Academic journal article Journal of Management Information and Decision Sciences

Impact of Mastery Based Learning Approaches on Student Performance in an Undergraduate Management Science Course

Academic journal article Journal of Management Information and Decision Sciences

Impact of Mastery Based Learning Approaches on Student Performance in an Undergraduate Management Science Course

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

In our experience, Management Science and other Quantitative courses are usually not popular with students in schools of business. Most students find the material difficult to comprehend. Many come into the course with the pre-set notion that they would do poorly in the course. As a consequence, their level of motivation is low and they refuse to put in the effort necessary to do well in the course. A passing grade is all that most students seek and a passing grade is all that they achieve.

We find this trend disturbing because of many negative implications. First, a student who has not done well in Management Science would generally develop low faith in these techniques. As a consequence, they will be hesitant to use such techniques in real life. Second, if students do not understand a technique properly, they may use it erroneously and inadvertently cause disastrous consequences in real life settings. Third, if students do not have a good grasp on applicability of techniques, they may not know when to turn to experts for help in problem scenarios amenable to these techniques.

In real life, use of Management Science techniques usually leads to improved decision making, proper utilization of resources and reduced wastage. As a consequence, it is in our interest to ensure that most students understand the techniques, develop competence in the techniques and go out with an adequate grasp on applicability of the techniques. In other words, it is not sufficient to be satisfied with exposing students to these techniques. It is critical to make students competent in the techniques.

Such an approach is not new and is known as mastery based learning. The basic idea behind mastery based learning is that most students can attain a high level of capability in a subject matter if instruction is systematic, if needy students receive help when they fail to understand concepts or execute techniques, if they get sufficient time to achieve mastery and if they know what constitutes mastery (Bloom, 1968; Block, 1974). There is a large body of literature on the subject of mastery learning. For example, Guskey (1985) provides a good introduction to the subject and also lists over 100 references.

In this paper we describe our experience in implementing the approaches of mastery learning in an introductory Management Science course. While the basic approach of mastery learning is not new, there are many salient features that distinguish this work from those reported in the literature:

a) The usual academic level in which mastery based learning has been implemented successfully is that of kindergarten through the 12th grades. It is rare to implement mastery based approaches in a four year university setting.

b) We have not been able to find any report about successful implementation of mastery based learning strategies to teach quantitative courses to undergraduate business students.

c) The literature documents success of mastery based learning in teaching of skills that students may apply to familiar problems. There is little, if any, documentation of success of mastery based learning in situations where students are required to integrate their knowledge, extend their skills and develop appropriate strategies for unfamiliar problems. However, in the work reported in this article, students are required to integrate their knowledge, extend their skills and develop appropriate strategies for solving unfamiliar problems.

d) We describe practical details about our implementation strategy that have not been documented elsewhere. We have found that it is usually very difficult to implement mastery based learning in a college setting. However, there are ingredients in our approach that increase the likelihood of success of such approaches in an undergraduate class. Details reported in this article are likely to provide useful tips to other instructors for devising their own unique approaches. …

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