Written by Steve Griffiths
In 1984 Benjamin Bloom wrote an academic paper that reported on research comparing student achievement under conventional instruction, mastery instruction and one-to-one tutoring. Students that received mastery instruction achieved final achievement scores one standard deviation above those that received conventional instruction. Students that received one-on-one tutoring achieved final scores that were two standard deviations above the conventional instruction students (figure 1). Bloom went on to describe a quest to identify group instruction methods that could be as effective as one-to-one tutoring. Bloom found that mastery learning could be combined with changes in teaching practices to achieve additional improvements in student performance.
Bloom proposed that student performance is improved with one-to-one tutoring because the students continually receive feedback, reinforcement and encouragement and the tutee is actively involved in the learning process. Bloom recommended that instructors employ a mastery approach to instruction as well as implement teaching practices that promote students to actively engage in the learning and that provide frequent feedback and clarification to students.
In-flipped mastery may be a method that can achieve student improvement that approaches the improvements achieved by one-to-one tutoring. To help explain why this might be possible, we must first define mastery and explain in-class flipped mastery.
One definition of mastery learning is “an instructive strategy in which students are expected to reach a certain level of proficiency. Students study material at their own pace, receiving the assistance they need in order to meet the predetermined level of mastery, which is typically set at 80 percent on an objective test” (The Greenwood Dictionary of Education, 2003). Mastery has traditionally been hard to implement in a conventional classroom. However, the flipped classroom makes mastery possible and very effective.
The in-class flip involves students progressing through the study material at their own pace by watching teacher-made videos (in-class) and then practicing and deepening their knowledge through activities and problems, again at their own pace. The student-centred nature of the in-class flip frees up the teacher to interact with every student. The in-class flip allows the teacher to reach every student, in every class, every day and this may be why student achievement can approach that of one-on-one tutoring. The teacher checks student answers, monitors their progress, ask them questions and clarifies misconceptions. The interactions are frequent and individualised.
The daily interactions with each student in the in-class flipped classroom augment the formal mastery checks that characterise mastery learning. The teacher is continually assessing mastery with every interaction with the student. Not only does the teacher assess mastery of the content and skills but also the student’s mindset, their grit and their agency. The teacher can then tailor their intervention specifically to each student.
A key aspect of mastery is that learning is individualised for each student. Based on student performance on mastery checks, each student is prescribed an individualised program of correctives to master the content or skills or to extend students that have already achieved mastery. It is little wonder that mastery learning is practically impossible to implement effectively in a traditional classroom where all students progress through the unit in a lock-step fashion.
In Bloom’s quest for group instruction that is as effective as one-to-one tutoring, he recommended mastery learning with teaching practices that promote active learning and regular feedback and clarification. Flipped mastery ticks all of these boxes and is a powerful tool that can potentially transform the way that students learn.
The recent report into the state of Australian schooling, known as “Gonksi 2.0” has called for more individualised learning for students. In-flipped mastery is a promising technique that can go some way towards achieving more individualised learning.
Bloom, B. S. (1984). The 2 sigma problem: The search for methods of group instruction as effective as one-to-one tutoring. Educational researcher, 13(6), 4-16.
Collins, J. W., 1948, & O’Brien, N. P. (2003). The greenwood dictionary of education. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press.