IDT 873: Self-Pacing versus Instructor-Pacing

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Behavioral Strategy Abstract Running head: BEHAVIORAL STRATEGY ABSTRACT 1 Behavioral Strategy Abstract: Self-Pacing Versus Instructor-Pacing Jennifer Maddrell Old Dominion University IDT 873 Advanced Instructional Design Techniques Dr. Morrison September 8, 2008 Behavioral Strategy Abstract Self-Pacing Versus Instructor-Pacing 2 Overview Morris, Surber and Bijou (1978) report on research conducted to compare achievement, student satisfaction, and retention between self-paced and instructor-paced personalized systems of instruction (PSI). While noting that one of the key features of PSIs is the ability for learners to self-pace, the authors cite prior research that suggests students who are allowed to self-pace may be more likely to procrastinate or withdraw from the course entirely. These finding have led some to incorporate instructor-paced schedules into the PSI. However, what had been less clear in prior research is the impact of self-pacing on learner achievement (both short term and longer term following course completion) and learner satisfaction with the learning experience. Research Purpose. The purpose of the reported study is to compare progress rates, withdrawal rates, achievement, satisfaction, and longer term retention between learners completing selfpaced or instructor-paced PSI. The researchers set out to extend prior research by focusing on the effect of pacing on these measures. Methodology. All 149 students enrolled in an introductory child development class were randomly assigned to either self-paced (S-P) or instructor-paced (I-P) PSI. The syllabi, course materials, and assessments were identical for both groups. Within each of the 15 units of the PSI, all learners were required to either achieve 90% mastery within a 10-item short-answer essay quiz and oral examination at a testing center or take a make-up quiz until 90% mastery was achieved. Learners in the S-P condition were able to complete all 15 required units within the PSI at their own pace within the semester. Semester grades for the S-P group were based solely on the number of units mastered. In contrast, the I-P students were subject to a grading scheme that could result in a one letter grade drop if the student did not complete at least one unit of material each week. To evaluate and compare pacing, the semester was divided into five 15 day increments. For the purpose of measuring student achievement, a 53 item multiple-choice pre and post-test based on a few items from each unit was administered to all learners. In addition, nine months after the semester, students were asked to return (with compensation) for a follow-up test. They were all informed that the pre and post-tests would not impact final grades. A course evaluation questionnaire addressed student satisfaction with the course. Conclusions. As shown in prior research, the completion rates between the S-P and I-P groups were not the same. I-P learners progressed through the material at a more even rate throughout the semester, while S-P learners completed fewer units in the initial time periods as compared to the latter time periods. However, there were no statistically significant differences in course withdrawal rates, final grade distributions, course evaluations, or achievement measures between the two groups. Yet, there were statistically significant differences between the number of repeated quizzes during the semester and the follow up retention scores. S-P students repeated 4.1% of their quizzes, while I-P students repeated 7.2% of theirs. While the S-P learners’ delayed rate of completion may signal cramming or procrastination, self-pacing did not appear to negatively impact course achievement or Behavioral Strategy Abstract 3 withdrawal rates which were two areas of concern in prior PSI practice and research. Further, the S-P learners’ ability to control pacing may have aided in their longer term retention of the material. Heuristics Based on the results of this experiment, lesson pacing by the instructor or designer may reduce cramming and procrastination, but may do nothing to improve learner achievement, overall satisfaction, or course retention. Further, allowing learners to self-pace may improve their longer term retention of the material. However, it is important to note that these results are based on otherwise rigid instructional parameters in which learners were required to complete highly structured lesson units during the single semester. Therefore, while the learners were allowed the ability to complete the units at their own pace during the course of the semester, they otherwise had little control. As such, it is unclear if this heuristic would apply to a more flexible learning environment in which the learners had more choice, such as in the selection or sequencing of instructional content. Critique of Article A key strength of this research is the direct comparison of pacing on achievement, retention, satisfaction, and longer term retention within an otherwise highly structured instructional setting. The research methodology appears effective at comparing the two types of PSI pacing schemes. However, as noted above, these results are based on otherwise rigid instructional parameters. It is unclear if these results would be replicated in situations where more learner choice and control is available. In addition, the research has done little to further an evaluation of the effect of PSIs on a broad range of learning outcomes. In reporting on learning achievement, the authors do not elaborate on what was learned. Did the PSI lead to anything more than basic recall and retention of facts or concepts? Are the learners able to apply the instruction in diverse contexts? Unfortunately, the authors offer the results as a demonstration of learning achievement, but it is unclear from the results what precisely was learned. Behavioral Strategy Abstract References Morris, E. K., Surber, C. F., & Bijou, S. W. (1978). Self- versus instructor-pacing: Achievement, evaluations, and retention. Journal of Educational Psychology, 70(2), 224-230. 4