July 15, 2013
Teachers Talk - Master Learning Model
Pinder Mattu, Teacher, Fraser Valley Adventist Academy, Aldergrove, BC

There are a number of instructional models prevalent in today’s world that an educator may use to facilitate learning; each one poses its own strengths and weaknesses. For this issue I will discuss the Mastery Learning model.    
 
This instructional model provides the teacher with content that has been broken into units. These units make available a sequential order of daily teaching plans comprising a preset level of attainment over a suggested range of days. Each unit (skill) builds on another until mastery of the content has been attained. The individuals leading this model believed, if teachers followed and adhered to the objectives and strategies presented to them, the student would excel.
 
Major Claim(s):
Benjamin Bloom’s taxonomy of learning signifies a progressive order through six levels beginning with the basic to the more complex order of thinking. When content is broken into units of sequential order students are able to learn competently and comprehensively. Mastery Learning occurs when students attain the top of the affective and cognitive domains.
 
Learning:
The focus is knowledge attainment. There are sequential steps from the implementation of knowledge to the higher order of thinking that occurs in the human brain such as: comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, to evaluation.
 
Rationale:
In copious studies, the effect of mastery learning calculated by the criterion-referenced tests as well as teacher tests indicate affirmative results both in academic achievement and attitude about school.
 
Evaluation:
Students’ master skills at different times and under this model it would become increasingly difficult to consistently be presenting new material to those who have mastered the old while presenting remedial instruction to those who are struggling.
 
I believe there is great merit in this approach if combined with one or several other models. Using this model solely, according to latest research in brain science, limits the amount of new knowledge retained in the brain since the student is only getting information as piecemeal, so there is a failure to connect to relevant and pre-existing information.  Using a variety of instructional approaches is usually the best choice for most students and teachers.