Sunday, July 21, 2013

Mastery Learning in the Press and Elsewhere

I'm a big fan of mastery learning (Bloom's Mastery Learning, in particular), so you'd think that I'd be happy to see it mentioned in the press and elsewhere. But I have mixed feelings. When people write about mastery learning, it increases public awareness about the practice. Raising awareness is a good thing, provided that the information is accurate and the overall representation is fair.

At the Coursera blog, there is an article titled 5 Tips: Learn more effectively in class with Mastery Learning. In the case of this article, the above criteria are met, more or less, and the author is presenting mastery learning in a positive light. But I do have a nit to pick.

In my opinion, the author's description of mastery learning is too narrow. She says, "In mastery learning classrooms, students must fully understand (demonstrate mastery of) the material before moving on to the next topic." Is this statement accurate? It depends on the mastery learning model. It is true for Keller's Personalized System of Instruction, but false for Bloom's Mastery Learning. And the only researcher mentioned in the article is Benjamin Bloom.

So if the Coursera article is pretty good, why post to nitpick? Think of this post as a prelude to the bad articles that I will be bringing to your attention. Most articles contain misinformation, and that's unfortunate, but understandable. (Everyone makes mistakes, me included.) But somewhere, you have to draw a line in the sand.

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