80/20 or 100% -- What's your goal?

I have, in the past several years, taken 2 graduate-level courses on teaching methodology: one was a course on instructional design geared at corporate instructional designers; the other is a course geared at classroom teachers who teach reading. Both courses were offered by organizations that provide highly-regarded accreditation.

In both classes the issue of 80/20 came up... do you teach so that 80% of the class has mastery or that the last 20% has master? In other words, do you teach to the majority or the struggling minority?

In both classes this question was explicitly addressed by the instructor:
In the case of the corporate instructional design course we were instructed to teach to the struggling 20%.
In the case of the reading course we were instructed to continue drilling until 80% of the class had mastery.

I understand that there is no remedial instruction in corporate training. Training is training, when it is done everyone we trained is expected to perform the task they were trained on to a basic, pre-defined level. Schools have specialists and special ed to help the struggling 20%... but it still feels like there is something wrong with the attitude that it is OK to go on while 20% of your students still don't get what you have covered. But maybe that is the corporate instructional designer in me.


Anonymous said...

You made it to your 7:30am class this morning! Congratulations!
Did you have to put your alarm clock into the large pot?
80/20 business is a bit of a puzzle to me, have to think it over.

Katya said...

Yes. And now I am sitting and doing homework. HOMEWORK!!
I'm almost done then I am going to take a long, hot, bath.

Katya said...

I was so nervous about not waking up that I barely slept at all last night!

Tina in CT said...

I'm with you about the 80/20.

Matt in NC said...

No remedial instruction in corporate training? In my experience corporate training is all remedial instruction. That's what it means to teach to the bottom quintile of the class, after all.

Both standards you mention assume the same metric, by the way: percent of the class that reaches a (fairly low) level of "mastery" in the topic.

If you wanted to get the class to the highest average level, you'd teach very differently — and the top three quintiles would begin to matter again.