Documentation:Learning Principles & Strategies/Mastery

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Learning Principle

To develop mastery, students must acquire component skills, practice integrating them and know when to apply what they have learned. Ambrose, et al.(2010)[1]

Research Says...

  • instructors may be victims of expert blindness - affecting their judgement about reasonable expectations for students.
  • students need a robust understanding of underlying principles and structures in order to transfer relevant skills across contexts.Ambrose, et al.(2010)[1]
  • opportunities to apply learning in multiple contexts fosters more "flexible" thinking. (Gick & Holyoak, 1983)

Implications

  • instructors must be able to break down complex tasks into component skills in order to help students learn them. Experts blindness may make this challenging - support from TAs to identify component skills can help.
  • transfer to other contexts does not happen automatically, students need to be taught how to do this with opportunities to draw on principles, analyze problems according to underlying structures and compare problems for their underlying features.
  • understanding both what to do and WHY are important to knowledge transfer.
  • Diagnosing weak or missing component skills helps direct learning activity.

Strategies

Expose and Reinforce Component Skills

  • Identify relevant skills needed for complex tasks by enlisting the help of TAs or someone outside your discipline.
  • Focus students attention on key aspects of a task - helping them direct their energies to the important learning rather than extraneous aspects.
  • Provide opportunities to practice isolated skills.

Build Fluency and Facilitate Integration

  • Provide opportunities to practice with some time goals ("you should be able to scan an article and identify the main argument in 5 minutes.")
  • Provide constraints and build elements into assignments as students become fluent.
  • Build integration or "flow" into criteria for assignment.

Facilitate Transfer

  • Provide opportunities for students to generalize to larger principles. "What's the principle that describes what is happening here?", etc.
  • Use comparisons to help students identify underlying features or structures.
  • Specify context and ask students to identify relevant methods, approaches or strategies for addressing the issue (gets at the planning issue - important in metacognition).
  • specify skills or knowledge and ask students to identify varied context in which they apply - helps students to see relevance.
  • provide prompts for prior knowledge "where have you seen this before?" "think back to the example from last week - what does this one have in common with it?"

References