kitchen table math, the sequel: The Importance of Mastery

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Importance of Mastery

I was paging through the Memoria Press catalog that came in the mail the other day, and it had an article by Cheryl Lowe titled "The Four Principles of Latin Study." Under Principle #1 ("Memorize the Latin Grammar"), she emphasizes the importance of really knowing the Latin grammar cold before moving on to the "fun stuff" and adds:

Digging deep and working for mastery builds interest, confidence, and a feeling of accomplishment in students. Students like what they have mastered and they dislike what they have only half learned. So slow down, stay awhile, let the student relish and enjoy learning the Latin grammar. The tendency to skim over, even to denigrate the lower skills in a rush to get to the higher ones is a characteristic of modern education. The result is superficial learning, which I think is the cause of student boredom and frustration.


Anonymous said...

When I was at Brown Univ., I took Ancient Greek for two semesters. I felt continually overwhelmed. For some reason we had a substitute professor one day. That substitute prof. drilled and drilled us on vocabulary and grammar. I left the classroom feeling totally invigorated, convinced that this was the best professor I had ever had in any foreign language, and determined to try to continue drilling myself in order to learn Greek. I know others felt equally excited about what we had just experienced.

My enthusiasm died down quickly. I couldn't possibly maintain that kind of momentum on my own. I "did well" in Greek, but I never enjoyed it as much, nor learned as much, as I did that day. I fondly remember the "thrill of the drill".

If highly motivated college seniors have difficulty achieving mastery without a teacher directing the process, and their confidence and enjoyment of the subject suffer as a result, how unfair it is, indeed, of the educational system today to expect young children to "take responsibility for their own learning."

Mrs. Ris said...

Thanks for posting this... I intend to keep these ideas close as I plan my new lessons. They just makes sense, and I regret letting myself "forget" them on and off through the years. Yes, I seek to help my students take some responsibility for their own learning, but nothing, NOTHING takes the place of responsible, effective, teaching.