Imagine a classroom where students aren't pushed past material they haven't mastered but where other students can move ahead and extend their knowledge. Does this sound impossible? In the traditional classroom where you stand in front of your students and teach through a whole-group lecture it is, but not with a self-paced classroom.
The modern classroom is shifting from one where teachers lecture and students listen to one where students take control over the pace of their education and teachers facilitate the learning. Here's a closer look at the self-placed classroom and how you could get started building one for your students.
Related: Listen below to hear Kareem Farah of Modern Classrooms Project discuss the importance of self-paced learning on EdTech Heroes 🎧.
What is a self-paced classroom? 🤔
Students come in all shapes and sizes, and that means a variety of learning styles will walk into your classroom each year. Many learners face challenges that make the traditional classroom experience difficult, especially in these pandemic-era school years.
Today's teachers might deliver lectures to some in-person students and others who watch virtually. This fact, combined with the different learning levels and speeds that are normal in the classroom, makes the education process challenging.
A self-paced classroom lets a teacher meet student needs where they are at a speed that works for them. Some students will move more quickly through certain subjects while others will take longer, but the end result is better retention because students move at their own pace. In this environment, personal mastery of each subject is the teacher's and student's goal.
Why are more educators moving toward this education strategy?💡
Teachers want their students to learn, and direct instruction of the whole class at the same pace just doesn't work well for some learners. Even within the same grade level, the learning rate varies quite a bit from student to student.
Those who take a student-centered approach through self-paced learning can cater to each individual students' learning needs and rate. This creates better outcomes because students can attain mastery, even if it takes them a little longer.
As an added perk, teachers get to work more closely with students during class in this model. In a Johns Hopkins School of Education study, 85% of teachers surveyed said this was a perk of the self-paced education model. Learn more about self-paced learning in our recent interview with Farah, the co-founder and CEO of the Modern Classrooms Project.
Here are some more specific reasons why teachers choose to embrace this education strategy.
1. Promote individualized learning and self-regulation
According to the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), teachers are embracing self-paced learning because it teaches students to think for themselves and take charge of their own work and education. This leads to better self-regulation and critical thinking. These skills follow children into adulthood and their future careers. It also prevents students from feeling frustrated as they struggle to keep up or feeling bored if they are ready to move on.
2. Allow teachers to build a library of educational content
To accommodate self-paced learning, teachers utilize tools like video recordings for lessons that students and small groups can tap to take charge of their own learning. Over time, teachers build a library of educational content they can tap for future students, share with other educators, and re-use for different situations.
What is beneficial with this is you don't have to re-teach the same lesson year after year. You can simply grab the appropriate educational videos and present them to your students, updating and upgrading from time to time to keep them engaging. If other teachers are also doing self-paced learning, you can share and save time.
3. Increase students' sense of ownership and pride of learning
In most cases, learning should be active, not passive, and that's what happens when you transition to self-paced models. When students control their pace of learning and can stay on a topic until they master it, they get a great sense of pride in their work. This method also creates a sense of ownership because children are actively engaged in their learning and can't move on until they comprehend the lesson.
4. Create a less stressful learning environment
School can become quite stressful, especially for middle school and high school students who have pressure to keep up with specific learning deadlines. The self-paced classroom eliminates the pressure to keep up or slow down, and students can enjoy learning new subjects more fully.
How to create a self-paced classroom using videos 🎬
The benefits of differentiation in education through a self-paced classroom are clear, but for many teachers, the setup of this structure is less so. Here's what you need to do to get started. Related: See Christine Barford of Modern Classrooms Project discuss why the organization values video below.
1. Choose an educational subject to test self-pacing
Self-paced learning can work very well in most grade levels, but jumping in with every subject may overwhelm your entire class. Instead, set up a pilot test program for just one subject. This test will help you get your apps and videos in place, see what works for your students, and tweak areas that need tweaking.
You may even want to start with just one unit. Test the waters and see if it works well for you. Starting slowly lets you make adjustments, plan extra activities for the advanced learners, and make sure no one is frustrated by the sudden change in your classroom structure.
2. Build a curriculum roadmap and outline video lessons that need to be created
Determine what you want to cover in your curriculum over the course of the unit or the year. Mapping this out will help you create video lessons students will use to learn. Once you have a roadmap, outline the lessons that you need to film to give students the instruction necessary to complete the educational path. The more detailed this plan, the easier the video creation and implementation process will be.
3. Acquire and set up any software and hardware needs
You will need video recording software and hardware, which we will explain more in the next section. Once you know what you're going to need, see if you have it in your classroom. If you don't, let your school know what you're going to need.
Once you have it, set it up and test it to ensure you know how it works. If you've been doing distance learning due to the pandemic, you may already have some of these tools on hand.
4. Start recording and editing videos for your self-paced learning lessons
With your roadmap and technology in hand, you're ready to start recording and editing your self-paced learning videos. Be sure to add some creative editing to them to make them more interactive, add video clips from other resources, zoom in on important material, and add text to get kids reading.
Screencastify is one of the more popular programs to do this with. It makes recording, editing, and sharing videos simple with a platform that you can start using in seconds. Check out how easy it is to film, edit, and share videos with Screencastify as you start this step.
As you record your videos, be sure to use good instructional video techniques to engage your students. Remember, this is a completely different learning mode for them as well as you, so you're going to need to weave some creativity into each video lesson.
5. Share your videos with your students
Have a platform you can use to share your videos with your students. In these first few weeks and months, ask for feedback from your students. Video instruction is different than face-to-face instruction, so you may need to tweak the learning experiences to fit a new platform.
6. Decide on a method for recording student progress
Decide how you will record which videos students have watched and which learning activities, quizzes, and tests they complete. You may want to time how long each step takes for each student. These metrics will help you evaluate the success of your new self-paced teaching strategy. Having a plan for tracking student progress will also help you create grades for your students.
Technology you'll need for self-paced learning⚡️
If the idea of self-paced learning appeals to you, you're going to need some specific technology in place to get started. Related: See below to hear our panel of experts discuss why consolidating tech in the classroom is important.
1. Video technology capabilities
Video technology is central to the self-paced learning model. Instead of delivering instruction to the whole group or small groups, you will record the same instruction on a video that students access when they are ready as they progress through the unit of study. Once they master the concept, they move on to the next unit, video, or any worksheets, quizzes, or other learning activities you planned.
Because students can access content anytime and anywhere, teachers can guide learning and help individual students when they need it instead of standing in front of the classroom to lecture. To get this going, you will need:
- Screencasting and video editing software, such as Screencastify
- Laptop with a video webcam
- Good lighting
- A quality microphone
2. Learning management software
Learning management software gives you the tool you need to deliver your video content to your students, monitor their participation, and assess their performance on the activities in the program. Choose an LMS that integrates well with your video creation platform. Some popular choices include:
- Google Classroom
You've probably already got a LMS on board in your classroom, so figure out how to use it to deliver your self-paced learning modules. Without it, you can't send lessons to your students easily. Practice using the LMS until you are comfortable with it, and teach your students how to use it.
3. Learning tracking software or physical system
One of the challenges of giving a lot of student choice in the classroom is the ongoing need to assess learning outcomes. While you want your students to progress at their own pace, you do need to motivate them to keep going.
You'll always have some students who are willing to get by with the bare minimum. You'll also need to see where students are so you can adjust your units to adapt to your classroom's unique needs. Learning tracking software can help.
Learning tracking software lets you see things like how much of a video a student has watched, where they are in the learning pathway you've outlined, and what materials they have submitted. Screencastify has a robust learning tracking system that can help you track student progress as they move through the units.
A public tracker is another option. This system displays each student's name and their progress through the units somewhere in the classroom. If you are encouraging collaboration in your activities, this can work well. It shows where students are in the progress and encourages them by showing them where they are in relation to the rest of the group.
Game boards and checklists can be physical paper-based trackers that let students track their own progress, without public knowledge of where they are. If you want to encourage students not to compare themselves, this works well. In elementary classrooms, it creates more excitement because it's fun to fill in a game board.
Learn how Screencastify empowers self-paced learning 💻
Self-paced learning is growing in popularity, and it may become the instructional model of the future. It gives students the sense of ownership they need while allowing them to move at a pace that works, encouraging them to master concepts rather than just get through them.
If you're ready to jump on board and give your students the benefit of individualized instruction, Screencastify makes it easy to get started. See how Screencastify can help you embrace a self-paced classroom through easy-to-create video instruction.