The Effects of Contingency Contracting on Student Performance in a Personalized System of Instruction
Grochocinski, Victoria J.
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The problem. A large body of evidence indicates that the self-pacing feature of PSI may result in a high frequency of incompletes and postponed work by students, oftentimes leading to a high withdrawal rate in personalized systems of instruction. In addition, student procrastination results in massed testing at the end of the semester, putting additional burdens on both students and staff, thus reducing the effectiveness and efficiency of the system. The present study proposed to examine the effectiveness of contingency contracting across an entire semester in a PSI course as a procedure to reduce procrastination, withdrawal rate. and logistic problems. Procedure. Students determined their own deadlines for taking unit tests by making an appointment with the graduate assistant at the learning center for one test attempt at a time. A comparison was made of the performances of students with low, medium, and high high school class ranks within and across semesters. Findings. The major effect that contingency contracting had on student performance was the steadier rate of unit completion for all groups, when compared to student performance in a non-contracting semester. The percentage of students withdrawing from the course did not change with the contingency contracting system, nor was there a reduction in performance differences among the three different groups of students within each semester. Conclusions. A contingency contracting procedure which retained the self-management aspects of PSI and was manageable within a large university course resulted in a steadier rate of unit completion when compared to the pacing pattern of students in a semester without contracting. Classroom logistic problems were reduced to the extent that testing was more evenly distributed across the semester. However students in the low groups continued to perform less satisfactorily than other students in the course.
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