If you were tutoring one student, would you hop over to TES, download a PowerPoint and just present it? Thought not. You’d probably act more like a doctor: ask some diagnostic questions to find out what she didn’t know, and then teach to fill the gaps. Benjamin Bloom, yes, the same Bloom, invented a system for doing this with a whole class. Crucially, the diagnostic assessment happens before the end of the topic so you have time to adapt your teaching for the students who didn’t get it first time. There’s buckets of evidence that ‘mastery learning’ can improve achievement. But you don’t see much real mastery going on in science because it takes a lot of resources to make it work when your goal is understanding rather than rote learning.
Our ‘Starter Pack’ solves this problem. A homage to the famous taxonomiser, it follows exactly the components of his system that were responsible for the high effect sizes on achievement.
Diagnostic mastery quiz
This is a specially designed multiple choice quiz. Each scientific idea is broken down into a number of facets, and each one is tested with a series of questions. The questions are written so that the distractors are misconceptions that students may hold, like this example from the ‘gravity’ topic.
Based on individual students’ performance on the quiz, you can decide whether they need to spend more time re-learning the concepts. The Starter Pack provides two kinds of activity. For students who didn’t manage the ‘Apply’ type questions, the activity gives practise on recognising which idea to use in an unfamiliar situations, and how to use it. For students who struggled with ‘Know’ type questions, it review the basics and examines gaps in knowledge and misconceptions.
Second chance quiz
Mastery is about making students feel successful, so the Starter Pack also has a second mastery quiz to be done after the re-learning. This tests exactly the same objectives, with similar but not identical questions. This approach is consistent with the ‘growth mindset’ where that students can demonstrate that their efforts have helped them make progress. This helps them to become confident with science, instead of seeing it as something they’re bad at.
Students who did reached whatever cut-off score you set in the diagnostic quiz, get to move forward. We have provided an ‘Extend’ activity, which is on the one hand, motivating, and on the other, challenging. It needs to be seen as motivating to encourage everyone to pass the quiz! The challenging part is that it focusses on higher order thinking, and the ‘Extend’ learning objectives in the KS3 Science Syllabus.
If you’d like to understand more about our mastery learning approach, watch the video where Tony explains how the different components fit together.
Note: you need to join the Beta Users group and be logged in to download the files
Starter Pack samples