This post is part of a series challenging our assumptions about learning techniques. We’re asking you True or False questions to see what you do and don’t know about how to learn effectively, as well as giving you up to date information from current research into learning. Check out the previous post in this series and read the most recent one below.

Spending a certain amount of time on a topic will guarantee that you attain a certain grade. There is a base level amount of time that we all need to spend on any topic in order to learn it effectively.

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Spending a certain amount of time on a topic will guarantee that you attain a certain grade. There is a base level amount of time that we all need to spend on any topic in order to learn it effectively.

THIS IS FALSE.

We are drawn to thinking that practice makes perfect and that spending a certain amount of time learning something will get everyone in the class to the same level.

An alternative to this idea is known as Mastery. Mastery means that a student must ‘master’ a topic, i.e. achieve 90% or more in a test, before moving onto the next. In the 1960s, a famous education researcher called Benjamin Bloom compared students in a conventional classroom to those in a mastery learning classroom and found that the average student in the mastery class was above 84% of students in the conventional class.

Mastery means that a student won’t be judged by how long they need to spend on a topic. Eventually, all students will achieve the same level of learning, but, understandably, some may take longer than others.

Want to read more on this topic? Check out these links:

  1. Mastery learning (Wikipedia)
  2. The 2 Sigma Problem: The Search for Methods of Group Instruction as Effective as One-to-One Tutoring

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