The Effectiveness of a Mastery-Learning Strategy In Enhancing Cognitive Achievement and Problem-Solving Skills In an Introductory Chemistry Program

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Marlene M. Milkent

Advisor Department



This study evaluated the effectiveness of a mastery-learning strategy in enhancing student cognitive achievement, problem-solving skills, and retention of these concepts in an introductory chemistry program. The mastery-learning strategy incorporated a repeatable testing component. The cognitive achievement and retention were measured by a criterion-based summative test and by a delayed summative test. Sixty-five students from four general chemistry classes in a large suburban southwest Florida high school were involved in the study during the nine-week Fall quarter of 1990: There were 38 students in the control group and 27 in the treatment group. The same instructor utilized a traditional teaching approach with the control group and a mastery-learning strategy with the treatment group. A learning hierarchy containing the criteria to be mastered for a unit on density was presented to guide both the treatment group and the control group. Daily and weekly formative quizzes were used, to the extent possible, with the treatment group. Recycling of nonmastery students was done on an individual and group basis. The summative test and delayed summative test were administered to both groups and the results analyzed by the multiple regression methodology using the semipartial technique applied to control for age, gender, the total battery standard score on the California Achievement Test, and the subtest raw scores for Verbal Reasoning, Numerical Ability, and Abstract Reasoning of the Differential Aptitude Test. Those students that received the mastery-learning strategy (treatment group) had a significantly better cognitive achievement than those students that did not receive the treatment (control group). However, the mastery-learning strategy did not significantly improve the cognitive retention of the treatment group.