Illustration by Edpuzzle Staff
When we interviewed Kareem Farah (co-founder and CEO of the Modern Classrooms Project) about why he adopted a self-paced classroom, we were struck by this reflection:
“When you’re an educator, especially a new educator, you’re taught to just go through the motions. This means stand at the front of the room and deliver information ... For me, it was quite clear that this was an ineffective way to meet students’ needs.”
Direct instruction is something that’s so ingrained in traditional education that it’s difficult to shake off. But, when students are expected to learn at one standardized pace, nobody wins.
How can we as educators make it possible for students to set their own pace for learning? The answer is getting rid of whole-group direct instruction, aka the lecture. Yes, it’s possible!
Read on to learn more about what a self-paced classroom looks like, how it works with technology, and the steps to take in order to start implementing it in your classroom.
What is a self-paced classroom and why is it important?
To get a good idea of what a self-paced classroom looks like, take a look at this explanatory graphic (or watch this video for a visual):
You can click here to open the image and get a closer look.
In a self-paced classroom, students complete assignments at a speed that is customized to the amount of practice they need to master a learning objective.
That is made possible by the fact that students learn new content through instructional videos, instead of direct instruction.
This kind of control is super empowering for students! When students can set their own pace, they organically become more self-directed and independent learners.
It’s no surprise then that over 88% of students that experience a self-paced classroom agree that they are responsible for their own learning.
When students watch instructional videos, the teacher is no longer confined to the front of the classroom. You’re free to move around and do everything you’ve always wanted to do, like work more closely with individual students.
As a result, over 85% of teachers agree that a self-paced classroom helps them work more closely with students during class.
Self-pacing is also possible at all grade levels and in all content areas. Just like with any pedagogical model, it’s all about how you customize it to your students’ needs.
The self-paced classroom and technology
These two are the ultimate dynamic duo when it comes to meeting your students’ needs, particularly in environments with diverse learning levels.
Students learn at different speeds, and the integration of technology into the classroom (in the form of teacher-created instructional videos) makes it possible for students to take things at their own pace.
When you record a video, it’s like you’ve created a teacher clone of yourself! But unlike live direct instruction, students can watch this video version of you on their own time and pause or rewind as much as possible.
This is especially helpful for students that are often absent (for reasons sometimes out of their control) and need to catch up. Having your content in video form allows students to always have access to their teachers’ lectures.
Making your own instructional videos is at the core of the self-paced classroom model, and technology makes it possible to transform video into an interactive experience for your students.
You don’t need a PhD in educational technology to get started. A little bit of technological know-how can go a long way in helping your students learn!
6 steps for creating a self-paced classroom
Creating a self-paced classroom won’t happen overnight, but here are six first steps you can take to put your classroom on track for self-pacing:
Choose a unit of study to try out. Start small and think about what a unit’s worth of self-pacing could look like. That way students get some structure and enough time to practice this new style of independent learning. Self-pacing within a unit of study also makes it easy for teachers to stay in line with district and school-level timeframes for curriculum.
Plan your videos. Make sure you have a clear plan for what content your instructional videos will cover. It’s best to focus on one learning objective per video, to keep them short (~6 minutes depending on students’ age). It’s also important to plan how you’re going to share information in the video. Design a slideshow with PowerPoint or Google Slides, or simply share guided notes in the background.
Record your videos. When it comes to recording video, a screencasting tool is your best friend. If you’re using your computer, we recommend Screencastify. This free Chrome extension lets you record your computer screen, perfect for if you want to show your students how to use a particular website or if you’re sharing a slideshow. If you’re using a tablet, try Explain Everything. It lets you upload documents, images, and videos to a virtual whiteboard that you can then record. The best part about these tools is that they both let you upload your video directly into Edpuzzle!
Enhance your videos with Edpuzzle. To keep students from watching passively and maximize engagement, Edpuzzle is your go-to. Add your own questions and turn on the Prevent Skipping feature to ensure that students are actually interacting with the video. Then, use Edpuzzle’s Gradebook to get data on how many questions each student answered correctly, how many times they viewed each portion of the video, and how much time they took to complete it.
Share your videos on your LMS. Use the magic of your LMS to organize access to all assignments and instructional videos. It should be clear and well-organized so that students can easily find what they need. P.S. Did you know that Edpuzzle integrates with Google Classroom, Canvas, Schoology, and more? That means there’s no need to create separate student accounts or sync your gradebook!
Take the Self-Paced Classroom certification. Once you’ve got a good grip on making your own instructional videos, you can move on to learning about the other important elements of a self-paced classroom. This free course (offered in partnership with the Modern Classrooms Project) is taught by expert teachers currently using the self-paced classroom model.
And that’s it! You’re on your way to becoming a self-paced superstar.
Sure, at first you might feel like you’re a first-year teacher all over again. But once you get over the learning curve, making video lessons gradually becomes less work and allows you to unleash other elements of self-pacing in your classroom.
What teachers say
If your still on the fence about creating a self-paced classroom, check out what teachers who are currently using this model have to say:
“[The self-paced classroom] is the most impactful thing I've done in my teaching career. I think it really developed skills that were missing in schools nowadays like ... students being self-directed, being able to work together without direct supervision, and students being able to read directions and follow them.” -Cheyenne, fourth grade teacher
“The biggest benefit of the self-paced classroom is it just frees you up to be able to differentiate. You can work really closely with students who need the most support from you.” -Emily, middle school ELA teacher
“[The self-paced classroom] revolutionizes not just your students, but you as a teacher … It has opened up more doorways to do things that I haven't had time to do in the traditional model. And I can see the growth in my kids. I don't go home feeling like I’ve got to recreate the wheel every day.” -Tavia, high school chemistry teacher
Ready to run a classroom where students set their own pace? It all starts with a video lesson.