Mastery Learning

Individual Learning Approach for Faculty and Students

The traditional methods of teaching lower-division STEM courses often emphasize performance on high-stakes exams, often involving norm-referenced (curved) grading. Changing the design of STEM courses to include mastery learning can boost students’ growth mindset and enhance their learning experience.

What is Mastery Learning?

Mastery learning, proposed by Benjamin Bloom in 1968, is an instructional strategy for individual learning which provides flexible options for faculty and students. Mastery learning has been successfully applied in engineering (Sangalkar et al., 2014), math (Groen et al., 2015), and physics (Masi et al., 2015), as well as other STEM disciplines. Generally, the mastery learning  environment, when implemented skillfully, reduces fear and improves motivation and attitudes among students.

Mastery learning includes the following aspects  (McGaghie, 2015): 

  1. Baseline, or diagnostic testing; 
  2. Clear learning objectives, sequenced as units usually in increasing difficulty; 
  3. Engagement in educational activities (e.g., deliberate skills practice, calculations, data  interpretation, reading) focused on reaching the objectives; 
  4. A set minimum passing standard (e.g., test score) for each educational unit; 
  5. Formative testing to gauge unit completion at a preset minimum passing standard for mastery;
  6. Advancement to the next educational unit given measured achievement at or above the mastery standard; and 
  7. Continued practice or study on an educational unit until the mastery standard is reached.


Liliawati, W., Rusnayati, H., Purwanto, & Aristantia, G. (2018). Implementation of STEAM education to improve mastery concept. IOP Conference Series: Materials Science and Engineering, 288. doi:10.1088/1757-899x/288/1/012148

Mehar, R., & Rana, A. (2012). Effectiveness of Bloom’s mastery learning model on achievement in economics with respect to attitude towards economics. Journal of All India Association for Educational Research, 24(1), 1-13.

Oerther, D. (2019). Experience with mastery learning in engineering courses. 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition Proceedings. doi:10.18260/1-2–32788