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.