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Discovery Learning Theory
"For most of the 20th century, the conventional wisdom was that teachers were limited in what they could do to help large numbers of children succeed in school" (Anderson,2002,p1). This meant that students without parents involved in their early development were at a disadvantage, and did poorly later in life. Teachers were unable to help all of their students, so they would focus on the method they felt would help the most students learn. Benjamin Bloom, the son of Russian immigrants, changed all of that. He earned his Undergraduate and Master’s degrees at Penn State and completed his doctoral work at the University of Chicago in 1942 (Anderson,2002,p1). He worked there for the next 17 years, studying the psychology of learning and teaching methods. It was there that Bloom created Mastery Learning Theory.
Mastery Learning Theory concluded that teachers must vary their teaching methods, "Because students vary in their learning styles and aptitudes” (Guskey, 2007, p10). Students have unique ways of learning, so one way of teaching is simply not enough. Because all students are different, "no single method of instruction works best for all” (Guskey, 2007, p16). Students learn and grow at different levels. The idea of the theory is to differentiate instruction in order for all students to master the concept at hand. “Bloom suggested that educators at all levels must differentiate instruction to better meet their individual learning needs” (Guskey, 2007, p10). Teachers must utilize a variety of strategies to teach concepts to students. “Bloom saw value in the traditional practice of organizing the concepts and skills to be learned into instructional units. He also thought it vital for teachers to assess student learning at the end of each unit” (Guskey, 2007, p11). Students need to be tested at the end of each unit for the teacher to assess whether or not the students understood the information presented in the unit. These tests should be used to “diagnose individual learning difficulties and to prescribe remediation procedures” (Guskey, 2007, p12). If a student is not performing well on a test then the teacher needs to teach the information in a new way, but without spending too much time on the concept. Bloom suggests students “rework the answers they got wrong, look them up, but use what they learned to go back and review the material” (Guskey, 2007, p12). The students must go back and retry only the questions they did not grasp the first time; they are not relearning the information they already mastered.
According to Bloom, when using mastery learning, “teachers first organize the concepts and skills they want students to learn into instructional units that typically involve approximately 1–2 weeks of instructional time” (Guskey, 2007, p12). Teachers should begin at the most basic level of the content. The instructional unit should incorporate Bloom’s taxonomy, which begins with knowledge. When a teacher organizes concepts into units it provides places to pause and assess the students’ knowledge. This assessment should be used to investigate where the students are in their learning process and modify or review concepts within the unit. It is also “designed to give students information, or feedback, on their learning” (Guskey, 2007, p12). Then, once the students learn things like vocabulary and basic facts, they move on to the second step, comprehension. Once they master comprehension, students must apply their knowledge, analyze it, synthesize and evaluate it. At this point, students are able to take responsibility for their learning and see what they need to work on to master all concepts within the unit. “The correctives typically are matched to each item or set of prompts within the assessment so that students need work on only those concepts or skills not yet mastered” (Guskey, 2007, p12). Once the teacher sees what the student needs to work on, then the teacher can go back and create specific activities that are tailored to students’ learning needs. Once this process is completed, all students should have mastered all concepts in the unit.
echnology and Learning
Bloom’s theory of mastery learning can be applied using technology because students are able to use alternative materials to help grasp the main concept in a unit. They may identify alternative learning resources for students to use when they are relearning concepts they did not understand the first time. The student “may simply suggest sources of additional practice, such as study guides, independent or guided practice activities, or collaborative group activities "(Guskey, 2007, p13). The student can use different types of materials such as “different textbooks, learning kits, alternative materials, DVDs, videos, or computerized instructional lessons"(Guskey, 2007, p13). Enrichment activities such as iMovie, wiki, and blogs can be used to help students understand the concepts in a different way. Also, teachers are utilizing programs like Read 180, a Scholastic computer program, to help assess students. “The software analyzes, monitors, tracks, and reports on student accuracy, noting not only incorrect answers, but also the types of errors made and the time of the response" (Scholastic,2008,p1). If the students can be assessed and also given feedback, it frees the teacher to help other students individually. “According to how the student performs, the software continually adjusts instruction offering students immediate feedback" (Guskey, 2007, p12). It shows the student immediately what he or she must work on, before the student can forget the information or absorb the wrong answers.
Anderson, L. (2002). Benjamin Samuel Bloom (1913-1999).
, 57(1), 63. Retrieved April 02,2010, from Academic Search Complete database.
Critical Thinking Demo. (2010). [Photograph}.
Guskey, T. (2007). Closing achievement gaps: Revisiting benjamin S. bloom's "learning for mastery".
Journal of Advanced Academics
, 19(1), 8-31. Retrieved from ERIC database.
OfficePort. (2002) Bloom’s taxonomy. Retrieved April 13,2010, from
Scholastic Read 180 Retrieved April 12, 2010, from
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