Old guys can become cynical. Like, when they encounter some great new idea and it seems pretty much the same thing they encountered thirty years ago. Proficiency based learning – sounds very much like mastery learning from the late 1960s-1970s. I think Fred Keller’s famous paper – Goodbye Teacher – was published in 1968 (No, Keller was not advocating getting rid of teachers) Keller was actually arguing that lecturing had some serious limitations. No it was not that lecturing is boring (which seems to be the present view). It was that lecturing is a one size fits all approach when students need to hear different messages suited to their individual needs. Most people of have heard of Benjamin Bloom from the taxonomy concept. He was also a big player in the original mastery learning area – the concepts of formative and summative were associated with Bloom’s view of mastery.
I am glad mastery learning is having a resurgence – the theoretical ideas (variations in time to learn as a way to understand differences in aptitude, importance of taking care of background knowledge deficiencies as a way to improve the efficiency of learning, etc.) have always been among the more useful to me and I think they should be re-examined.
BTW – my reaction to the lack of connection to previous versions of similar ideas does not imply that I think we cannot do things better now. Mastery learning was to me a great idea that was difficult to implement. I think technology may offer a way to take care of some of these challenges. There is another reality – mastery was tied into concepts such as objectives, hierarchy of skills, etc. that seem automatically to be rejected by some. Maybe the new language is partly a way to avoid tripping some of these knee-jerk reactions.