From Wikipedia: Bloom’s 2 sigma problem refers to an educational phenomenon observed by educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom and initially reported in 1984 in the journal “Educational Researcher”. Bloom found that the average student tutored one-to-one using mastery learning techniques performed two standard deviations better than students who learn via conventional instructional methods—that is, “the average tutored student was above 98% of the students in the control class”. Additionally, the variation of the students’ achievement changed: “about 90% of the tutored students … attained the level of summative achievement reached by only the highest 20%” of the control class. Bloom’s graduate students J. Anania and A. J. Burke conducted studies of this effect at different grade levels and in different schools, observing students with “great differences in cognitive achievement, attitudes, and academic self-concept”
What makes this problem so valuable and interesting to me is that Bloom sought to find a method of learning that elevated the learning of students equal to the one-on-one tutoring that achieves the 2 sigma performance. Bloom correctly concluded that this method of tutoring was “too costly for most societies to bear on a large scale“. To him and his associates, Bloom believed that the solution for teh problem was not in changing the instructor, or even the course material, rather it was in the engagement of the student with the concepts in an organic manner that allowed for them to test their knowledge mastery while learning. These conceptional engagement methods were out-side of the then (and even current) pedagogues of many learning institutions.
Rather than have the students just learn facts about their topics, Bloom recommended both Mastery Learning (testing, case-studies, and outside reading) with the elements of social engagement (forums, study-groups and simulations) to achieve this level of learning mastery.
Institutions (corporate and academic) that wish to energize and amplify the learning of their staff and students should seek deliveries that weave the lectures, mastery learning concepts with the social engagement that fuels the results. Leading to higher satisfaction of staff and students.
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