creating their own pathway to meet those objectives. It may look like chaos to the outside observer (and perhaps your evaluator) but research suggests that a mastery-based classroom yields much higher student achievement than a traditional classroom.
This model helps teachers to avoid overburdening the students as they work at their own time and pace. Of course, deadlines are still important like mastering the concepts by the end of the unit.
Mastery learning also encourages fast growth. Students who pass the assessment may proceed while providing another chance to those who are left behind.
The concept of mastery learning had first emerged in 1968 and it is now considered one of the most effective learning models. Through many years of evolution, there have emerged various techniques for effective use of this strategy. Taking the students out of the conventional learning environment, this model equips them with enhanced learning pertinent to their expertise and interests.
Effective use of Mastery Learning Model – Some strategies, tips, and tricks
While mastery learning is an effective strategy, it requires time up-front for teacher analysis and planning. To ensure better outcomes, teachers should consider some key features of this strategy.
Teachers should use the following strategies to implement mastery learning effectively:
- Suggest a student to choose the topic which he has not yet mastered. Students can be sneaky about this one. Challenge them and be firm. There is no point in having students practice and spend time on concepts they already know. Require them to focus on what they don’t know and to improve upon existing knowledge.
- Provide the learning objectives up front (I know you always do but when students are all doing different things in your classroom, these objectives become a checklist to keep you and the students organized).
- Allow students to practice through the quizzes and problem solving in groups. Social constructivism is a learning theory that we know works. Use it to your advantage.
- Give feedback to students about their performance in the quizzes/assessment tests. This might be in the form of autograded quizzes on an LMS or digital tool. You might sign out an answer key. If a student has already mastered the concept, consider making him or her the answer key holder and ask him or her to tutor those who “don’t get it”.
- Re-assess those who could not pass the assessment tests after using additional methods of teaching. These students require more one-on-one help. While other students in the class may be able to function without you and keep behavior and time management in check, pay special attention to the students to are not passing assessments. Spend the majority of your time with them.
Importance of Mistakes
In the traditional classrooms, the students are assessed mostly on the basis of mistakes on assessments. However, the bigger aim should be the identification of misconceptions and misunderstandings and the gaps in learning of each student.
When it happens, the students learn from their mistakes and make a plan to correct those mistakes through additional study, changes in time management or extra resources. During the next assessment, they give a try towards correcting their previous errors. Enhanced learning comes from the enhanced identification of errors of mistakes and presenting a solution to each error.
Well before assessments ever occur, use your classroom discussion time to practice questions and answers. Encourage critical thinking and peer support.
Some strategies that a teacher can adapt in a classroom discussion are discussed below.
Teachers must encourage students to share the mistakes and lessons they’ve learned from their experience with other fellow students. Such discussions help students exchange ideas to enrich their educational experience by learning from mistakes made by other fellows. It gives a shorter and smoother path towards success.
When a student gives an incorrect answer to a question, don’t just say “nope!” and move on. A better strategy is to ask the student why the particular answer was given. Focus on the answer, not on the student who gave the answer. We are not here to single anyone out or cause embarrassment. Develop your questioning strategies to encourage thinking rather than simple right or wrong.
Coordination among Students
Remember “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” Allow your students to “phone a friend” when they don’t know the answer in a class discussion. While taking the answer to a question, give an option to the student to choose another student to help him. By letting the students discuss the question and think of a solution together, the students will learn to exchange and to discuss ideas. Such techniques give productive outcomes which foster the social needs of students as well.
Mastery learning can take place within the everyday operations of the classroom or assessments. Use the strategies mentioned here to create a classroom community that encourages social learning and individual achievement. This technique encourages mistakes and allow students to learn from them.
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