Academic journal article International Journal of Instructional Media

The Integration of Mastery Learning in English as a Second Language (ESL) Instruction

Academic journal article International Journal of Instructional Media

The Integration of Mastery Learning in English as a Second Language (ESL) Instruction

Article excerpt


The impact of Mastery Learning Theory today is widespread in many subject areas and at all educational levels. How can ESL instructors implement Mastery Learning to better fit classroom use? How to conduct individualized instruction and how to meet the individual needs of a student is now the main focus of ESL instructional practice in China. Many colleges and universities in China have integrated Mastery Learning with computer assisted language learning (CALL). With computer-assisted technology instructors adjust content and delivery of instruction to maximize success for "all" students, that is to achieve the Mastery Learning goal (Bloom, 1976). Through my two-week project when I tutored a class of 40 university students from Shanghai China, I came to realize computer-assisted language learning makes a difference in students' achievement both academically and effectively.


Bloom and his Mastery Learning

Benjamin S. Bloom is the distinguished American contemporary psychologist and educationist, the now honorary professor of Chicago University. His works, including "Learning for Mastery" (Bloom, 1968) have been published in millions of volumes in America and have been translated into many other languages. and are widely read and applied all over the world.

In the early 1960s, Bloom's studies focused on individual differences, especially in school learning. "There are many alternative strategies for Mastery Learning. Each strategy must find some way of dealing with individual differences in learners through some means of relating instruction to the needs and characteristics of the learners ..." (Bloom, 1968, pp.7-8).

He believed that teachers had potentially strong influence on students learning although he recognized that many factors outside of school affect how well students learned (Bloom, 1964). Traditionally, according to Bloom (1964), there was little variation in instructional practices. Most teachers taught all their students in much the same way and provided all with the same amount of time to learn. Students for whom these instructional methods and the amount of time were ideal learned excellently. The largest number of Students found these methods and time only moderately appropriate and learned somewhat less. Students for whom the instruction and time were inappropriate due to differences in their backgrounds or learning styles, tended to learn very little. In other words, little variation in the teaching resulted in great variation in student learning. Under these conditions, the pattern of student achievement was similar to the normal curve distribution, that is: the students' learning scores were artificially divided into three levels: high, general and low. Conventionally, a teacher expected only one-third of the students could master their learning task, one-third would be general and the other third would fail, Bloom believed this expectation was the most destructive in the existing educational system. It inhibited the ambitions of both the teachers and the students, and also weakened the students' learning motivation (Bloom, 1976).

To attain better results and reduce variation in student achievement, Bloom 1964) reasoned that there was a need to increase variation in teaching because students vary in their learning styles and aptitudes. "If we are effective in our instruction, the distribution of achievement should be very different from the normal curve (Bloom, 1976 p. 49)". Mastery Learning is based on the concept that all students can learn when provided with conditions appropriate to their situation. Bloom believes that most students (more than 90%) can attain a high level of learning capacity if instruction is approached sensitively and systematically, if students are helped when and where they have learning difficulties; if they are given sufficient time to achieve mastery, and if there is some clear criterion of what constitutes mastery (Bloom, 1976). …

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