The Concept Mastery Routine

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The Concept Mastery Routine enables teachers to present complex, abstract concepts in a manner that will help students understand and apply the concept. Through use of the routine, teachers and students identify a target concept and its place within a larger framework, explore students' prior knowledge of the concept, identify important characteristics of the concept, analyze examples and nonexamples, create a definition, and test more examples and nonexamples to determine whether they belong to the concept group.

Research shows that use of the routine by secondary teachers benefits students in several ways. Students scored significantly better on tests designed to assess concept acquisition. Students also scored significantly better on regularly scheduled, teacher-made or commercial unit tests after introduction of the Concept Mastery Routine than before. Gains by students with learning disabilities (from a mean score of 60 percent to 71 percent) were comparable to those of their peers without learning disabilities (from a mean score of 72 percent to 87 percent) on these regular tests. The percentage of students with learning disabilities who passed increased from 57 percent to 75 percent; the percentage of students without learning disabilities who passed increased from 68 percent to 97 percent. Students also took better notes when teachers used the routine.

Please note that professional development, coaching, and infrastructure support are essential components to effective implementation of SIM instructional tools and interventions. It is highly recommended that you work with a SIM professional developer. Please email to learn more.

Author(s): Janis A. Bulgren, Jean B. Schumaker, and Donald D. Deshler

Publication Info: Edge Enterprises, 1993

This product is published by Edge Enterprises, Inc.  Professional development is recommended, see the SIM Event page for sessions.


  • The Concept Mastery Routine Research (.pdf)
  • Research Articles
    • Bulgren, J.A., Schumaker, J.B., & Deshler, D.D. (1988). Effectiveness of a concept teaching routine in enhancing the performance of LD students in secondary-level mainstream classes. Learning Disability Quarterly, 11(1), 3-17. Multiple-baseline studies with a wide array of variables are used to measure teacher effectiveness with Concept Diagrams and the Concept Teaching Routine in heterogeneous regular education classrooms and their effect on students (with and without LD) using several classroom performance indicators.
    • Lenz, B.K., Bulgren, J.A., & Hudson, P. (1990). Content enhancement: A model for promoting the acquisition of content by individuals with learning disabilities. in T.E. Scruggs & B.L.Y Wong (Eds.), Intervention research in learning disabilities (pp. 122-165). New York: Springer-Verlag. This book chapter discusses information processing and pedagogy for students with learning disabilities, including suggestions for teacher planning and teaching routines such as the Chapter Survey Routine, Concept Teaching Routine, and ssignment Completion Routine.
    • Shaw, J.M., Thomas, C., Hoffman, A., & Bulgren, J. (1995). Using concept diagrams to promote understanding in geometry. Teaching Children Mathematics, 2(3), 184-189. An example of using the Concept Mastery Routine for teaching geometric properties and relationships in mathematics to middle- and upper-grades students is provided.
    • Bulgren. J., & Scanlon, D. (1997). Instructional routines and learning strategies that promote understanding of content area concepts. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 41(4), 292-302. This article provides examples of using content enhancement routines (Concept Diagram, Comparison Table, ORDER) to promote an understanding of middle and secondary school content area concepts

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