Category: Resource

5 Strategies for Fostering Independence in a PBL Classroom

May 27, 2016 by

Pic1This post originally appeared at Getting Smart on April 28, 2016.

As a middle school teacher I understand that my students are at a developmental crossroads. They want to be seen as independent, responsible adults but at the same time still need guidance in order to be successful. This makes this age both challenging and rewarding to work with as it allows me as a teacher to help them as they become the independent students they see themselves to be.

It is not uncommon for teachers new to project-based learning to express skepticism or concern about “dropping the reins” and allowing students to take more control over the pace and scope of their learning. However, it is an essential aspect of good PBL. Ultimately, in order to be successful in the 21st century world, our students need to be able to manage themselves and work effectively with groups of peers. If it is true that the purpose of school is to prepare students for future success, then the building of these skills must start in the classroom. (more…)

Learner-Centered Tip of the Week: Refurbishing for Personalized Learning

May 20, 2016 by

BinderThis post originally appeared on Courtney Belolan’s website on May 12, 2016. Belolan is the instructional coach for RSU2 in Maine.

Stop! You, yes you. The one perusing Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers for the perfect already-made-resource you can print off and use with your students.

And you! The one flipping through your binders, hanging-files, or digital folders for lesson plans and resources to use again.

You too! Surfing PBS, The History Channel, and other providers of ready-made curricula and lessons.

Stop. And think…

Will using this resource or material support the goals of learner-centered proficiency based practice?

The answer may not be entirely clear at first. The reality is that most of the pre-made materials are not. There are, however, ways to use these resources and refurbish them for personalized learning.

I recently facilitated a session with some teachers around using non-Calkins resources within the context of writing workshop. To start the hour off, we played a “yes-no game” based on a concept attainment activity. The gist is that we sorted examples into positive and negative groups, then determined the categories and gave them titles. This chart shows the results of our game: (more…)

How are We Doing Implementing Student-Centered Learning?

May 13, 2016 by

NMEFNellie Mae Education Foundation (NMEF) and the Donahue Institute at University of Massachusetts released a new report A Qualitative Study of Student-Centered Learning Practices in New England High Schools last month. Student-centered learning as defined by NMEF has four tenets: (1) learning is personalized; (2) learning is competency-based; (3) learning takes place anytime, anywhere; and (4) students take ownership. There are a number of findings that we should pay attention to:

How Can We Make Adoption of CBE Easier?

Finding: Schools tended to report that the adoption of competency-based learning (CBE) models is more challenging than implementation of other tenets. Educators and leaders face considerable barriers to successful implementation, such as expectations that students will advance at the end of each school year and community concerns regarding colleges’ views of competency-based transcripts.

Discussion: Based on my experience visiting schools, everything goes easier once schools embrace a new set of values and assumptions led by the number one tenet – Do What’s Best for Kids. (See Courtney Belolan’s article on culture.) Some people argue that we need discrete models with options for specific practices. What do you think would make adoption easier?

Do We Have Enough Results Yet to Begin to Determine What Works?

Finding: Every site visit school implemented a unique competency-based learning system. The lack of a proven competency-based model challenges schools to invent their own approach.

Discussion: I will still argue that we are early in the process of innovation and that we are still finding our way to figuring the “best models.” However, we are also now at the stage of districts and schools having several years of implementation. So we should begin to benchmark different models and practices that are yielding results?

What Will It Take to Increase Expanded Learning Opportunities?

Finding: Anytime/anywhere learning practices lag behind the other SCL tenets. Teachers and administrators face an array of challenges to implementing approaches within this tenet, such as establishing community partnerships, transportation, and budget. Some schools appear not to realize the full educational potential of such practices. (more…)

What’s New in K-12 Competency Education?

May 10, 2016 by

What's NewJOB OPENING: Henry County Schools is currently accepting applications for an open Assistant Superintendent position. Learn more about the job opening and read our recent case study on Henry County Schools.

Thought Leadership

School and Program Updates

(more…)

April CompetencyWorks Catch-Up

May 1, 2016 by

Calendar Page AprilHere are the highlights from April 2016 on CompetencyWorks. Happy reading. And let us know if you have questions you want us to delve into!

SITE VISITS AND CASE STUDIES

Charleston County School District

 

PRINCIPAL, SUPERINTENDENT, AND TEACHER PERSPECTIVES

Classroom Instruction of Skills and Dispositions by Jonathan Vander Els, Jill Lizier, and Terry Bolduc

Building a Movement from Within by Patrice Glancey (more…)

Ready by Design

April 30, 2016 by

ready by design coverAs middle and high schools across the country make the transition to competency-based structures to replace the sorting structures of the traditional system, they have to answer three big questions along the way:

  1. What do you want students to know and be able to do in order to be successful in the transition after they leave your school?
  2. What is your theory of how students develop? What is your philosophy of how to engage, motivate, and empower students to become lifelong learners who can be successful in college and careers?
  3. What is your pedagogical philosophy? What is your strategy of teaching and learning, and how is that put into practice in your school?

Some schools are very clear on these questions while others haven’t yet taken into account what research tells us about development, engagement, motivation, and learning. To help you think about the second question regarding adolescent development, take a peek at the new paper Ready by Design: The Science (and Art) of Youth Readiness by Stephanie Krauss, Karen Pittman and Caitlin Johnson published by the Forum for Youth Investment. (more…)

Learner-Centered Tip of the Week: Measurement Topics, Not Targets

April 29, 2016 by

This post originally appeared on Courtney Belolan’s website on April 12, 2016. Belolan is the instructional coach for RSU2 in Maine. This tip of the week is designed for those schools that are using the measurement topic/learning target model to organize continuum of learning. There are other models being used by schools for which this will not directly apply, although the insights in how we might begin to think about personalizing instruction will be valuable to everyone.

Being a teacher in a learner-centered proficiency based system can mean some big changes. One of the biggest changes in thinking to work through involves taking a step back from working with targets at a particular level, to working with a range of targets within the measurement topic. Remember, a Measurement Topic is a series of related targets arranged in a progression from simple to complex. Measurement Topics do not necessarily have one target, or level, per grade. Nor do Measurement Topics necessarily always make sense to begin when students enter the school system in preK or Kindergarten.

Think about this visual:

CB1

The boxes represent three targets, from three different Measurement Topics. In many places, right now this is how teachers approach their work with learning targets. Only the targets typically associated with a traditional grade level are on the proverbial teaching table. If students happen to be on a different target, they are in a different group or maybe even a different class. Planning of lessons and units revolve around this small set of targets. It is possible that the three Measurement Topics are combined in some way. (more…)

Building a Movement from Within

April 26, 2016 by
Patrice Picture

Patrice Glancey

Within a system of standardized testing and teaching accountability based on student results, it’s understandable that teachers feel like they’re running an obstacle course instead of a classroom. And why wouldn’t they? Federal, state, and local standards are asking them to jump, dodge, and climb all while trying to cram years of content into 180 days. Add to that the paperwork and you get the burnout that we are seeing within our experienced teachers across the country.

It’s no surprise that when competency-education was introduced, veteran teachers rolled their collective eyes, closed the door, and continued on as usual: “This too shall pass.” However, it’s been seven years since New Hampshire included competency education in the Minimum Standards for Public School Approval. This change, which mandates students be evaluated on mastery of competencies, implies that this practice isn’t going away anytime soon. And to be brutally honest, we can’t go back to a one size fits all model; our test scores prove that it doesn’t work.

If I have learned anything about the implementation of competency-based learning over the past few years, it’s that the fire must start from within. Teachers are already feeling overwhelmed by top-down initiatives and they are beyond the point of being able to take in “another great idea.” Derek Sivers (2013) explains during his inspiring Ted Talk How to Start a Movement that every movement needs a leader to get it started. This leader can’t be administration, this leader needs to come from within. Further, Sivers explains that “a leader needs the guts to stand out and be ridiculed,” which not an easy task for most teachers. However, the best schools run on strong teacher leaders who have found success through working in environments that encourage them to take risks and promote “standing out.”

When I arrived at Newport School District this past summer, it resembled what I like to refer to as the “perfect storm”: a new set of administrators, a culture of teachers ready for change, and a budget requiring us to think outside the box. The competency framework had already been developed at various stages K-12 and the previous curriculum director had worked with the teachers to move in that direction. My job was to get the teachers back on track and build off of momentum that had already fizzled out. (more…)

The EdLeader Reading List for the Shift to Competency Education

April 23, 2016 by

BooksThis post originally appeared at iNACOL on April 4, 2016. 

Competency education is taking root in districts and schools across the United States and around the world. Teachers and leaders are cultivating and sustaining this grassroots effort to redesign education around student success. These innovators are doing incredible work to advance powerful, personalized learning experiences for their students, arming them with the skills they need to succeed in today’s global marketplace. The transformation toward competency education is educator-led and requires strong, committed leaders who are dedicated to doing what’s best for students, as well as a deep understanding of how competency education fundamentally redesigns the education system to empower teachers and place student learning at the center.

Do you want to learn more about leading the shift toward  competency education? The resources below will inform and inspire. There are resources to get you started, to guide conversations with your colleagues and communities and to support your implementation of personalized, competency education.

Recommended Reading for Understanding Competency Education

The concept behind competency education is simple: learning is best measured by mastery of content, not by the amount of time spent in a classroom. For a more comprehensive reading list on competency education, see the list from CompetencyWorks. (more…)

Learner-Centered Tip of the Week: Going Back to the Targets

April 22, 2016 by

TargetThis post originally appeared on Courtney Belolan’s website on March 28, 2016. Belolan is the instructional coach for RSU2 in Maine.

One of the first things people share with me since coming to RSU2 in September is a frustration with learning targets. This is something I hear in every school, in every grade level, and in every content area. It isn’t that people don’t understand the point of them, quite the contrary. It is that people understand the point of them so well that they now see the need to improve them. Here are the most common points I hear:

  1. The progressions of targets don’t always make sense.
  2. The target itself is really hard to understand.
  3. Foundational pieces are missing.
  4. There is a lack of consistency around how the target is interpreted.
  5. It isn’t always clear how to “exceed” on a target.

Most of the Measurement Topics and Targets we are using were drafted and adopted about six years ago when the district first switched to a proficiency-based system. It was a classic Voltaire moment, not letting “the perfect be the enemy of the good.” Or, if you prefer sports, a Nike “Just Do it” moment.

Now, six years and a whole lot of growth later, we are realizing just how “not perfect” those Measurement Topics and Targets are. In order to make them what we want them to be, we have to take a step back in our understanding of Targets and Measurement Topics. And it is extremely important that we do. Learning Targets and Measurement Topics make personalized learning possible.

Here in RSU 2, we use the following definitions and explanations: (more…)

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