The effects of pacing structure on performance and attitudes in a Keller-method college course



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The amount of pacing structure on students' test-taking rates was experimentally varied between two sections of a college-level course taught by the Keller Method of instruction. The two sections were equivalent academically, and received identical instruction except for the pacing structure: in the structured section, students plotted their progress through the course on a pace chart with model pace lines for A, B, C, and Fast A pacing, and were required to maintain a minimum pace of one unit per week for the first five weeks of the semester; students in the unstructured section had only to satisfy normal course contingencies. The effects of this variation in structure were measured on three dependent variables: I) student performance - grade distributions and withdrawals from the course; 2) student rates of progress - average test-taking rates of the two sections in three equal parts of the semester, and proportions of individual pacing strategies in the two groups; and 3) student attitudes toward the course format, as indicated by responses to a course evaluation questionnaire. The results indicate that pacing structure has little effect on students' grades or withdrawals from the course, and that it does not significantly affect students’ attitudes toward the course or the Keller format. The structure did affect students' average test-taking rates and, to some extent, pacing strategies. The use of a pace chart and a minimum pace requirement produced a very steady average test-taking rate throughout the semester, as contrasted with a very slow initial rate and a very fast terminal rate in the group without pacing structure. Also, the pacing structure may have reduced procrastination and increased the proportion of early finishers. The pacing behavior observed in the structured group is much more adaptive for completing Keller courses. This finding has important implications for Keller course management.