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In this lesson, we will define the mastery learning model and compare it with traditional teaching. We will also look into the steps through which students master material before moving forward.

What Is Mastery Learning?

The majority of us are very familiar with the traditional flow of classes, where we learn material and study for the upcoming test.

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Then, regardless of our grade, we move on to the next set of chapters, until we are tested on those. We go on to learn more and take the next test and so on, until we are done with the class. Maybe we really learned what we were taught, or maybe we only learned a portion, or maybe we barely understood most of the material, and it’s reflected in our ending grade. But what if we had to master what we were taught? What if we couldn’t move forward in a class until we had fully grasped what we were tested on?These are the kinds of questions that educator Benjamin Bloom began posing in the 1970s. He was studying the variation of grades in classes and saw a vast difference between those who had higher grades and those with lower ones. In an effort to create more balance, Bloom considered how those with the lower grades could be given the chance to do better on tests by receiving the help they needed. Specifically, he came up with a model that could promote genuine learning along every step of a course.

This model is called mastery learning.Mastery learning is unique compared to the traditional method mentioned above. Under this model, a unit of material is taught, and students’ understanding is evaluated before they are able to move on to the next unit. As Bloom had suspected, this method was successful in improving grades and lessening the divide between students in class. Below, we have the flow and order of mastery learning in the classroom.

The Approach

As mentioned already, teachers break down their class curriculum into smaller units – about one to two weeks’ worth of material – that will be taught throughout the course.

After learning the first unit, students are given what is like a quiz but serves more as an evaluation or assessment. Rather than signifying the end of their time on this unit, the assessment is a guide to the level of understanding the students have of the unit. The teacher then identifies the areas of weakness and also the areas where the student may not need help.Detailed feedback is given to the student. If students didn’t do well on the assessment, they are given corrective activities to help them better understand material they didn’t get on the quiz. Students can be given practice exercises, study guides, group work or complementary resources, like information on the web, to help them improve.

The students who did do well on the quiz, or showed mastery at their first evaluation, are given enrichment exercises, like special projects, tasks or academic games, to further or broaden their knowledge of the material. After corrective activities or enrichment, students take another quiz that is similar to the content of the first one. Only when the student masters that particular unit can they move on to the next one.


Mastery learning ensures that the ultimate goal of any course – the understanding and learning of new material – is achieved. It also gives students who are struggling opportunities for improvement that are not available in the more traditional model. It provides clear, individualized feedback that can help each student realize what they are missing and how to attain it.

It also helps those who are already doing well to develop their potential more fully through further activities. Mastery learning shows students that the focus is not on their grade but on what they learn. And that alone seems to be a very valuable contribution to the field of education.

Lesson Summary

The mastery learning model was developed by Benjamin Bloom, an educator who found fault with traditional teaching models that force students to move on from a topic regardless of whether they understand the material or not.

The mastery model allows students to get additional instruction if they don’t understand the material. Under this approach, teachers use quizzes for assessment purposes to get a clear idea of whether or not each individual student understands the material in a given unit.Students are either given corrective activities or enrichment exercises based on their performance on this assessment. Students must perform well on a second assessment before they can move on to the next learning unit. This emphasizes the importance of actually learning the material rather than focusing on the grade a student earns.

Key Terms

  • mastery learning model: a learning model that could promote genuine learning along every step of a course
  • assessment: a guide to the level of understanding the students have of the unit
  • corrective activity: activity given to a student who did not do well on an assessment to help them better understand material
  • enrichment exercises: include special projects, tasks or academic games that further or broaden the student’s knowledge of the material if he/she showed mastery at the first evaluation
The mastery learning model provides individualized feedback for improvement.
mastery learning model

Learning Outcomes

Your comprehension of this lesson will enable you to accomplish the following goals:

  • Understand the purpose of the mastery learning model
  • Compare and contrast the mastery learning model with traditional learning methods
  • Explain the ways in which corrective activities and enrichment exercises assist with the student’s learning experience
  • Extol the benefits of mastery learning

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