Teacher Education

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University of California Santa Barbara


This dissertation tested whether learning could be improved for students of Spanish language background through a Mastery Learning (ML) approach. It was hypothesized that higher levels of achievement and more positive affect could occur in an ML classroom.

Phase I of the study compared two instructional conditions: Mastery Learning and conventional. Because of implementation problems in Phase I, Phase II used a Mastery Learning condition only. In each phase, Pre and Posttests, Formative and Summative Tests, and Affect Questionnaires were gathered from a total of 84 students. The Pre and Posttests were modifications of four Subscales testing General Impressions, General Competency, Paragraph Coherence, Mechanics and two researcher developed Trait Scales, Primary Trait-Main Idea and Secondary Trait-Elaboration. All other tests and questionnaire scales were locally constructed.

Phase I, Pretest findings indicated that ML and conventional students began the experiment roughly equal in achievement. Repeated measures analyses of variance for the Pre and Post Measures indicated VI that groups were differentially affected by the treatment across time with conventional group's achievement staying constant on most measures and the ML group's decreasing. The ML group performed lower on the Formative and the Summative achievement tests, too. Affect measures were mixed but favored the ML group.

One major problem with Phase I was its implementation. Under the better implemented ML treatment in Phase II, the gains in student achievement were high from Pre to Posttest. T-test analyses revealed that the ML treatment produced significant gains in achievement especially for Paragraph Coherence, Mechanics, and Primary TraitMain Idea. The Summative Tests achievement results support the Pre to Posttest gains. Affect measures were less mixed than Phase I and again favored Mastery Learning.

This study has unfortunately not been definitive in testing the viability of using ML to improve learning for Spanish language background students. The study only hints that, when well implemented, ML has promise. More definitive studies must follow. The improvement of learning for Spanish language background students is an issue that simply cannot wait.


A Dissertation submitted in partial satisfaction of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Education.



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