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Robert Jackson

Mastery is the goal of all teaching. In a classroom there is a special problem: the students vary so much in knowledge and abilities that it is impractical to expect all students to master the material taught.

Even in first grade not every student masters the material for the grade. When it was common practice to "hold back" students, many students failed first grade. Although nowadays few students are held back in first grade, nevertheless not all students master the material for the grade.

As students grow older, the gap in knowledge and abilities among them widens, and getting all students to learn the basic materials for the grade or course becomes even more difficult than it was in the early grades.

Should teachers throw up their hands and give up on the slower learners? This is a mistake that some teachers make.

Slower learners respond to conscientious instruction. There are several strategies that teachers employ:

  1. The teacher teaches a single student or a small group during class time or after school.

  2. A faster student is assigned to help a slower student.

  3. The teacher finds special instructional materials for slower students to work on independently either during school time or at home.

  4. The teacher enlists the parents to teach the child at home using instructional materials supplied by the teacher.

When mastery is sought, as it should be, the importance of testing is readily apparent. With test results in hand, both teacher and student can see how well the student has learned, and plans for next steps can be made.

Click on the links below to see other principles of teaching:

Questioning Students

Two Kinds of School Assignments

School Work: Do Students See It As Purposeful?

Whole-Class Instruction: Is It Out Of Date?

Assigned School Work: Part of a Continuum?

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