The Mathematics Problem and Mastery Learning for First-Year, Undergraduate STEM Students

Publication Type:
Journal Article
International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research, 2015, 11 (1), pp. 141 - 160
Issue Date:
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In the 2014 academic year Mastery Learning was implemented in four first-year mathematics subjects in an effort to address a lack of preparedness and poor outcomes of increasing numbers of undergraduate students in science, engineering and mathematics programs. This followed partial success in the use of diagnostic testing and pre-teaching, active learning, and a greater emphasis on problem solving in context - under-prepared students were still more likely to fail the pre-teaching subject and to struggle with subsequent mathematics subjects. Also, failure rates overall were higher than benchmarks required. This paper describes the learning design used, and the outcomes achieved, with implementing Mastery Learning – the positive: improved academic success, time management, and attitudes towards learning and Mathematics, an increased sense of independence, confidence and retention of content, and reduced stress and anxiety; and the negative: students having a sense of being taught how to pass a test rather than having a deeper understanding of the content. It will be seen that this negative is a consequence of a small but important difference in implementation.
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