MASTERY LEARNING DEFINED
The following teaching strategy provides a view that puts the degree of effort for mastery learning into perspective. When it comes to education, everyone starts as a beginner while continuing to progress toward their goals through hard work and determination (click image to enlarge).
STAGE 1: UNAWARE (CURRENT SKILLS)
STAGE 2: AWARENESS (SPECIFIC SKILLS)
STAGE 3: BEGINNER SKILL LEVEL
STAGE 4: INTERMEDIATE SKILL LEVEL
STAGE 5: ADVANCED SKILL LEVEL
STAGE 6: MASTERY SKILL LEVEL
STAGE 7: REFLECTIVE EXPERT SKILL LEVEL
STAGE ONE: UNAWARE (CURRENT SKILLS)
The term unaware, as used here, describes a state where an individual, equipped only with their current skills, is completely unaware of the relevance or importance of a specific set of skills that might be useful to them.
For instance, take the toddler who witnesses their parent reading their favorite story, yet they are still unaware that someday they too will need to learn to read and write.
Or, how about the new employee, still in orientation, who does not know it yet; but, once they hit the production floor, they will have to learn to work with a complex electronic scheduler.
If awareness of a specific set of skills is not in place, the learner is in stage one and will not see the need for learning. At this point, it is necessary to establish awareness (stage two), so important decisions concerning stage three, which is where the real learning begins, can be set in motion.
STAGE TWO: AWARENESS (SPECIFIC SKILLS)
There’s much to be said about awareness. Being aware is knowing, feeling, and experiencing something. When it comes to that something – the whole world is after our attention. Bulletin boards, commercials, magazines, newspapers, books, curriculum catalogs, Websites, flyers, brochures, etc., all distributed to make someone aware of something.
Case in point: The mastery learning model outlined here is a simple teaching strategy designed to activate stage two for our target audience, the parent new to homeschooling. Stage two of the seven-stage mastery learning model is where awareness takes place.
Here’s what STAGE TWO: AWARENESS (SPECIFIC SKILLS) might look like:
Now comes the decision-making process. I’ve decided that I want to learn Algebra 1, the fundamentals of homeschooling, and how to grow tomatoes. The first question I need to ask myself is – are there any prerequisites? And it just so happens there are.
Pre-algebra is a prerequisite of Algebra 1. The home school laws are a prerequisite of homeschooling. My commitment to setting aside time for tending the garden is a prerequisite to growing tomatoes.
Once I determine I have met all prerequisites, I can begin to put together my resources. For example, for Algebra 1, I will need a curriculum to effectively build the necessary knowledge and skills through practice and hard work, as described in the stages that follow, beginning with stage three.
Here’s a list of resources to help you get started:
STAGE THREE: BEGINNER SKILL LEVEL
A beginner is someone who is doing something for the first time. This means, to become a beginner, you actually have to do something – simply being aware is not enough. At this level, you will find yourself making common mistakes.
With the instructions in hand, the beginner advances the learning process from STAGE THREE: BEGINNER SKILL LEVEL to STAGE FOUR: INTERMEDIATE SKILL LEVEL through lots of practice and hard work.
STAGE FOUR: INTERMEDIATE SKILL LEVEL
A learner at the intermediate skill level is someone capable of doing something correctly without assistance. This means, to become a learner at the intermediate skill level, you actually have to do something the right way without someone helping. Trying to do something is not enough (you must do).
You are now capable of working your way through a problem and performing a task without intervention. You still have to concentrate diligently. You still find yourself occasionally having to work through a problem and/or task more than once. Nonetheless, you’re capable of succeeding on your own.
Learners can be at the beginner skill level, and intermediate skill level within the same instructional and/or study material at the same time. For example, you can be at the beginner skill level in chapter three of Algebra 1 and intermediate skill level in chapters one and two.
With lots of practice under the belt, the learning process advances from STAGE FOUR: INTERMEDIATE SKILL LEVEL to STAGE FIVE: ADVANCED SKILL LEVEL through more practice and hard work.
STAGE FIVE: ADVANCED SKILL LEVEL
A learner at the advanced skill level can do something correctly without thinking much about it. This means, to become a learner at the advanced skill level, you can now actually do something the right way without all that concentration – the performance is now second nature.
The same rule in stage four applies here. Learners can experience all the learning stages within the same instructional and study material simultaneously. For example, while at the beginner skill level in chapter three of Algebra 1, a student can be at the intermediate skill level in chapter two and advanced skill level in chapter one.
At this point, the learning process advances from STAGE FIVE: ADVANCED SKILL LEVEL to STAGE SIX: MASTERY SKILL LEVEL through even more practice and hard work.
STAGE SIX: MASTERY SKILL LEVEL
The term mastery skill level, as used here, describes a learner who has completed all their instructional and study material at the advanced skill level. Take Algebra 1, for example; the learner can think and solve all problems from cover to cover correctly with ease – their performance is now second nature. This learner has mastered Algebra 1 and is now ready for Algebra 2.
Eventually, all that thinking, practice, and working with knowledge is going to pay off. Reaching mastery skill level is quite an achievement for anyone, but there’s more. This is where you are going to hear more about self.
STAGE SEVEN: REFLECTIVE EXPERT SKILL LEVEL
A student functioning at reflective expert skill level is proven intellectually competent. This student is a mastery learner who has acquired the mental processing skills and know-how necessary to take on college-level work. This student is recognized for their qualities as a self-starter, self-reliant, and self-reflective. This student is considered competent to mentor/tutor other rising students.
Reflective expert skill level is comprised of mainly two basic components.
- Academic Mastery
Reflective experts strive for mastery skill level in all academic course work. Remember, this is where the learner can think and solve all problems from cover to cover correctly with ease – their performance is now second nature.
Reflective experts strive to realize their fullest potential by focusing on developing their personal qualities and intellectual resources. Just as with their academic mastery, they strive for mastery skill level in their personal and intellectual development.
For reflective experts, it is about knowing how to be more effective and efficient at managing their mental processes, accessing and using their knowledge, driving their motivation, building their skills, and monitoring their performance.
In the end, this is a student that knows how to make learning occur.