This strategy supports teachers to create a pacing calendar for students in a mastery-based or self-paced progression. When students are allowed to work at their own pace and focus on what they need the most, some of them handle this independence really well right away. It is, in a sense, something they have waiting for a long time to have. For other students, having a chance to work at their own pace might mean that they are allowed to slow down on certain skills to work with the teacher one on one or in small groups, while keeping pace with the class on other skills. When students start having this type of flexibility, it is important to continue to provide them with guidance around a suggested pace that would help them stay on track, while closing some gaps.
This strategy will help you create this resource and give you examples from classrooms of teachers who have tested this idea successfully.
Distance learning provides a natural opportunity for students to self-pace their learning. A pacing calendar helps students stay on track and accomplish tasks when working in a distance format.
Start by breaking down your curriculum (or simply the unit you want to test out mastery-based progression on) into smaller competencies or standards. Create a map of these competencies and share it online with students (See strategy called “Mastery Map and Standard-Based Peer Tutoring” in the BetterLesson Lab). Create also a student-facing mastery tracker that will help your students have an individual view of their progress. You will find great examples of trackers in the strategy called “Progress and Mastery Trackers” in the BetterLesson Lab.
Once this map is created, students should be able to progress through these different competencies at their own pace via a combination of online activities organized, for example, in playlists (See Playlist strategy in the BetterLesson Lab).
Consider using a learning management system, such as Canvas or Google Classroom, to host playlists.
At this point of your process, create a suggested pacing calendar for mastering the different competencies inside a given unit of time. Make this calendar available to all your students via a digital poster and individual copies.
Use a program like ThingLink, Adobe Spark, or Piktochart to create a digital pacing calendar poster.
Explain to students that the suggested pace is to help them stay on track, even though they might need at times to speed up or slow down. In order to do that, it is recommended to hold a weekly class meeting to review the pacing calendar as a group and allow students to reflect on where they are in relation to the suggested pace.
To hold these conversations asynchronously, create a screencast to review the pacing calendar. Ask students to reflect on their progress by posting to Flipgrid or Padlet.
Support students to set goals for each week. Meet with students one-on-one or provide them with a goal-setting template to submit before the week begins See the Progress and Mastery Tracking strategy for examples of student goal-setting and progress tracking templates.
Using a pacing calendar can help support students with disabilities keep track of their own mastery and help them build self-advocacy skills.
Successful use of a pacing calendar requires teachers planning for the variety of skills required of students: emotional regulation, significant executive functioning skills (task initiation, prioritization, working memory, etc.), written expression skills, reading skills and verbal expression skills. In order to support students with disabilities who have difficulty in these areas consider the following modifications:
Teachers should think carefully about the approach of quality over quantity when helping students with disabilities track their mastery using a pacing calendar. Special emphasis for these students could be put on mastery of the highest leverage skills in a unit.
If multiple teachers are present in a setting, consider having one teacher work in a small group of students with more intensive disabilities to help provide more targeted guidance on how to set goals and use pacing calendars.
Self-pacing is an important academic skill for English learners to learn. This strategy provides support and guidance to learners as they navigate goal setting and plotting mastery. Learners also benefit from seeing what is ahead of and behind them as they progress through units of study.
English learners may need to use all four domains of language: reading, writing, speaking, and listening to engage with the presentation and activities associated with this strategy. In order to support English Learners consider the following modifications:
Provide English learners with familiar reference sheets such as graphic organizers, word banks, sentence stems, formula sheets, etc., to use as needed during activities.