Test for mastery learning

Tests are meant to measure progress towards gaining practical skills or understanding ideas. Their purpose is to show teachers and students what went right and what went wrong. Unfortunately, too many times we fail to act upon what tests find out.

Instead of fixing the gaps that tests identify, students are pushed through the school system with poor test results and bad grades. The problem is that if we fail to fill these gaps, school can become years of boredom and potentially clever kids might lose faith in their own abilities.

Most Multiple Choice Tests for example are designed to reward guessing instead of precision and honesty. They do not give us the option to “not know”. With terrible consequences. After the test has been taken, both teachers and students won’t know whether the student got it, or just guessed it right. This sends the wrong signal and we miss the opportunity to fill knowledge gaps.

Mastery Learning, an educational philosophy first proposed by Benjamin Bloom in 1968, offers a solution. Under Mastery Learning students must achieve a level of excellence (which could be. 90% on a math test) before moving forward. If students do not achieve mastery on the test, they go back to study and then get tested again. This cycle continues until the student gets it right. Only then may they move on to learn the next thing.

In 2011 the Khan Academy, a non-profit organisation, and the Los Altos school district showed that great things happen if math students advance only if they fully understand a concept. Six months into the experiment of passing only students that fully mastered a concept, the number of advanced math students doubled and 6% of the weakest group joined those at the very top.

What do you think? Does it make sense to teach a student who doesn’t understand 8 times 3 equals 24, how one sixth of 24 equals 4? It's almost like saying: you don’t know how to swim in a pool? what the heck try and jump into that river! Enlighten us with your perspective or share relevant links on this topic in the comments below!