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How to Study for Mastery

St. Dominic
St. Dominic (1170-1221)

When lessons are published for CLAA students, there is a quality of study expected of them that demands a certain method of study. In this article, I’d like to outline this method.

1. First Reading (Survey)

The lesson will include or assign readings that are to be studied for mastery. The first reading, however, is an easy reading of all of the assigned material, through which the students survey what is to be studied. The goal of this reading is to get an idea what needs to be studied. Students should not think of reading as a quiet, relaxed activity.  Reading is work and should be done actively: read out loud, moving through the text with energy.

2. Second Reading (Study)

The second reading is careful and complete, seeking to comprehend all content in the lesson. There is no easy way to complete this reading. It requires great concentration and patience, reading and re-reading until ideas are comprehended.  Read aloud and imagine you are talking to the author as you read.  If there is anything you don’t understand, post your questions on the course study forums for help.  Work until you understand every sentence in the reading.

3. Notes

While making the second reading, the student should take notes to outline and summarize all content of the lesson, as if he was preparing to teach the lesson to others. The student should imagine that the author began with an outline of ideas he wished to write about and that the student is re-making that original outline.  Some lesson content is usually “filler”, and good notes give a student a summary of the important information–definitions, rules, etc.–that needs to be mastered. Any exercises included in the lesson should be considered part of the student’s lesson notes. Throughout this process, he will be seeking help. This effort to learn is the mark of a true student.

4. Memory Work

Anything judged to be important should be memorized.  All memory work should be recited until it can be given on request with no help or delay. Memory work includes key definitions, principles and rules, without which progress will not be able to be made in future studies. Course examinations will use time limits to assess this mastery of lessons–demanding not only a certain quality of knowledge, but also a readiness of it.

5. Seek Help (if needed)

At this point of your study, you should have a sense of whether or not you clearly understand the content of the lesson.  If there are any points of the lesson that you don’t feel that you understand, it is your responsibility to seek help from a teacher.  

6. Assessment

The nature of each subject and content of each lesson determines what the most effective means of assessment will be.  Most lessons are assessed through written assignments in the form of comprehension questions or reading summaries, or online exams.

Comprehension Questions begin a discussion between the teacher and student. The questions are provided to guide the student through all important points in the lesson, and sometimes challenge to think beyond what is found in the lesson. Comprehension questions should always be answered after careful reading and should be written with complete sentences. When completed the student should submit his answers for review. I will review the student’s answers, and provide feedback to help the student master the lesson. This back and forth discussion will continue until all questions have been answered thoroughly and correctly.

Reading Summaries require a student to demonstrate his careful study of a text by answering general questions about the assigned reading and providing an outline of lesson content.  Reflection questions are often included in reading summaries, requiring students to think of the significance of the lessons on his studies and personal life.

Online Quizzes/Exams provide immediate scoring for objective assessments of lessons that contact simple information (facts) that can be assessed in this manner

Essays test a student’s ability to understand and articulate course content, but also to draw inferences and make applications in other areas of study and life.  

7. Review

In the Classical Liberal Arts Academy, all assessments can be reviewed and re-submitted until perfect scores are earned.  This final step is the most important step of studying for mastery and modern schools don’t allow it.  This is a privilege made available by tutors who are willing to review student work as many times as it takes–and you shouldn’t take this privilege for granted. Settling for “good enough” or “passing” scores is a modern excuse for incomplete studies.  There is no excuse for any student to have less than perfect scores in any course in the Classical Liberal Arts Academy.

This is how a lesson is to be studied for mastery in the Classical Liberal Arts Academy. 

William C. Michael, Headmaster
Classical Liberal Arts Academy

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