Pacing Calendar to Support Students' Self-Paced Work

A Mastery-Based Progression unleashes students to work at their own pace so creating and monitoring a simple pacing calendar can help
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Introduction on How to Use a Pacing Calendar
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About This Strategy

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.

Implementation Steps

90 minutes
  1. 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 that students can see at all time in the classroom, and possibly move a marker on to indicate mastery of different competencies (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.
  2. 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) and face to face activities run by you or your students (Small group instruction, 1:1 conference, peer tutoring, etc…)
  3. 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 poster and individual copies. You will find examples of what these calendars can look like in the resources below.
  4. 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.
  5. Support them to set goals for an upcoming week. Some of the pacing calendars included below have a space included in the template for students to set goals for an upcoming week when it comes to what they want to try to master. Teachers sometimes prefer to have students complete a separate document, like a contract, in which they commit to master a certain number of skills in a given week. You will find an example of a self-paced contract below.
  6. Do not forget to consider the case of students who will move way faster than the suggested pace. This is one of the reasons why one would want to move to mastery-based progression: remove barriers between units, and allow students to keep learning at their pace. Two scenarios are possible:
    • Completely remove the unit barriers and have students continue to move through your entire curriculum at their own pace, mastering one competency after another.
    • Try an intermediate approach, in which students move through a unit at their own pace but still remain in the same unit together. If that is the approach chosen first, it is imperative to consider adding relevant and rigorous culminating projects combining multiple competencies so that your students will continue to work on meaningful tasks while other students complete the unit.

Special Education Modification

Students with disabilities that impact their organization or attention, or students who receive extra time on assignments per their IEP, may struggle with self-pacing. To support students, the teacher should meet with these students to ensure that the daily goal is achievable for each student and that students understand the path to complete the goal.