HomeLatest ThreadsGreatest ThreadsForums & GroupsMy SubscriptionsMy Posts
DU Home » Latest Threads » Forums & Groups » Topics » Economy & Education » Education (Group) » Mastery Learning - I'm sk...

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 09:32 PM

Mastery Learning - I'm skeptical

At this year's Educause meeting (ELI, Feb. 2012), my boss latched on to an idea that if we tell students an 80% is ok, that means we are saying 20% of the material does not matter. Since then, I've stumbled up against what seems to be an idea based on John Carroll's instructional theory, masterly learning, but with some weird twists.

Since I'm in higher education, this concept that all students should leave my class, a freshman level information literacy class with 100% mastery of what I am teaching. The class I teach is a research class where students learn not only how to access information but also how to evaluate it, how it's produced, how we use it, how we receive it, the finances involved, etc. In other words, how to critically think.

I don't think college courses should be about mastery as much as learning how to think and find answers and to sometimes live with uncertainty.

One of the more off-kilter examples I've heard used to justify this method of teaching at the college level is "Would you want your blood drawn by a nurse who only mastered 80% of her class? What if the 20% were drawing blood?"

But isn't that what certifications and exit exams are for? Wouldn't a program like nursing have assessment of that sort of procedure or task built into the not insignificant number of tests those programs give throughout the curriculum?

It makes me fear for higher ed (even more than I already do) - that it will soon be simply vocational training.

I've read about mastery theory and I actually think it makes sense in a K-12 setting and even recognize some of the instruction I received in elementary and middle school as following this theory;however, I'm not certain it is being applied correctly in the contex I'm referring to.

I'm curious what educational professionals here at DU think about this.

One last thing I should mention. It appears this concept is being applied to instructional design for online learning.

15 replies, 3038 views

Reply to this thread

Back to top Alert abuse

Always highlight: 10 newest replies | Replies posted after I mark a forum
Replies to this discussion thread
Arrow 15 replies Author Time Post
Reply Mastery Learning - I'm skeptical (Original post)
Iris Mar 2012 OP
Xipe Totec Mar 2012 #1
Iris Mar 2012 #4
Xipe Totec Mar 2012 #7
NYC_SKP Mar 2012 #2
Iris Mar 2012 #5
Speck Tater Mar 2012 #3
Iris Mar 2012 #6
mzteris Mar 2012 #8
Iris Mar 2012 #9
Sancho Mar 2012 #10
LWolf Mar 2012 #11
mbperrin Mar 2012 #12
Iris Mar 2012 #15
Reader Rabbit Mar 2012 #13
LineLineLineNew Reply .
LWolf Mar 2012 #14

Response to Iris (Original post)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 09:41 PM

1. I had a teacher in prep school (in Mexico) who graded thus...

I'm translating from the decimal grading system to the American letter system, but here goes:

An 'A' is for God.
A 'B' is for the author of the text book.
A 'C' is for the teacher of the course.
A 'D' is for the good students, and.
Everybody else gets an 'F'.

Needless to say, we considered ourselves lucky to get a 'D' and pass his damned courses.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Xipe Totec (Reply #1)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 09:51 PM

4. haha!

I taught high school for 3 years and the asst principal I worked under inspired me to make my classes challenging enough so that a student feels good about actually getting an A. If I succeed, they'll feel like a god!

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Iris (Reply #4)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 10:08 PM

7. He only gave an 'A' once.

And that was to a student who found an error in the textbook, and proved it was an error.

(Physics)

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Iris (Original post)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 09:47 PM

2. First, I think their approach is self serving.

Educause has, as its mission, the need to promote the use of data to guide instructional technology, so they aren't likely to promote, say, portfolio or performance assessments unless they're digital or online.

So, I am not willing to accept their definition of mastery, or their approach to measuring it, and I'm definitely NOT on board with their 80% 100% whatever requirement.

Some true and natural masters of a subject or discipline could easily, I'm sure, test poorly.

.....

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to NYC_SKP (Reply #2)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 09:53 PM

5. good point

I'm going to keep that in mind. We are dealing with a data-driven environment but, fortunately, we're not to the point of having to go to these extremes.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Iris (Original post)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 09:51 PM

3. When I was in college, every class I took, I took with the intent of mastering it.

 

And by the time I had my M.S. I had come pretty close in one or two of them! (And then forgot most if it within a year.)

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Speck Tater (Reply #3)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 09:55 PM

6. #3

Right, but sometimes weren't your first steps less than spectacular so that a grade of an 85 didn't necessarily reflect a lack of mastery but rather what you learned or how far you'd come over the course of a semester?

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Iris (Reply #6)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 11:19 PM

8. Sometimes all a grade proves is

That one is a good "test taker". Some people may know and understand a damn sight more who makes a c than the one who makes an A. Some test well, some don't.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to mzteris (Reply #8)

Fri Mar 23, 2012, 06:27 AM

9. Exactly. So when every student achieves "100%"

well, then, you have produced a good batch of test takers. (Or students who have mastered taking tests!)

To be fair, the original theory, while leaning heavily on assessment, does not say the assessments have to be tests. So, projects, papers, presentations- all of these could be part of determining "mastery."

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Iris (Original post)

Fri Mar 23, 2012, 06:29 AM

10. Mastery-prescriptive learning was well documented in research decades ago..

since it's your area - you should look up an article called, "The 2 Sigma Problem: The Search for Methods of Group Instruction as Effective as One-to-One Tutoring" by Bloom as an example (1984).

If it worked at the University of Chicago, it should work where you teach.

There are people who don't understand or properly apply "mastery learning", but the fact that it works is not a question.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benjamin_Bloom

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Iris (Original post)

Fri Mar 23, 2012, 02:45 PM

11. It fails, but it never goes away.

In the 80s we called it "MLOBE:" Master Learning/Outcome Based Education.

These days we call it "proficiency based," (the "mastery" part,) and "standards based," (the "outcome" part,) and it's as doomed to fail as it was decades ago.

Why? Because it still doesn't acknowledge the source of the failure: time.

We know some students learn faster, or slower, than others. We write IEPs saying we'll give some students "more time," and we write various plans for gifted learners to "accelerate" their learning. Then we are also supposed to be differentiating for all who don't have legal plans, and that often involves time, as well.

But...if we give more time to one particular "standard" or skill, so that a student can master it, then that student gets less time on others, and, of course, if a student learns at a slower rate, he or she is not learning those others any faster.

Time is finite. Resources are finite. That's why "mastery learning" in all of it's guises fails. If it takes an extended amount of time to master one skill, the student has missed even being introduced, give the chance to learn about, if not master, another.

When a student needs more time, the long list of required skills and standards to master doesn't get any shorter.

As a matter of fact, one modern education "expert," Marzano, has suggested that we'd need to add another 6 years or so of instruction to adequately teach all of the standards currently on the books for all students. No wonder so many need extra time to master them. Where is that time going to come from?

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to LWolf (Reply #11)

Sat Mar 24, 2012, 11:37 PM

12. Masterfully said. The first day of school, we know when the last day is going to be.

We know that each class is going to be 49 minutes long, 5 days per week, for 36 weeks, less two weeks for semester exams, less two weeks for semester dead week, less two weeks for state-mandated testing. So 150 days or 7350 minutes or 122.5 days, less attendance, morning announcements, early release for pep rallies, guest speakers from colleges and the military, less fire drills, less disaster drills, less textbook issuance, less textbook pickup, less sick leave days or family emergency days.

There IS no "more" time for differentiation, reteaching, and no facility to accommodate acceleration (it's really just one classroom with 32 desks in it, one teacher, and three computers).

The other idea of 100% mastery is that EVERY DETAIL in the course has been studied, analyzed, weighted, and found to be of critical importance to being able to exhibit mastery of that particular detail.

It also denies that there are alternate methods for doing things, or that the skills involved will be relevant at all in the near future (anybody else take sliderule class in high school in 1971 and find Wang calculators in a lab upon arrival at college?)

The one invaluable skill is critical thinking and problem-solving, along with the desire to use that skill. Unless you really think that I need to know the names of all 50 state capitals without looking them up.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to mbperrin (Reply #12)

Fri Mar 30, 2012, 10:40 PM

15. Yes!

This is what I was getting at. What are you going to "master" that you can't look up? Critical thinking and problem-solving skills are things that you can continuously improve. How can you "master" them?

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to LWolf (Reply #11)

Sun Mar 25, 2012, 02:43 PM

13. Sadly, you are correct.

Our district is also infatuated with the proficiency-based system. Middle school humanities has 64 separate "learning targets."

Sixty-four.

Whoever makes these batshit crazy decisions needs to lay off the bong, or at least share it so those of us who have to implement said decisions can at least be comfortably numb, too.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Reader Rabbit (Reply #13)

Mon Mar 26, 2012, 07:05 PM

14. .

"lay off the bong."



It's not really funny, but thanks for making me laugh anyway.

In the world of proficiency-based instruction, NCLB, and VAM, we also have to subtract all of the testing/assessment time, both formative and summative.

So I've spent some time on that clunky, slow, irritating OAKS portal, because we've had meetings in the lab where we had to, and after "analyzing my data" I discovered that the standard that my students score relatively lowest on is one that is not on the district's "priority standards" list. Not that I was supposed to skip it; just not "emphasize" it.

We now get pep talks from our admin about test scores at least once a week; whole staff-meeting, team meeting, and individual. Our district is publishing nice charts for each school to compare their "meets," "nearly meets," "does not meets," and "exceeds percentages. Because, somehow, competition is supposed to be constructive. We're also allowing any student to transfer in at any time for any reason. 15 new students in the last 7 weeks. None of those transfers are about test scores. They are about people who felt their students' needs, of all kinds, not just academic, were not being met. One mother told me directly that she brought her son so we could "fix" him. Most of the new transfers are students in crisis of some sort, and most have some serious academic deficits. Of COURSE they'll all be proficient by June. Did I mention we've cut days off the end of the school year again to save money?

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink

Reply to this thread