INTRODUCTORY IT COURSES WITH LARGE CLASSES
PERFECT SETTING FOR A PSI REVIVAL?
The Personalized System of Instruction (PSI), a mastery learning approach, attracted a lot of interest in the 1970's. However, in spite of largely positive results in empirical studies of learning effect and student satisfaction, PSI gradually lost ground through the 80's and 90's and is now unknown to many educators. A 2007 article by Eyre asks directly in its title "Was it a Fleeting Fancy or is there a Revival on the Horizon?" – pointing to improved e-learning technology as a way to mitigate the high work burden PSI might otherwise cause on the teaching staff. This paper makes a more concrete discussion of the prospects of such revival, considering if introductory IT and programming courses might be a perfect setting for a modern approach to PSI, and especially if it would be suitable for large classes. A possible argument against this is that the big class sizes that such courses tend to have in Norwegian universities would discourage experimentation with major changes of teaching strategy. On the other hand, there are also many factors in favour of PSI or similar mastery learning strategies in introductory IT courses. The paper analyses potential pros and cons of going PSI in an introductory IT course, and concludes with a concrete proposal for how such a transition might be implemented within the limits of typical current restrictions for courses and degree programs.