A comparison of four different pacing strategies of personalized system of instruction and a traditional lecture format



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Studies have evaluated Personalized System of Instruction (PSI) as more effective than traditional lecture-test format for college courses. Methodological problems with these studies tend to limit their findings as tentative. The primary problem encountered by such studies has been the appropriateness of the comparison groups. Significant problems with the use of PSI were found to be withdrawal rates and procrastination. This study compared different lecture-test formats using course performance measures and course evaluation reports. Students enrolling in an introductory social psychology course were randomly assigned to one of five instructional arrangements. In the benchmark group the students were required to have successfully completed the third unit by the end of the third week of the semester or be dropped from the course. Students in the deadlines group were given four specific deadlines to complete assigned units. Students in the contract group were allowed to set their own deadlines. Students in the graduated point group were given more points per unit examination for completing the unit early in the semester. The lecture group met for lectures two days a week and a discussion group or examination the third day. A post hoc comparison of sections supported the assumption of equivalence of sections from random assignment of students to sections. Grade point average was not found to be significantly correlated to scores on Rotter's I-E scale or Christie and Geis' Mach V scale. The deadlines section produced the best grade distribution. A comparison of final examination scores did not yield a significant difference among the sections. Students who completed the course had a higher grade point average than those who withdrew. When pacing in PSI sections was examined, it was found that the deadlines section had more students whose strategy could be classified as steady or fast. Students who completed the course filled out an anonymous course evaluation questionnaire. There was not a significant difference in over-all course rating. Among the PSI sections, more students in the deadlines and contract sections answered they would definitely take a course taught in the same manner. The selective withdrawal of students from the sections limited the validity of a comparison of course evaluation. The results indicated that use of deadlines in PSI sections reduces withdrawal and produces at least equivalent performance to a lecture section. Recommendations for future research were presented.