When using instructional approach directed toward mastery learning, context is key to achieving superior results. In particular, individualized instruction is key for building strong foundations of knowledge and skill.
Educational technology is broadening the possible applications of mastery learning. For instance, mastery learning has always tended to get better results with smaller groups of students. Now, personalized and adaptive learning technologies are making it feasible to implement mastery learning in larger class sizes.
Mastery learning requires students to master each component unit within a course, before moving on to the next level of learning. Derived from the work of Harold Bloom, mastery learning relies on small learning units, regular assessment, and remediation throughout each unit.
Instead of progressing through a course at a fixed pace, students progress at their own pace. In principle, students build a stronger foundation of learning at each level, leading to better performance over the long term.
In a personalized online course, frequent assessment and remediation (branching scenarios) can be built into the course to satisfy the mastery requirements.
To ensure that a personalized or adaptive course meets mastery learning standards, the concept of a passing grade needs to be modified accordingly. Generally, mastery requires a minimum 80% assessment score to move the learner to the next lesson level.
Looking at other contexts where mastery learning is most effective:
One big advantage of mastery learning is the impact on retaining learner participation from start to finish of a course. The impact can be substantial for courses that continually build on prior knowledge, such as in mathematics.
This video takes a look at an approach using mastery learning in a flipped classroom: