Investigating the benefits of mastery learning in the high school physics classroom

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Letters & Science


Teaching general physics in public school wass never an easy task, but with our students' lack of proper math preparation, many of our students struggled with physics. We had to come up with a better way to steer these students through our curriculum. The best way was to allow students to move through the curriculum at their own pace and to require mastery of topics within each unit of the curriculum. We decided to utilize the mastery learning approach. To tackle this, we spoke to our Instructional Specialist to gather ideas for how to help these students who were struggling due to gaps in their knowledge. She suggested we use the mastery learning approach to better help our students get the time they need to complete our curriculum. This created a starting point from which to build our mastery framework, but also to begin my classroom research project. The project aimed to combat the negative effects we were seeing in our physics students, while still maintaining academic integrity, student learning and the requirements of the district and state curriculum. By combining self-paced instruction with frequent formative assessments, students could begin to learn where their knowledge gaps are, as well as learn skills for academic success such as time management, self-advocacy, and learning from their mistakes. It should be known that due to constraints of the school in which I was conducting research, this is only an observational study. There was no control group, or treatment group. All students in the study received the same treatment, with no non-treatment units. My research questions for this project were to evaluae how implementing mastery framework affected student performance in on-level physics classes. In order to measure this, I also had to consider how mastery would impact student performance on common formative assessments, how it impacted student perceptions of physics/science, as well as how mastery encouraged student motivation. Finally, it is also important to see how implementing mastery impacted me, as an educator.




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