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Practices with Promise Success Story

Submitted By: Carl Swift, Pioneer Center

Self-paced course improves citizenship outcomes

The Challenge

The Pioneer Center, a member of the Mt. San Antonio Regional Consortium for Adult Education, felt that the number of students completing the school’s U.S. citizenship class and going on to obtain their citizenship was not has high as it should be. The program’s coordinators wanted to find a way to boost the success rate so they could help open doors for more students, including, for some, increasing their chances of finding higher-wage, family-sustaining employment.

The coordinators identified two issues that seemed to be hindering the kind of success they hoped to see: 1.) inconsistent student attendance, due to a variety of reasons, including family issues, emergencies and travel and 2.) a slow class pace to accommodate catch-up for students who had missed class or for those whose command of the language or level of understanding was such that they needed more time to digest the information.

The Solution

To address these challenges, the center overhauled its instructional approach. It developed a self-paced citizenship preparation program that tailored learning to individual student needs. The program was designed to allow students to complete the lessons at their pace. This new model was just as beneficial to students who fell behind as it was to those wanting to accelerate their learning. Classroom-based teacher support continued to be available to students.

The new approach maintained group learning time, and it also added a mock interview, giving students the opportunity to apply their learning in a simulated session and receive valuable feedback.

In the redesign, the program coordinators also took the opportunity to alter the delivery and pedagogy of the course so that students would have a fuller understanding -- and therefore better retention -- of the material. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) candidate interview questions are published in materials, as well as online, but they are not grouped in logical categories, so students often learn the material by rote. The center took the questions and grouped them into categories that make it easier for students to comprehend and truly absorb the information.


The overhauled U.S. citizenship class facilitated learning and instilled greater confidence in students. Graduates indicated that the new process was just what they needed to help them accomplish their goals. Specifically, students mentioned that the guided self-study with teacher support made it easy for them to attend and maintain their time in seat and on task. Students also appreciated the segmented and grouped study that provided them with feedback about their progress along the way and made retention and recall much easier. They also reported that the mock interview was incredibly valuable in reducing their stress levels because it mimicked their USCIS experience and when it came time for the real interview, they felt that had “already done that!”

The Data

All students who completed the citizenship preparation class became citizens and were able to do so by being able to answers correctly the first six questions they were asked. Citizenship applicants are required to answer 6 out of 10 questions correctly.

The Pioneer Adult Center welcomes the interest of other programs that want to implement a similar approach to U.S. citizenship classes and preparation materials are available upon request.

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