My son always talks about video games and learning. He points out that when we play video games we often learn through failure, through trial and error. We try going down that hallway, and when it doesn’t lead us to where we want to be we open another door and try something else. When one weapon does not work on a foe, we look for another weapon that may be more successful. I remember playing Mike Tyson’s Punchout on my old NES, trying to find just the right trick that would allow me to be successful versus a certain boxer and I was happy that I could hit the reset button after losing so I could try again.

Mastery learning is built upon this same foundation. Students take a test to see what they do know and what they don’t know, then after some time and remediation they come back to try again.

My students experience mastery learning while attempting their homework and online quizzes. They can repeat randomly generated homework questions until they get them correct.

*Try. Fail. Try something else. Repeat until successful. *

My students can take the online quizzes as many times as they would like, with only the highest score counting. Hopefully they remediate themselves before a second attempt – tutorial center, classmate, office hours. The quiz diagnoses where my students are having trouble, and retaking the quiz allows them to measure their progress.

*Try. Which problems did I miss? Why did I get them wrong? Remediate myself. Try again. Repeat until successful.*

If students have already put in the time and effort to level up, I figure that they have earned the right to take a second swing at the exam. The bonus points are not available – they simply earn 1 point for passing and 0 points for failing. I’m afraid that if students could still earn 2 or 3 points on the retest they would not give their fullest effort on the first attempt.

I have had a handful of students who level up while not trying to learn and understand the material, and their exam scores reflect this. When they arrive for the retest not much changes. The exam is different, shorter than the original exam and more difficult. Without the self-remediation that goes along with mastery learning, we cannot expect understanding (and scores) to improve.

Tomorrow I will summarize the results from the first round of retests. I had 8 students qualify from my three classes.