Mastery revisited (again)

Mastery learning is one the concepts I discovered early in my career and that I continue to return to as a great idea just on the edge of meaningful implementation. I see mastery learning as different from other education concepts that continue to reappear even though the efficacy of these ideas is seldom demonstrated. To me, mastery learning is an idea that has waited for a practical method for implementation. Tutoring has always been an approach to implementation responsive to individual differences in learning speed, but the cost effectiveness of tutoring has typically prevented speed of acquisition differences to be accommodated. My interest in technology from the beginning has been related to the potential for personalization. The “personal computer” offers opportunities for many forms of individualization.

Educational historian Larry Cuban has recently begun generating blog posts focused on the Personalized System of Instruction – Fred Keller’s model from the late 1960s (here and here). As a model suited to technological support, PSI offers the best model from the early days. Bloom’s more group-based approach possibly received more attention because of Blook’s conceptual framework and concepts such as formative and summative assessment, but Bloom was also simply better known as an influential figure. I try to get my grad students to consider Keller’s perspective as a better starting point for individualized instruction.