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Tip #123: Mastery Teaching Model

Tip #123: Mastery Teaching Model

On May 28, 2006, Posted by , In curriculum design, By , With Comments Off on Tip #123: Mastery Teaching Model

I was first introduced to the UCLA Mastery Teaching Model by my mother, Merle Levine, who was then the Principal of Northport High School, which was (and may still be) the largest high school on Long Island, New York. The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction had contacted me about creating performance standards for teachers of the hearing and visually impaired. Since I was not conversant with Braille or the American Sign Language, I had no idea how I would determine whether learning was occurring in their classes.

My mother suggested the UCLA Mastery Teaching Model, in which Dr. Madeline Hunter identified the decisions that all teachers (and trainers) continually make before, during, and after interaction with the learner- to increase the probability that learning will occur.

Luckily for me, Dr. Hunter was traveling to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to teach summer weekend postgraduate classes at Cardinal Stritch College. Because of that association, Cardinal Stritch College was working with local high schools to incorporate the Mastery Teaching Model into their curricula.

In June of 1987, I took Increasing Teacher Effectiveness with Dr. Hunter. The next year, I took Advanced Teacher Effectiveness. And in 1990, I took the last class I believe she taught in Milwaukee, Escalating Effectiveness in Staff Development. Dr. Hunter died in 1994.

Teacher training models have come and gone since then, but I have found that the Mastery Teaching Model continues to offer clear and useful concepts and techniques for any person engaged in teaching or training children or adults. Apparently, there has been a resurgence of interest in the model, because Corwin Press had to recently reprint the Madeline Hunter Collection Series that includes most of her printed works. As they state on their website,

Madeline Hunter is one the most respected and widely known advocates of professional development for teachers. Her practical and skillfully presented books, now republished for a new generation by Corwin Press, detail the essentials of effective teaching. Issues addressed include: what influences a student’s motivation to learn and rate of learning, how students remember what they have learned, and how to achieve student discipline and student self-discipline. Books within the collection include:

  • Aide-ing in Education
  • Discipline That Develops Self-Discipline
  • Improved Instruction*
  • Improving Your Child’s Behavior
  • Mastering Coaching and Supervision
  • Mastery Teaching: Increasing Instructional Effectiveness in Elementary and Secondary Schools, Colleges, and Universities
  • Motivation Theory for Teachers*
  • Retention Theory for Teachers*
  • Teach for Transfer*
  • Teach More – Faster!*

When I went to look over my notes from those classes, it was a treat to realize that we worked with the pre-printing proofs of Mastering Coaching and Supervision! The works I have underlined were the focus of the courses that I took. In addition, there was one other book with which we worked that is not included in this collection: Reinforcement Theory for Teachers*.

All of the books designated with an asterisk (*) were originally published by TIP Publications in the 1960’s. Her “Theory into Practice” books were what Dr. Hunter called “programmed” books, because she would provide specific content, then check for the reader’s comprehension by asking a question and providing a choice of answers. You then turned to the page that discussed the answer you had chosen, either for information that offered validation of your answer and the page number for the next new learning – or an explanation as to why your answer was incorrect and a suggestion for you to return to the question page and select a different answer.

There is one much later book, Enhancing Teaching, which was published the year Dr. Hunter died, 1994. This book is significant because, in Dr. Hunter’s words, “[it] was written in response to requests for gathering together, in a single book many journal articles, as well as presentations and workshop handouts that teachers have found useful.” It is also significant because it addresses her detractors:

“The first section of this book, A Model of Teaching, describes the genesis of a decision-making model of teaching, based on principles derived from my study of psychology and related fields, plus observation and analysis of outstanding teachers. It is a model, not the model. It simply provides an organizational basis for planning, implementing, analyzing, and describing teaching. It is concerned with the ‘anatomy and physiology’ of teaching in terms of the daily decisions every teacher makes consciously, intuitively, or by default. This section also addresses the misinformation that often accompanies discussion or evaluation of the decision-making model.”

We will discuss that “misinformation” in later Tips, but they revolve around a misapplication of the model.

So, to get back to the original reason why I began my studies with Dr. Hunter. What I learned was that the effectiveness of a training program depends upon the decisions that the teachers or trainers make about what will be taught and how it will be taught. It is possible to determine the probability of learning in the classroom by evaluating those decisions using the Mastery Teaching Model developed by Dr. Madeline Hunter at UCLA. This is true even if you are not technically proficient in the content or do not speak the language.

Although I never had the opportunity to apply what I learned from Dr. Hunter to audit the teachers of the hearing and visually impaired, over the years I have often used it to audit technical courses in transportation, asbestos abatement, and lead abatement, etc., to determine their effectiveness. I have also audited masters degree courses at the University of Osijek in Croatia, despite my inability to speak Croat! (That is a story in itself!)

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