Adopt U-Pace

Introduction to psychology, one of the largest introductory courses, was an excellent initial context for testing the efficacy of U-Pace versus conventional instruction. Introductory psychology attracts heterogeneous students with respect to level of academic preparation, economic status, and race and ethnicity, suggesting the findings of greater learning and greater academic success would generalize to other courses, which has since been found. The U-Pace instructional approach may be most applicable to courses in which student performance can be objectively assessed, particularly with multiple-choice quizzes. For courses that require demonstration of student performance other than through quizzes, the U-Pace approach could be used for portions of the content or in a blended learning format.

The U-Pace instructional approach does not require resources beyond a learning management system (e.g., Blackboard, Canvas, Moodle). For the Mastery-based component of U-Pace, critical conditions identified on the table, must be set in your LMS. Depending upon the LMS, defaults may also need to be disabled (e.g., disabling automatic scoring deductions for retakes).

U-Pace instructors must be able to use the LMS to:

  • Monitor the progress and number of attempts made by each student on each quiz to provide timely, tailored constructive support and encouragement;
  • View students’ correct and incorrect quiz responses in order to give personalized feedback on content not yet mastered; and,
  • Use advanced availability features to provide special access to students with disabilities (i.e., resetting the time limit on quizzes in accordance with students’ accommodations).

Critical Conditions that Must be Set for U-Pace Course in the Learning Management System

  • Set each quiz to draw randomly from the question or quiz library
  • Set adaptive or conditional releases for each quiz (except Quiz 1) so that students must score at least 90% before proceeding to the next quiz
  • Set conditional releases so that each module opens up after second quiz in series is taken
  • Restrict timing for quizzes to seven minutes
  • Set number of quiz attempts to “unlimited”
  • Set submission views to score only (do not show answers or questions)
  • Set quizzes to automatically grade on completion
  • Set quiz grades to export to the grade book
  • Set grade book to record highest attempt
  • Set one hour wait time between quiz retake (if possible)

Praising student efforts (quiz attempts falling short of 90% mastery) and small successes (quiz completions with at least a score of 90%) is fundamental to the U-Pace instructional approach. If some instructors believe that praise is justified only for major accomplishments, such as completing a substantial portion of the coursework perhaps because they fear their praise will lose its power, impact, or otherwise lack credibility they will not successfully implement the U-Pace approach. Focusing solely on major accomplishments is antithetical to U-Pace and is flawed. Withholding praise until students achieve the ultimate accomplishment is ineffective because the ultimate accomplishment is predicated on many smaller successful approximations. The instructor’s role in U-Pace is that of a coach shaping student success.

To successfully implement U-Pace instruction, instructors must also abandon the erroneous notion that some students are worthy of praise, support, and encouragement while others are not due to their “lack of accomplishment.” In this viewpoint, there is no coaching role for the instructor; instructors are reduced to providing information. They set the bar and see who gets over it, without directly facilitating the students’ progress. From this perspective it is not the instructor’s role to directly support and encourage students’ efforts, particularly if unsuccessful. The U-Pace instructional approach reflects a different perspective. By encouraging students the U-Pace instructor gives them the “courage” to persist, to maintain their effort. Instructors will not lose credibility if their praise of students is contingent on student behavior.