Although students value the self-paced nature of the L2 Algebra I multimedia program, it is not always implemented.
Self-paced learning is an academic ideal held forth by many, but few curricula have implemented this principle on a large scale. The L2 Algebra I course incorporates genuine self-paced learning, but it is not implemented in each school. Hence, student satisfaction with the self-paced nature of the L2 Algebra I course varies considerably. Overall, almost 50% of the 1,400 L2 students surveyed agreed with the statement that "The pace of this course is just right." However, in those schools where teacher-paced guidelines have been most strictly enforced, as many as 90% disagree with the statement! Overall student satisfaction with the L2 Algebra I course is much lower in those schools that have abandoned the principle of self-paced learning. Reasons for instituting teacher-pacing may stem from factors outside the teachers' control (e.g., the inability to issue incomplete grades or no provisions for summer school) to differences in individual teacher styles (an inability to tolerate ambiguity or a need for more control). Regardless of the source, teacher-pacing seems to be a major violation of the L2 program's design.
Example comments of students in schools where self-pacing is implemented include:
Most of Gary's comments centered around how much he liked the self-paced nature of the instruction. He told me this: "If you don't understand something, the computer will take you back, if you had a teacher and you didn't understand, you would just have to go on."
Sheri likes L2 primarily because she enjoys the self-paced instruction. She also prefers working with a computer to listening to a teacher because she hates "teachers that sit there and talk to you for the whole period."
Aretha failed algebra last year in a traditional book-based, teacher-led class. She appreciates the opportunity that L2 has given her to be independent. "I'm on my own. Here you go, teach yourself. No excuses."
.....he [Don] likes it [L2] even more than he thought he would. Primarily, he likes the self-paced method of instruction. He told me "with a teacher, if you don't understand and the rest of the class does, they're going to go on without you."
He [Jeffrey] would recommend the class to his friends because of the self-paced, individualized nature of L2. "You go at your own pace and the computer pertains to you better than a teacher," he said.
Charles really likes the self-paced learning in L2. "I can't think of a better way to learn," he said. He says that in a book class, the teacher goes too fast. He says that with L2, "you work your butt off" but that in the book class "everyone is failing."
Example comments of students in schools where teacher-pacing exists include:
Her initial reaction to L2 was that it was "a lot better than text-based classes! It's self paced!" Her favorite aspect of L2 is that it shows you what to do step by step. She especially disliked the fact that after a short period of self paced use, the rules were changed so that L2 time deadlines were placed on students by the teacher. "We must be to chapter 8 by the fourth six weeks!"
The worst thing about L2 is that now they have a teacher imposed pace that if not equaled will result in INCOMPLETES at the end of 6 week grading periods. He [Edward] has already missed one honor roll because of this policy and was peeved.
Farrah initially liked L2, "...it seemed easier than the teacher. It was self paced, and had individualized instructions. It was self paced!" She expressed definite resentment about the current policy of teacher set pacing. When asked for her opinion of L2 now Farrah says, "I don't like it. Really - there are only so many days to complete X number of topics. If you don't finish them - you get an incomplete. I have some incompletes. A lot of people do. What are they (the administration) going to do at the end of the year?"
She [Angela] also expressed her feeling that they had been misled regarding the self paced concept. "Now we have to be at certain points at the end of each grading period. I had to come after school to keep up."
Matt initially was very excited about the L2 program. The self paced approach really appealed to him. By the time the L2 program was discontinued seven weeks ago his attitude toward the program had drastically changed. Matt's comments reflect this; "When we stopped L2 I disliked the program- a lot. I especially disagree with the time requirements and pass/fail grading policy. You should be given credit for increments in progress. If you haven't finished a chapter by the due date you get an `F' even if you were about 80% finished. This is not right!"
He [Paul] likes the self-paced aspects of the program, and he said he strongly resents the pressure that the teacher puts on him to make more progress. He says that when he rushes through a section, he "really doesn't learn anything."
The National Science Center should work with school administrators, teachers, and parents to assure that the principle of self-paced learning can be implemented within the total educational environment of the local school system. In those schools where this is not possible, the L2 Algebra I course may be reduced to a supplementary role or eliminated entirely.