First, mastery-based progression. At the end of every week we have a “sprint challenge,” where a student builds a project using everything that was learned that week. If they didn’t grasp the material, instead of pushing them forward, they stay back and repeat that week until they have mastered it.
Of course, this is very expensive to do, and therefore will never be done in most classroom environments (you erode economies of scale), but we find that it’s worth it.
The results from that alone have been astounding. We don’t have a scientifically-designed study that shows a standard deviation increase (too many other variables are simultaneously changing), but the difference in student competence and ability at graduation was jaw-dropping.
The next aspect is probably an order of magnitude more expensive to implement - individual tutoring. We obviously can’t pair every student with a tutor all day (our instructors are experienced engineers and therefore very expensive), but we keep every student in a group of 8 students with 1 TA (a student who is at least 4 months ahead, performed well, and stays on for a short contract). Importantly those students are happy to be paid to review the material, and cost about 1/5 of what an experienced instructor does.
In such a small setting a TA can be there to individually work with a student (though for a little less than an hour a day).
Again, I don’t have any good way to scientifically prove this, but the level of ability our students have now at the end of our 30-week curriculum (which can become longer due to mastery-based progression) is incredible.
If you’re an engineering or hiring manager and want to try it out shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and ask to interview a student who had never programmed before the 30 weeks to see what they can do.
I thoroughly believe Bloom’s 2 Sigma Problem is the most important study done in education... ever.
I'm not saying your method doesn't work, but surely if it is your business you could take the time and money to prove it (i'm in a similar situation with mine, although in the health space no-one trusts you unless you can publish, which raises a whole other set of problems - ie shitty studies)
We could do it now I suppose, but you begin to run into ethical questions that don’t mesh with our vision: “let’s give n students a subpar experience to prove a point” would be a tough sell.
Now, a real study can open you to this as wel, but it is harder when you have some ostensibly objective results.
There is no such thing as achieving results unless you can prove it, it doesn’t make sense
That’s not true. Things happen regardless of whether or not they happen within the guidelines of a scientifically designed/valid study.
Students are getting better. Was that correlation or causation? I’m not going to force students to have a mediocre experience to prove it.
Teaching isn't just a one way upload of knowledge. It's an interactive process and feedback from the learner is extremely important. Not just for correcting misconceptions, but also for motivation, partnership, and dialog. One-on-one, the loop is very tight.
That's one reason I'm skeptical about technology making a huge impact any time soon. Our technology is just really, really far away from being able to stimulate tutoring.
There’s also something else that’s driving my skepticism further. We know that deliberate practice works , and the possible effect size is much larger than two sigmas (think more like from a good chess player to grandmaster ). However, at this point the effects of both deliberate practice and tutoring start to blend in too much. The mastery learning aspect already seems like a methodology similar to deliberate practice. Does tutoring cause the additional sigma by letting more deliberate practice happen, or by some other vices? If we’re stuck with a 30-pupil classroom as a tutor, is it possible to extract those vices from private tutoring to help our class succeed?