Who decides pace? Who should decide pace? Do we even need to have a pace? If we do, how do we decide what the pace should be? How do we know if it is too fast, or too slow?
- Determine the learning required for a student in public education to graduate
- Complete a statistical analysis of how long it takes a representative sample to complete this learning
- Determine the median length of of time to learn
- Recommend that be the pace
As an objective statement of the “middle of the road” learning rate, this could be useful. There are likely curriculum designers and educators out there that have relied on some kind of statistical analysis to set the pace of their scope and sequence. I haven’t met any yet. Instead, I have met educators and leaders who determine pace by using something like the oversimplified steps below:
- Use the recent version of the current state standards to determine the learning required for a student in public education to graduate
- Use a combination of historical practice, some research, and allotted time (12 years) to determine when this learning needs to be completed
- Determine how much time each year, or class, can be dedicated to the different things they need to
- Teach and move on, even when many student's don't learn it
Even in cases where instruction is very much centered on competencies the concept of pace is still very much at the center. Students are expected to work at “teacher pace or faster.” When a student falls “behind pace” they have to deal with similar consequences as when a student is missing work or failing in the industrial model. The problem of being “behind pace” has only two causes: either the learner is working at an inappropriate level, or the learner is neither engaged in nor motivated by the learning environment. Nobody wants to intentionally place consequences on a student who is not yet ready to perform at a particular level. Unfortunately we do still tend to, in many cases, want to intentionally place consequences on students who are not engaged or motivated.
Pace only works as an objective reference in a learner-centered proficiency based environment. It is reasonable to have some kind of metric to refer student learning pace to. This is even more true when the reference pace lines up with developmental benchmarks. I say refer because it implies less of a judgement then compare. The point is not to make a performance judgement about ability or behavior based on where any particular learner is in relation to any other learner, or the median performance trend. Instead, use it as a piece of information that adds to a larger picture and supports the decision making process about their learning. After all, a major tenet of the learner-centered proficiency based education is that people learn at different rates. And that is ok, period. Pace, as a subjective measure of performance, does not honor that belief.