Competency based learning has its origins in the business world. High school graduates who decide to become a barber, for example, would need specialized training in cutting hair. They would take an assessment to verify competency before receiving a license to cut hair. In order to maintain global standing, industry and education leaders teamed up to create a description of elements for 21st century outcomes. These elements would identify those skills, knowledge, and attitudes necessary for our future work force to be competent in the 21st century market, much like a competency exam that a plumber, electrician, mechanic, or other trained and skilled professional would need in order to practice their profession competently. These 21st century learning skills are embedded in the Common Core State Standards as well as the focus of the work and design of Florida Virtual School (FLVS) courses.
Many examples of benchmark competency-based practices can be found in FLVS courses. These include the following:
Assessments Against Competencies
Florida Virtual School builds its courses around this concept. Courses are built with formative and summative assessments embedded throughout the course measuring the students’ competency and mastery of the standards, which are based on the 21st skills. There are three components of these assessments against competencies: self-assessment, multi-source, and assessments through other methods.
- In the self-assessment, learners are able to manage their own mastery level, and take appropriate action to relearn skills before attempting a formal assessment. Students are able to “own” their own learning and work on those things they actually need to do as opposed to a traditional school where a student will sit through a lesson with the rest of a class even if they don’t individually need it.
- Multi-source assessments allow the learner to get feedback through multiple formats. With pre-tests, formative assessments throughout the lessons, and summative assessments, students receive feedback from multiple sources. In addition, Florida Virtual School teachers complete discussion based assessments in each unit of study. Teachers verbally assess for mastery before students can move on to the next module. This ensures a deeper understanding in subjects that build upon previous understandings, such as foreign languages or math. The teacher is the gatekeeper, who only allows the students to move on when mastery is demonstrated through work products and thorough discussions. Students also have some collaborative projects which provide opportunities for students to work together and building knowledge collaboratively.
- An assessment through other methods is the third format delineated. FLVS provides many assessment options in its courses. In Physical Education, students will actually self-monitor and report exercise logs and personal goals and benchmarks of activity. In many courses, especially in science, students perform labs and will video tape their work. Students use multiple ways to communicate to their teacher evidence of mastery.