This post relates to my reflection of Mastery Learning in MOOCs
I enjoyed the presentation here by Daphne Koller where she elaborated the use of Mastery Learning as a pedagogy in MOOCs.
It’s interesting to see if Mastery Learning is a perfect model/pedagogy in MOOCs.
Bloom believed that nearly all students, when provided with the more favorable learning conditions of mastery learning, could truly master academic content (Bloom, 1976; Guskey, 1997a). A large body of research has borne him out: When compared with students in traditionally taught classes, students in well-implemented mastery learning classes consistently reach higher levels of achievement and develop greater confidence in their ability to learn and in themselves as learners (Anderson, 1994; Guskey & Pigott, 1988; Kulik, Kulik, & Bangert-Drowns, 1990).
Sustaining and Extending Success
Researchers today generally recognize the value of the core elements of mastery learning. As a result, fewer studies are being conducted on the mastery learning process itself. Instead, researchers are looking for ways to attain even more impressive gains by improving students’ learning processes, curriculum and instructional materials, and the home learning environment and support and providing a focus on higher level thinking skills. Work on integrating mastery learning with other innovative strategies appears especially promising (Guskey, 1997b).
As we strive to improve achievement even further, we can continue to learn from the core elements of mastery learning. Attention to these elements will enable educators to make great strides in their efforts to close achievement gaps and help all students achieve excellence.
I was first introduced to Mastery Learning in 1985, and studied about Benjamin Bloom’s hypothesis and the related theories. After years of teaching, I could comment about its application based on my experience and observation. There are certain assumptions made in Mastery Learning (again, I have proposed Assumptions Theory as a basis upon which all Theories could be challenged, validated or tested, and that could be a critical lens for any one to view, from different perspectives, with different angles). I understand that there are always parameters which could not be easily controlled in even the most extensive studies in education, though I would suggest to be cautious in interpreting the studies.
Refer to this paper on 2 sigma problem:
First, Mastery Learning works, based principally on a behavioral model, whereas pre-requisite knowledge and skills are tested before the learning, and that mastery of skills could be achieved through a self-learning mode with continuous feedback in the learning process.
Second, Mastery Learning works best when the learners are learning skills which have definite learning and performance outcomes (skills, knowledge), and that these outcomes are measurable using the tools used.
Third, Mastery Learning relates to individual’s performance and so it is a good measure of individual’s performance based on an apprenticeship or traineeship model. Even under the Bloom’s Taxonomy, the emphasis is still on individual’s performance. That also explains why most of our students are assessed individually, without much consideration of assessing individuals under a group or network situation.
The one-on-one tutoring sounds like a perfect system, though there is also an implicit assumption that the trainer and trainee (or mentor and mentee) would help and support the trainees or mentees at their best. I don’t think that is that simple, as I have worked on a number of mentoring project (as well as traineeship model – with one-on-one) where a number of factors are critical for such learning to work. This includes assumptions such as: a good match of mentor and mentee, a healthy and trustful relationship is established and sustained in the mentoring or training process, and that there is a supportive learning environment for the trainer and trainee etc. There are also other critical factors which need to be considered: trust, power, learning context or situation, incentives and motivation of mentors and mentees or trainer and trainee etc. Are these possible in MOOCs? I wonder!
I think mastery learning is useful as it is a structured approach towards learning of the content. I have reservations in its use for advanced or deep learning, as some aspects of learning – such as creative thinking, critical thinking, complex analysis and emergent learning cannot be measured using those conventional tools (i.e. Multiple Choice, True or False, or objective testing). The mastery of those skills cannot be relied solely on testing, and so I would question the validity of these research findings when applying in the checking of learning of participants’ of MOOCs in a linear fashion. I doubt if anyone could repeat such studies nowadays with those experiments, as people are learning beyond the institutional framework, and that 2 or 3 sigma is not “good enough”.