A comment on one of our most recent posts asked:
How do you manage to have EVERYTHING for the whole year prepped ahead of time?
I'm struggling to stay about 4-5 lessons ahead of my students... this is in part because of my team. We have common assessments that we create during our PLC time (roughly 4-5 lessons ahead of when we plan to give them) and sometimes, throughout the course of the semester, our experiences determine that we need to add, remove or rearrange a few learning targets to meet the needs of our students!
Additionally, I've 2 students who are just plain outworking me! They're quite persistent and as soon as I've completed a lesson, they're working on it and have it finished (and, yes, mastered) before I've got the next one ready!!!
I love my self-pacing (as do most of my students) but am definitely looking for ideas to help improve things for next year.
I've had some conversations recently that addressed some similar questions or concerns so we figured we would dedicate a post to answering those!
How do you have EVERYTHING ready for the whole year?
I most definitely do not have everything for the whole year prepared ahead of time. I wish I did and I'd like to get there someday but that day is not today. I try to stay about 3 lessons ahead of my students but I do not have to work in a team to make common assessments so that allows me some freedom to stay ahead of my students who are currently working. Sometimes that just doesn't happen though! I have had a couple of times this year when a student would let me know they are ready to take the assessment for goal number __ and I didn't have it done. At this point I asked them to email me that they were ready for the quiz so that I had a digital reminder to get it completed when I went home that day. After they send the email they have 3 options: keep working ahead and start to study for the next goal, help another student study for their goal (this student must not be taking an assessment), or work on their math project. Adding the math project this year has been a life saver in multiple ways. It allows me some extra time when I feel like I am drowning in work. I don't feel like a bad teacher when I don't have the assessment finished for a student 100% of the time because I'm not stopping them from working. The project has so much more engagement and ownership because they are 100% in charge of designing what their project will be. I also love not having to look at the same project or repeating the same directions/guidelines 1,203,920,409,459,345 times. If you are looking for something other than busy work to give to students when you just don't have the next thing done, I definitely recommend a student led project.
What do you do when students aren't working?
You do the same thing you would do if students weren't working in a traditional class period - whatever that means for you. I've talked with some teachers who have said that's the student's choice and if they want to waste time it's on them. Others would ask students who aren't working to leave the room. Whatever your strategy is in a traditional classroom, do the same thing in a self-paced room. The nice thing however is that you can have individual conversations a lot easier without calling attention to a student because everyone is doing their own thing.
How do you grade so many tests or make sure they don't just tell each other what is on the test?
I use Canvas to create my self-paced course. It allows me to make question banks filled with the types of questions I would ask for each goal but will pull only the amount I ask it to. Basically, I could have multiple students sitting next to each other, each taking the same quiz but none of the same questions. Canvas grades the quiz immediately giving feedback to the student so that they know if they need to do more work or are ready to move on. If they pass the quiz (12/15=80% or higher) then they show it to me and I enter it into the grade book immediately. Our school also has GoGuardian which allows me to monitor their screens or restrict them to specific sites. This helps me to catch students who may be cheating. At my previous school we had lockdown browser which locked students into Canvas and kept them from going to any outside sites.
How do you test things like graphing?
There are some goals that just don't lend themselves to the test setup on Canvas. I do create paper tests for those goals. I create multiple versions of each and get really good at grading them quickly after a few tries! I've considered making them multiple choice tests but right now I just think having them graph the problems are more important.
Do you give partial credit on Canvas tests?
Not unless it is blatantly obvious that the students knew what they were doing. I encourage students to do the work on paper so that they can check their work. If I see that they have the correct work and answer but just mis-typed something in the computer I give them partial or full credit for the answer.
What other questions do you have about self-paced classrooms? I'm more than happy to answer them with what I do in my classroom. It is 100% not perfect but I am trying to do what I think is best for helping students master math! Bring on the questions and good luck with the last month or so of school! :)
Year 2 in my student-directed classroom honestly started off pretty rocky. If you have been following us, you are very aware of my struggles. If you are new to following Becca and my teaching adventures here is a summary of how my year started off.
I had such grand intentions of making this year amazing and that all my self-paced plans were going to work out just perfectly. When this years started though I was hit by some serious distractions. My classes suffered from apathy and behavior issues and I didn't respond fast enough. Going into my semester break I knew I needed to restructure and regroup, so I spent some time really thinking about what I need to do. I read a great book and got my head on straight. I knew going into my second semester I was going to need to make some changes.
Overall my second semester has gone so much better! It has been a relief to see some improvements in all of the areas I set to work on.
On the whole things have really improved and I think that my classroom has gotten stronger and the student-directed aspect of my class has gotten stronger as well. This will definitely go down as a year where I have questioned myself as a teacher the most and grown the most as a teacher.
Projects are awesome! I am one of those teachers that loves to do as many projects as possible. The unfortunate thing is that I struggle fitting in all of my project ideas within my short semester timelines. I feel like for every unit I have over the years come up with 4 or 5 projects that I have tried at different times. The struggle is that every student likes different types of projects and as teachers we are trying to reach as many different types of learners and interests as possible.
The solution to this that most of us have figured out is to give our students a list of project options to choose from. Students like this because they have the ability to make a choice in their learning and what they focus on within your parameters. Teachers like it because typically students take the project more seriously and care more about the project overall since they had the ability to choose what they work on.
Project choice options are another tool that teachers can use in the student-directed classroom or as a tool to differentiate assessments in your classroom. There are a lot of pieces in creating quality projects and structuring those options for your students. Here are 5 tips and things to think about when creating your project options:
To pretest or not pretest? I don't really think that is the question teachers ask anymore. It seems to be standard practice to give students a pretest at the beginning of the school year or semester at the very least. The question really is are we using those pretests effectively?
I will admit that I was really not one of those people that was using pretests like I should. I was only giving one pretest that was too large at the beginning of the semester. I always looked at the overall results, but I didn't really look at the individual student results and I really didn't change my teaching style or material based on those tests. I also never asked questions about what students thought about the topic I was pretesting them on. I knew I really wasn’t using pretesting very effectively but honestly I was afraid of the workload that I thought would be created if I was really analyzing my pretests. Then I read a book (Integrating Differentiated Instruction and Understanding by Design) that reinvigorated my drive to better myself (read more about that here) and one of the things I wanted to delve into was using pretests more effectively.
What I took away from the book was how you don’t want to be teaching in the dark, which really stuck with me. Why would I not want to know what my students already know and why wouldn’t I want to use that for my teaching. It was I would call a "duh" moment.
That was all took to get me to dive into how I was going to use pretests more effectively. From there I used stories from the book to guide me and pieced together what I wanted to do with it.
How I scheduled my pretests
I have broken my content down into 3 sections so I am going to have three pretests at different points in the curriculum which I have based around my units.
Here is a break down of my class to show you what I mean:
I decided to not give a pretest on my first unit because that is the one that sets up my entire course and I feel it is important for the students to complete it. It allows me to see how students work towards a deadline and get a feel for them as students. It also allows me to review the results and implement them.
My plan with pretesting was to use the results to decide what activities students would need to complete in order to show proficiency in my standards and objectives and add elements of personal choice/interest based on what they said in the pretest. In my class students have a certain amount of flexibility in how they progress through a unit in terms of time and mode of learning. I refer to it as student-directed and self-paced (see more about how I do that here). In the beginning it was really just self-paced but as I have progressed it has really been about teaching students content but also working on the skills of learning and working students in small groups as opposed to large groups unless it is needed. Now I am adding more options in assessments and creating a personalized experience based on their pretest results.
Makeup of the pretests
When creating the pretest I was looking to have 2-3 questions per content focus for the unit. My goal was to have no more than 25 questions. Then I asked some opinion style questions to see how they felt about the material from this unit. The questions I ask were:
I went with these questions to see how much they valued their environment and what current biases and points of view they have about the environment and how humans use the environment. I will say that asking these questions gave me some valuable insight into my students and what they think about the topic. It was able to highlight issues and create connections that I am not sure would be seen in a typical multiple choice test.
Reviewing the student data
Once the students took the test I had the part that honestly I was dreading: reading through every test. I will say that I am super lucky in that my district uses canvas which allows you to create a spreadsheet broken down by student. The only problem was that I wanted a single 1-2 page breakdown of the test results for each student so I could review it with the students and not show them anything but their own results.
Luckily I have an amazing husband that happens to a spreadsheet genius and helped me organize my results by student with only the important information and helped me print it so it would be useful. Unfortunately I didn’t ask him right away to help with that and was trying to create a page form that I was going to hand write the results on for each student! I was creating so much more work for myself. My co-blogger is going to read this, roll her eyes and laugh, because she is also a spreadsheet genius. (Yes, you should have called me! Plus I guarantee one of the Alice Keeler spreadsheet add-ons would help with the process...next time! haha!- Becca)
Once I had my results printed and ready to review, all I did was highlight the areas of weakness so when I went to review with the student it would be easy to see what areas we needed to work on.
I also looked for patterns in the pretests. What I noticed was that I had three groups of students: students that were weak in the unit as a whole, students that were in the middle needing some review, and the students that were advanced in their knowledge of the material already.
The changes I Have seen in my classes
As students turned in their final assignment from the 5 Themes of Geography unit, I pulled them aside to review their pretest and their HEI checklists (see more about how I use checklists here). As we talked I highlighted the portions of their checklist that they needed to complete. Most students even if they scored advanced had some things that they couldn’t get out of. I usually have at least 2 formative assessments embedded into the unit to make sure they are getting the material before they get to the summative assessment. They could not get out of those and they could not get out of their textbook readings because we are working on reading and notetaking skills.
I used the opinion questions to guide our class bell work activities and added some of the topics they picked out as important to our assignments and have been making sure to talk about them as we work through content. It has been really nice to have those conversations with students and the students have responded pretty well because they can’t dispute the results and they appreciate that I have taken their answers and opinions into account.
So far I would say that really making use of my pretest has been very positive. It definitely has caused some extra work for me because I have to be on my game even more and have extra activities planned for students that need extra support or enrichment, but I feel like I am creating a more student-directed learning environment where students have more ownership in their learning and they know that I am considering them when I am creating materials for the class.
We have chromebooks! Yay!!!!!
Now that I have chromebooks, I am ready to get back into a mastery based self-paced classroom. No, it is not truly self-paced because I am still working on a semester long time limit BUT it's as good as it is going to get...for now. A girl can dream!
I was originally using videos and guided notes from flippedmath.com to help students master the material. These guys, the Algebros, put in some solid work to create so many amazing resources for math teachers. I have a lot of students who love their videos and feel like they learn best by taking the guided notes from them. I have a few others who are not such big fans. I realized that while I was differentiating by pace, with access to the internet, there wasn't any reason I couldn't give them more resources to choose from in order to learn the material and differentiate by learning style.
My process looked like this:
-List the objectives for Algebra 1 in a Google Sheet (I LOVE SPREADSHEETS!)
-Link each objective to it's own padlet. If you have not started using padlet or something like it, today is the day to start. They can be private, public, or collaborative and they are fantastic for dumping all kinds of resources. I love using it to organize all the resources I find for teaching.
- Find resources for each padlet. I started by adding the matching Flipped Math link, IXL links, and Kuta worksheets to each objective's padlet. It took a while but what I love so much about organizing the information this way is that I can continue to add to it year after year. I am creating a library of free resources organized by objective...it would bet worth it even if it was just for me and not for students to access!
- Decide on mastery rules and base objectives. One thing Danielle and I have always loved about the self-paced mastery set up is that it allows us to differentiate the material more easily and discreetly. Do we have a student who has gone through some major family issues outside of school and has missed school? Do we have a student with a learning disability who needs a modified assessment? Do we have a student who needs more of a challenge? Taking all of this into consideration, I set up the BASE objectives. In order for a student to gain credit for Algebra 1, the bare minimum objectives I would expect them to master are bolded and underlined (this is a tracked class so this is the lowest level). I expect that most students who are in class and using time wisely would be able to master these AND an additional 5 objectives - I'll let them choose those. After they have completed this, I am done giving them assessments, I want to see them apply what they know and I don't want to see the same project over and over. Students who can demonstrate mastery of my basic objectives as well as an additional 5 of their choosing will have to come up with a project and tell me which objectives it goes with.
- Track and assess. I will still use Canvas quizzes to assess students on mastery when possible. The only time I have trouble using Canvas is when I want students to graph. I create multiple quiz forms for those few objectives to maintain the integrity of mastery. (Click here for more on how we avoid cheating in a self-paced classroom)
I added a calendar portion so students can see how much time they have until the end of the year and set goals accordingly. Each student has their own copy of this tracker on Drive and updates it daily. When they pass an assessment, they change the objective to green. Remaining required objectives are marked as red. I use Alice Keeler's Template Tab to create my own tracker for each individual student. At the beginning of each class period, I move from person to person and click on their tab. I ask which objective or goal they are working on and how they are working on it. I ask when they are planning on taking an assessment and assist them if they are stuck. I track this on my sheet and then move to the next student. This only takes about 10 minutes of class and allows me to check in with each student individually. It also gives me a great visual of students who are absent. Finally, I track their work each day. Are they using time wisely? Each student begins with 5 points for the day and loses a point for each time I have to redirect them.
We are not currently using the Self Regulation sheets but I am planning on adding it as a Google Form to end class each day. I am also still working on adding resources to each of the padlet's as well as creating assessments that truly fit each objective.
Sign up for our weekly newsletters to get in to our freebies section to get a copy of the spreadsheet with links to my padlets!
You can also download it for free from our TPT store!
Well I am 2 and half months into year 2 for my self-paced classroom and some things have improved, some things I am questioning, and some things definitely need to change.
I was super excited going into this school year with my self-paced structure and interested to see how the pieces I was adding would work. Overall I am pleased with how things are going, but I have definitely found more things that I need to work on.
What I added This year
What I am struggling With
Overall, I am still happy with the student-directed structure of my class and really not sure I could go back to the more traditional setting. I do know that I still want improve and that are things that I can improve on. I am going to keep working and looking for inspiration and people to collaborate with. If any of you have some ideas or suggestions, I would love to hear them!
Ok, we’re off the PD train for a little bit and onto one of our favorite topics, the self paced classroom! We’ve been talking about the steps to building great curriculum and finding resources that make your curriculum engaging but today we talk about the ultimate way to differentiate that great and engaging curriculum: making your curriculum self paced. Not sure what I mean by that? Click here for more of our self paced blog entries!
Back to today though! How can you take that fabulous curriculum you worked so hard on and use it in a self paced classroom? Honestly, if you have done all of the ground work on finding resources, the rest gets a lot easier.
We suggest trying a self paced unit before fully committing to a self paced classroom. Testing out a unit will give you a good idea of whether or not it works for your students and for you. So right now, take a minute and think about a unit you teach that you would consider making self paced.
Do you have it? Alright, time to figure out how to make it hypothetically self paced!
Go back to the meat of your curriculum to start! Ask yourself these questions.
Now that you have the end goal in mind, what will you do with your resources to make this unit self paced?
For Becca, she found it useful to give a short version of each lesson about twice a week to the whole class. If students were already ahead of the material she was teaching, they just kept working on their own or assisted her in the lesson. Everyone else was given a short version of the notes but mainly a lot of examples. When she was finished, it was pretty easy for her to tell if students were completely lost or ready to work. She could then work with small groups to help those who were lost understand but all of the other students were still working on their own. With online lecture videos, fill in the blank notes, examples with answer keys, and links to immediate feedback math problems, all students were working on what they needed to and she was still able to help students understand parts that they were confused on. Students would decide when they were ready to take a 5 question quiz corresponding with the lesson they felt they had completed and get immediate feedback. Whether they passed it or not, they would show Becca their score which gave Becca the perfect time to check in on progress and either congratulate them on their success or help them see their mistakes. Students could tell whether they were "on track" or not by looking at the checklist of mastery quizzes. While having a true deadline is not completely self-paced, we all have a last day of school and students need to understand what they are expected to complete. Having suggested due dates let them know what they needed to do and helped them monitor their progress and understand the expectations.
For Danielle, it really comes down to working with small groups. The students go through self-guided material, but in addition to the self-guided material Danielle does small group instruction twice a week on average. The self-guided material is a variety of activities that she used to do as a whole class that are modified for self-paced and some new ones she has found or created. The students have access to videos, website, books, etc for the activities and many of them are not online activities. She still does hands-on activities as much as possible. For the small group activities, she picks particular skills that correlate to where students are in the curriculum and has mini lessons that she does with the students. This allows Danielle to have carved out time with each student and make sure that they are understanding the material.
Danielle also makes it clear that, if any student would like, they can schedule class time to work with Danielle in a small group or 1:1 and work on specific content. Danielle also uses formative assessment to create remediation small groups. Students have to complete 2-3 formative assessment activities per unit and they have to be reviewed with Danielle before they can move forward. This allows Danielle to check for understanding frequently and forces students to pause and make sure they understand material before the summative assessment.
Danielle also makes a point on certain days of the week to do what she calls 'rounds'. She goes around the room and talks to each student about their progress and goals for the content and class. This is when many students make appointments for small groups or she assigns students to specific small groups. It is a really great way to check in and have one on one conversations with students.
We've filled out this section of the template below to give you a snapshot version of what it looks like! These are the questions that lead you to the logistics of your self paced unit.
Now for the setup and what your classroom will look like during this unit:
How can we not advocate for this process when we see how much it has meant to our students? This is why we do it. This is why we love it!
Here is the plan for the communication of a self paced classroom at a glance! We have a lot of the items we use available on our TPT store!
In the end, you have to do what is best for you and your students. Feedback is so important not only to let you know how the student feel about the process but to get ideas for how to continue to improve your class and the positive feedback has lead us to continue and advocate for self paced classrooms. If it doesn't work for you and your class, abandon ship after one unit and do what you need to do!
If you are really interested in attempting the self-paced learning concept, we recommend starting with one unit or a specific project or skill that you could have students work on at their own pace throughout the year or semester. Check out the self-paced classroom section of our blog to see all of the pieces we went through to get our classes started. This is something that we are really passionate about and it has helped students learn in our classes. We are still trying to improve as well and we welcome any suggestions and ideas from other who have or plan to take the plunge into self-paced learning!
The self-paced classroom may not be for everyone and we can definitely understand that, but we do think that it can be adapted to many different types of classes, grade-levels, and contents.
One of the great things about the self-paced classroom is that the teacher gets to decide how self-paced the class is. It really is a fluid concept where you can take different teaching practices like guided practice, individual practice, project-based learning, cooperative learning, lecture, and mix and match them to create the class environment that works best for your students. Once you put together the types of activities and match them with resources, you can decide the criteria for students working by themselves and the extent or level of self-paced learning you use. Self-paced learning doesn’t necessarily have to be the only structure in place for your classroom. There can be days that are whole group, large group, or small group. You can have a unit, project, or specific skill be self-paced. This is really where the differences come in on the grade level you work with. Let’s explore the differences from our perspective on making self-paced learning work for the different grade-levels.
In the elementary classroom, self-paced learning seems to fit the best in the upper grades. Self-paced learning does require a certain degree of self-awareness and ability to self-direct that the really young say kindergarten and 1st grade may not have yet. That doesn’t mean that it can’t work, but it may be more challenging.
One way that self-paced learning could be done in the elementary classroom is having certain projects or subjects be self-paced while other are done in the more traditional style. You could have a self-paced reading project or a self-paced math skill building unit. That seems to me the beauty of elementary. When you spend all day with the students, you can chunk your time in different ways depending upon your goals.
Another way self-paced can be used is to make it a privilege to work at their own pace. Students that show they can be self-directed can attempt the self-paced environment and the rest of the class can be done as group learning. Then in a student begins to show that they cannot handle being self-directed then they can rejoin the group learning.
For middle school level it similar to the high school level in that your day is structured differently. You now have 7 or 8 distinctly timed classes and you travel to different environments for each class. Teachers in this scenario have only one content to think about and a specific time limit to each class period, but the question of how to use self-paced learning is the same so the above examples still apply.
Middle school and high school teachers really have to think about their content, what they are covering and the time they have with their students. Do you have 45 minutes classes, block scheduling, or a mix of both?
When looking at specific contents, it again comes down to how you want to use it. It can be a privilege, it can be for specific projects that go alongside your curriculum or it can be the way you operate your class as a whole.
We are proof that you can make it work in contents that are very different from each other (math and social studies). The key to making self-paced learning work for you is asking yourself if you are ready for a change and if you are ready to commit to building the materials needed for self-paced learning.
Do you use self-paced learning? Please share your ideas and questions with us in the comments! Thinking about starting the self-paced learning journey? Look for more products and ideas on starting a self-paced learning classroom on our blogs throughout the summer.
We all hate cheating. We're sure that we've all tried different things to combat the ever growing problem that is cheating in the classroom. In attempting the self-paced classroom, we have been asked quite a bit about students cheating. This year we have had way fewer instances of cheating than before we went to the self-paced method. There are few factors at play here and some it depends on the content, but the main factors deal with how you setup the course and the mindset you have and teach the students to have about work in your class.
Part of fighting cheating in the self-paced classroom is about how you setup your gradebook. In World Geography, I have 3 parts to my gradebook. There is class work, assessments, and a final project. The classwork section is worth 20%, assessments are worth 65%, and the final project is worth 15% of the grade.
The classwork is where all of the assignments that build toward the unit/content assessment live but are not the assessments themselves. With this being only 20% the students tend to not feel as pressured to cheat on those assignments because they will not tank their grade.
Along with this, I work on building a mindset of growth and mastery over grades and assignments. I am sure that I am not alone in experiencing the endless question of how many points is this worth, will this be graded, etc. I have always hated answering these questions so even before I started the self-paced journey, I started working on this in my class. I work with my class on the mindset that the work we do in class is practice building up to the assessment. Why would you want me to grade your practice? That being said I always tell them that completion of our class work goes into the class work grade. I very rarely get any arguments about this after a couple of weeks. I spend most of my time working with students on formative assessment. As students complete assignments I review their work with them and we are able to stop then and there and figure out what to work on.
On the assessment side, I do allow students to retest and/or do optional projects to replace assessment grades to give students choice and allow them to show me their learning in different ways. Before students can retest, they have to meet with me and review what went wrong on the first test and make a study plan and reteach as needed. Then they make a retest appointment.
I also encourage teamwork. I don’t really have a problem with people working together on the material. I cannot pretend that students still cheat and copy each other’s work when it comes to class work. When I see it in class, I remind students that when you do this, it will not help you pass the test since you did not take the time to complete it. It really doesn’t happen as often as it used to though. Instead now I am hearing conversations about how to do things and what the content means which I am super proud of.
Of course like with everything, there are things I want to improve on but overall I am really happy with how things have gone and experience way less cheating than in the past.
In all of our Algebra and Geometry classes, 100% of the grade comes from tests and quizzes. We use objective grading so that we can conference with students and help them identify specific challenge areas within the subject. Before adding the self-paced element to my class, the class took a 3-5 question paper and pencil quiz about 3 times a week. We'd collect the quizzes, go over the answers, and move on to the next part of the objective or unit while their quiz grade was added to the grade book. The hardest part about this was knowing how much time to give on the quiz. Because we do a lot of short quizzes, it was not ideal for a co-taught class where I have a lot of "extra time" accommodations. I was constantly running into time management issues with some kids finishing in 5 minutes or less and others needing 15 minutes. With all that extra time, it is hard to keep kids quiet and on task. There was a lot of room for cheating on these quizzes because everyone had the same questions and they were all taking it at the same time.
One of the best things about creating my self-paced classroom is that there is no idle time necessary for students. No one is sitting there waiting on me to give instruction or on other students to catch up. Every student is challenged. And every student is kept accountable.
Because of the room setup, it is easy to keep an eye on who is taking a quiz. That section of the room should be silent because they are testing while other parts may be pretty talkative. Basically, if I see anyone in the testing area talking, it is considered cheating. I am no longer watching 30 kids for cheating behaviors. I am now watching about 6 at the most at a time. They know this and it definitely puts more pressure on them to not cheat.
All of my quizzes are housed online on our Learning Management System (we use Canvas). Our LMS allows us to created graded quizzes that choose from a bank of questions. For each 5 question quiz, I make a bank of about 20 questions. Even if all six students who are testing during a class period are testing over the same section, it is unlikely they will have the same questions. This has been a huge help and is something I would try whether I was using a self-paced classroom or not. Because not everyone has the same questions, you can't just look at someone else's screen or work to get the answer. You would have to ask a student for help and they would have to either try to talk it out for you or write the problem on their own paper. Though I haven't run into this, I keep it in mind as another dead giveaway for cheating to keep an eye out for. After quizzes that may not go so hot for a student, I conference with them and show them their quiz on my laptop, explaining what they did wrong on the problems they missed. I always ask them to bring me their work. When this is missing, they can't verbalize what they did, or if one day I found a student who had a problem on their work that wasn't on their test, something is up.
Students figure out pretty quickly into the self-paced set up that it is not ideal for cheating. I have had two instances of cheating this year and both were easily identified because the students were asking another student how to do a problem while testing. Another benefit of the self-paced classroom is that I can punish this student without giving them a zero. A big threat teachers often use with cheating is putting in a permanent zero. I get the concept and I have done it, too. My only issue with this is that I want the grade to represent what the student knows and if they can learn that concept and do better than a zero, I'll give it to them. Rather than a permanent zero, I call the parents and give the students a referral. Then I am able to talk with the student about why they had a question and what they can do to be sure they are prepared to take a quiz so we don't have to go through all of this again.
Another barrier for cheating in my class is that students need an access code entered before they take a quiz. Moving to an open seat in the testing area is a visual signal to me that they need the access code typed but they are unable to begin a quiz until I type it in for them. This helps me control how many are taking a quiz at a time. If I know I have a student who struggles with cheating, I may ask that student to test in a specific seat or when there are fewer students in the testing area. With the access codes, I am in full control of who is testing throughout a class period.
All other aspects of the class encourage working together. I often see students who may not have gotten the grade they wanted on a quiz go back to their table and say something like, "I thought I had it. Can you look at the problem and tell me if I did it right?" to another student. Or if they are moving onto the next concept and they know someone who has already done it, they may ask them what the hardest part of the section is or what formulas they need to know...the list goes on and on but the point is that it's ok to ask questions and work together through everything except the quizzes.
Cheating is never going to completely go away but we are always trying to find new ways to combat it and encourage original work. Hopefully some of these strategies (projects, specific seating, question banks, etc.) can help you whether you are planning to teach a self-paced course or not! But we have to say, we love our self-paced courses and when it comes to discouraging cheating, it has definitely helped us out!
Imagine. Students in your class are working on different parts of the same unit, different units completely, testing, or working with you on a content skill. For some this may seem overwhelming and insane, and it can be but if you have system of tracking and seating in your room this system can be manageable.
In a self-paced system, it is possible for students to be in completely different parts of your curriculum. That means it requires the teacher to be more flexible and organized in their day-to-day classroom. It really is organized chaos.
How to manage the chaos
Tracking System - This goes back to our previous self-paced post. Having a clear and organized system for tracking student progress on your end will make your life so much easier. The goal is to have system that allows you to easily pinpoint where students are at in your curriculum easily while you are up and working on all of the different pieces and have the students understand where they are at as well.
Seating Plan - This doesn’t mean having a set in stone seating plan. What this means is having a room organized to allow you and the students be working on different pieces of content in the same room. This can definitely be difficult considering all of the limitations we tend to have. Like we discussed before in our seating arrangement post, we recommend having different zones for different types of activities that come up in your curriculum like a testing area, group work area, partner section, etc. Flexible seating is also something to consider as well, since self-paced naturally lends itself to individual work and flexibility.
Concrete, Clear Procedures and Content - This is by far the #1 piece to making self-paced or anything really work in any classroom. When it comes to the self-paced classroom, the teacher needs to spend quite a bit of time teaching the students the procedures for working in the classroom. This is typical for any teacher, but in this scenario you will more than likely need to spend a little more time since this system will be pretty different from what students are used to. Major things that would need to be covered beyond the usual:
What our day-to-day is like
My classes usually start with me moving students to different work zones depending on their progress if they forget. Then I do a round of check-ins. I go to each zone and check in with students to see if they need me to sign off on work that they have completed, check what their goals are for class that day, and work on relationships. I then start on any administrative stuff I have to do like attendance or whatever. After that what usually happens is one of the following:
My system is definitely not refined yet. I am still working out some things that I want to change and improve on for next year. I have to say though that I really am loving the chaos of seeing students make connections with the content and learn how to recognize their learning process and self-regulate their learning. Even though it is chaos, I have found that I do not have as many classroom management issues with my tough classes like I did before switching to this system. That does not mean that there still isn’t classroom management issues, but I feel like they are smaller and easier to deal with on an individual basis as opposed to having the whole class issues that can pop up in a more traditional system.