Category: Understanding Competency Education

What’s the Difference Between Blended and Personalized Learning?

May 15, 2017 by

This post originally appeared at the Christensen Institute on April 25, 2017. 

Earlier this month, after two exhilarating and exhausting days at the Blended and Personalized Learning Conference in Providence, R.I., (which we cohosted with our partners at Highlander Institute and The Learning Accelerator), I boarded an evening flight back to D.C. Just after takeoff, a school principal from Virginia seated in the row just ahead of me poked his head through the seat to ask:

“So, what’s the difference between blended and personalized learning?”

First off, I want to say kudos to this school leader, who had also attended the conference. Over 48 hours of sharing practices, research, and challenges had me running on fumes. But he was tireless and eager to push the conversation forward.

Second, this moment felt distinctly like a healthy dose of karma given the title we had used for the conference. Not wanting to box ourselves too narrowly into one approach or model, we had taken the route of dubbing the conference theme “blended and personalized learning.” That phrase has become so common in the education lexicon that it’s almost like a single, deeply unfortunate compound noun—blendedandpersonalizedlearning. It’s a mouthful. Not to mention, it hardly lends itself to a pithy hashtag.

I particularly don’t recommend overusing the phrase because collapsing these two terms—blended and personalized—risks diluting the clarity of each and confusing the leaders and educators expected to do the hard work of educating real students in real schools.

So here’s the gist of what I discussed with that school principal, and how we at the Christensen Institute try to make a clear distinction between these related but distinct terms.

Blended learning is a modality of instruction. As we at the Christensen Institute define it, blended learning is a formal education program in which a student learns: (more…)

Webinar on Introduction to Competency-Based Education April 27th

March 27, 2017 by

What is competency-based education? To understand, we need to start with this question: If we are going to replace the traditional time-based system designed to sort students into one that reliably makes sure students are learning, what are we going to replace it with? That’s what competency-based education is all about – creating a new structure for the education system.

Although 100 innovators created the working definition six years ago at the first national summit on competency-based education to provide early guidance (we called it a working definition because we knew we would learn and need to refine it), that hasn’t stopped the term being used as a description of a type of instruction (an earlier version called mastery-based learning was in fact a classroom model) or synonymous with online learning. The result is that there is a lot of confusion even among those that have included competency-based progressions within their initiatives.

To try to help calm some of this confusion, CompetencyWorks and iNACOL are hosting an introductory webinar on competency-based education on Thursday, April 27, 2017 from 3:00-4:00 pm ET. Susan Patrick and I will provide an overview of K-12 competency-based education for leaders and teachers, explore the definition of competency education, explain why schools and districts are making this transition, and describe how this system more effectively prepares students for post-secondary success. Register here.

If you have been involved in competency-based education, we would love to have you join us. As you know, there are always two conversations happening in our webinars – one audio/visual and one in the chat room. We are on a rapid learning trajectory and it would be great to hear from those at the cutting edge in trying to answer the question, What is Competency-Based Education?

Are You a Newbie to CBE? This Article Is Just for You

December 14, 2016 by

competencyworks-logo1I’m receiving an increase in emails and phone calls from people who are interested in understanding competency education, its design, and how to get started. To help those of you at this early stage, here is a list of resources that can get you going. Also, if any of you have favorite resources or tools you have used in your efforts to get started (I keep thinking questions to guide discussions would be really helpful), we would love, love, love to add them to this list.

What Is Competency Education?

newbiepic

From the Foundation for Excellence in Education

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Pacing in Competency-Based Learning

December 7, 2016 by

pacingThis post originally appeared at Getting Smart on November 23, 2016.

In a recent school design workshop, a school leader asked, “How do we avoid students racing through the system at the expense of depth?”

To make this more challenging, she added, “How do we avoid encouraging parents to compete/brag on progress (e.g., my son is 1.5 years ahead of his age group)?”

No drag racing. Learning isn’t a drag race, but we may inadvertently set up rules that suggest otherwise. Most of us have seen well-intentioned credit recovery courses that were nothing more than clicking through online content and assessments. It may help students quickly earn credits, but it rewards low-level engagement and recall.

To avoid racing it’s important to measure what matters: if you want depth, assessments should value it. As NGLC MyWays suggests, it is important to measure creativity, critical thinking, entrepreneurship, collaboration and social skills. As Buck suggests, requiring key success skills, sustained inquiry and a public product contributes to deeper learning. The iNACOL definition recommends:

  • Competencies include explicit, measurable, transferable learning objectives that empower students.
  • Assessment is meaningful and a positive learning experience for students.
  • Learning outcomes emphasize competencies that include application and creation of knowledge, along with the development of important skills and dispositions.

The great “show what you know” school networks (HTH, NTN, EL) have retained an age cohort model and encourage the benefits of peer learning opportunities in a project-based environment. They avoid the free-rider problem by assessing individual work.

We’ve seen schools that encourage peer learning with cool avatars on learning platforms that signify who can help with what. Other schools encourage collaboration with low-cost hacks (need help/can help). (more…)

“This Isn’t What I Learned In School”: Teachers Share Learnings from New, Competency-Based High Schools

November 22, 2016 by

At iNACOL’s Blended and Online Learning Symposium this fall, Springpoint—a national organization that supports new and innovative high school models—led a panel of teachers sharing practical lessons from their work in competency-based schools.

CBE Educators

What does it take to be a founding teacher in a new, competency-based school? How must teachers shift their mindsets and practice to thrive in this new setting? Panelists share hard-won lessons from adapting to competency-based teaching and learning, generating buy-in for the approach among their colleagues and students, and communicating with families about student progress. (more…)

How Can We “Do School Differently”? Lessons from Springpoint’s StorySLAM at iNACOL

November 21, 2016 by

At iNACOL’s Blended and Online Learning Symposium this fall, Springpoint hosted a StorySLAM—a session where principals, teachers, and students in competency-based high schools shared their stories in the style of The Moth’s live storytelling format. Focused on the theme of “Doing School Differently,” these compelling stories describe everything from a seasoned principal’s experience adjusting his school’s model to a student’s story of agency and empowerment in a new high school.

Watch and listen to each story below.

Rick Reynolds, founding principal of PACT (Problem-based Academy of Critical Thinking) recounts the intensity of moving to a new city to design a brand new, innovative high school. With a focus on adjustment in the face of challenges, Reynolds traces his school’s pivot from a heavily tech-driven model to a more balanced approach. Most of the changes were spurred by teachers and students themselves, and were successful as a result of the strong culture at the school. As Reynolds says, “when you create a school and kids feel empowered, and teachers are as passionate as you are, they will not be quiet if something is wrong.”

 

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Crucial Mindsets

November 17, 2016 by

love-of-learningIn order to transition to an effective learner-centered proficiency-based community, we have to make some important shifts in our stances as educators. Sometimes these shifts are subtle and nuanced. Other times they are clear and straightforward. Focus on and change in instructional practices will only take a learning community so far if the underlying philosophical stances do not change.

Before we go any further in exploring some of the crucial mind shifts, take a moment to check in on your own stances using the following survey. Take your time with it, and be completely honest. This survey is completely anonymous and for reflection purposes only. Emails and names are not being collected. You will be able to see a breakdown of how people responded.

Personalized Learning Check In

Now that you have checked in, honestly, with your educational stances, let’s talk about where we really need to be operating from in order to truly have a learner-centered proficiency-based learning community. (more…)

What Is Competency Education?

October 19, 2016 by
knowledgeworks

From KnowledgeWorks

There are lots of ways that the intermediary organizations working on competency education have been catalytic in supporting districts and schools. Communication has not been one of our strengths. Education leaders have been engaging their communities around the country on the need for a new way of organizing schools. And they’ve been doing it without adequate tools.

Part of the reason we don’t have effective tools is that many organizations try to simplify competency education into flexible pacing. They use phrases such as “students advance based on mastery of a given content, rather than based on credits or seat time.” This emphasis on pace misses the point entirely – competency education is a structure designed to ensure that students are learning and making progress. Accountability is embedded within the system through transparent, calibrated ways to determine proficiency and ensure that students are building and able to apply a wide range of skills (competency, not just standards). This emphasis on pace has created a new problem for us — people who are concerned about ineffective use of online learning have now targeted competency education as well.

Well, thanks to KnowledgeWorks, we’ve had a major breakthrough. They’ve created a video that describes a competency-based school with personalized support. They’ve done it with warmth, light-heartedness, attention to challenging racial stereotypes, and the inclusion of real teachers and real students. It’s the best I’ve seen and I think will be helpful to education leaders.

We at CompetencyWorks also tried to fill the gap of a lack of a primer on competency education. In the most recent paper Reaching the Tipping Point: Insights on Advancing Competency Education in New England, we included a more extensive introduction to competency education with a section on why the traditional system is a barrier to greater equity and higher achievement. We produced the excerpt What Is Competency Education? separately for educators to use in discussions. (more…)

Hear Ye, Hear Ye: Upcoming Events on Competency Education

September 23, 2016 by

lemurThere are a number of upcoming events that you may want to consider in building your knowledge about competency education.

#1 As you may or may not know, Susan Patrick, CEO and President and iNACOL, and I co-founded CompetencyWorks five years ago. We each brought a very different focus to the work, and it has proven to be a wonderfully productive partnership. We branded CompetencyWorks as separate from iNACOL because we believed that competency education is a structure for districts and schools to use to focus more closely on helping students learn and progress. Before the launch of CompetencyWorks, we started with a scan of the field where we found that there were pockets of innovation. Next with CCSSO, we organized a Competency-Based Pathway Summit with 100 innovators where the working definition was developed. Every year since then, with the CompetencyWorks advisory board, we do a reflection on how competency education is advancing and how the field is doing to support it. (Here is last year’s blog post on the topic.)

On Thursday, September 29 2-3 p.m. ET, the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) is hosting a webinar during which Susan and I will examine the current state of competency education and identify emerging issues across the field. We hope this to be a time to reflect with our colleagues and hear from different perspectives. Register here.

#2 If you live near Massachusetts, you might want to attend Perspectives on the Current Landscape of Competency-Based Learning Research sponsored by Northeast College and Career Readiness Research Alliance on October 6th. Paul Leather, Deputy Commissioner of Education, NH Department of Education will be a presenter with panelists including Erika Stump, PhD, Research Associate, Center for Education Policy, Applied Research, and Evaluation (CEPARE), University of Southern ME; R. Marc Brodersen, PhD, Senior Researcher, REL Central at Marzano Research; Savatore Menzo, PhD, Superintendent of Schools, Wallingford Public Schools, Wallingford, Conn.; and Aubrey Scheopner Torres, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Education, Saint Anselm College, Research Consultant, REL Northeast & Islands. Register here. (more…)

What Is Competency Education?

September 20, 2016 by

What Is CEThis is the second article in the series Implementing Competency Education in K-12 Systems: Insights from Local Leaders. For those of you who are new to competency education, you might want to start with this article explaining what it is. For those of you already familiar, jump to the third part of this series.

During the last few years, the phrase competency education has come into vogue. You may have heard it being used to refer to self-paced online learning or to describe innovations in higher education. This series is focused on the transformation of the time-based K–12 system where the focus is on inputs (seat-time, hours in the day, minutes in each class) to a system where the focus is on learning.

Understanding Competency Education

The power of competency education is in its system-wide infrastructure that creates the necessary feedback loops to ensure students are learning. The five-part working definition of competency education describes the elements that need to be put into place to re-engineer the education system to reliably produce student learning:

  • Students advance upon demonstrated mastery;
  • Competencies include explicit, measurable, transferable learning objectives that empower students;
  • Assessment is meaningful and a positive learning experience for students;
  • Students receive timely, differentiated support based on their individual learning needs; and
  • Learning outcomes emphasize competencies that include application and creation of knowledge, along with the development of important skills and dispositions.

Competency education is often described with the phrase, “Learning is constant, and time is the variable.” We know that students learn differently, requiring more or less time for different reasons. They may be at different points along the learning continuum, each with a different set of skills. Students may have different approaches to learning, with some students preferring to take more time upfront to dive more deeply into learning to master new skills or content. Certainly the levels of academic support available outside of school differ. All of these dynamics lead to students learning at different paces. However, flexible pacing, or the concept that “students advance upon mastery,” is only one of the five elements of the definition. In competency education, timely, differentiated support is equally important, as that is what allows students to continue progressing without being left behind. Teachers work with students to ensure they are filling any gaps in foundational skills, and schools provide timely support so students can get immediate help when they are struggling. (more…)

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