CompetencyWorks is an online resource dedicated to providing information and knowledge about competency education in the K-12 education system. Drawing on lessons learned by innovators and early adopters, CompetencyWorks shares original research, knowledge and a variety of perspectives through an informative blog with practitioner knowledge, policy advancements, papers on emerging issues and a wiki with resources curated from across the field. CompetencyWorks also offers a blog on competency education in higher education so that the sectors can learn from each other and begin to align systems across K-12, higher education and the workplace.

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Pioneering the New Way of Learning: Learner Agency and Opportunity

March 3, 2017 by
(Pictured Here: GripTape Youth Leadership Board. Photographed by Kimani Calliste.)

(Pictured Here: GripTape Youth Leadership Board. Photographed by Kimani Calliste.)

This article was originally posted at iNACOL on January 31, 2017.  We share this article as it provides an in-depth model for thinking about how to build learner agency.

Testing the Ingredients to Learner Agency Success… Through Learners

We are members of GripTape’s Youth Leadership Board which is composed of youth in high school and college who have set out on a journey to change the view of education for youth everywhere. Through weekly video conferences, new ideas are created, content is contributed, and there is an endless amount of support. The Board was created a little over a year ago, and has already created so much for youth learners throughout the nation. It will be exciting to see what can be accomplished within the next year and years to come.

Being able to serve as members on this Board hasn’t only given us the chance to exercise and develop our leadership skills, but also the chance to discover why it is so powerful. Every single member on our Board has a unique talent to share and a unique question they aim to find the answer to. Each of us are on our own individual journeys as to assure that we never cease the learning process ourselves. And the ways each of us go about doing so is tied into the unique skillset we each bring to every meeting.

Understanding Motives and Inspirations

Griptape is focused around the goal of placing young learners in the path of other potential learners to build an extensive network of learners. That is the premise of our work: providing awareness to youth of their untapped potential to learn anything that they want. This process has taken much time and collaboration between organizations, professionals, youth, and a pretty awesome youth-led Board. With all this creativity, knowledge, and experience, a guideline was put together to encompass all the aspects which essentially help “facilitate the emergence of learner agency.” The following ideas were put together on what is believed to be factors in enabling and maintaining productive and positive learner agency. Then this framework was looked over once and look over some more and probably will continue to be reviewed and revised in the future. The idea behind the framework is that learner agency first begins internally with the learners own set of beliefs and ambitions, then can be demonstrated depending on the learner’s external influences and relative practices that eventually shape their experience and environment. Knowing what can motivate and inspire youth to pursue learning outside of the classroom, once broken down, is actually not all that difficult. The greatest challenge presented with learner agency is getting the message to every young person around the world that they are actually capable of learning anything they want to!

Framework Components/Subcomponents

(more…)

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How Schools Improve

March 2, 2017 by

ImproveOne of the concerns I have about how competency education is developing is that I don’t hear many districts or schools talk about continuous improvement that is based on looking at processes, data, and unpacking with the five Ys. (Our low income students aren’t progressing as much as upper income students — Why? They are missing pre-requisite skills? Why? They were passed on from eighth grade without them? Why? The middle school principals don’t have enough control over their budgets to create adequate summer programming? Why? The district has a policy that they manage summer school? So if we allow schools to organize or coordinate among themselves to determine the amount and type of summer school programming, more students will have all their foundational skills by the time we get to high school!  — nothing is ever this simple of course, but you get the drift.) It may be that there is something about education and the learning process that may make some aspects of schools hard to break into processes, but I’m not sure we have tried enough to know that. I’m sharing this piece by Getting Smart’s Tom Vander Ark (February 9, 2017) to open this conversation. If you do use some type of school improvement process to fine tune your competency-based district or school, we’d like to hear about it.

Frustrated by the lack of widely used improvement frameworks in schools, a colleague emailed some questions. Following is a quick attempt to outline approaches to improvement and innovation.

I see teachers sitting around the table with reports and then deciding to do a program or do more PD. How can we develop a more formal improvement framework that would drive effectiveness and efficiency?

There are five important steps to developing or adapting an improvement framework.

1. Prioritize outcomes. Hold community conversations about what graduates should know and be able to do–like those in El PasoHouston, and Marion, Ohio. An updated graduate profile can help create role and goal clarity by identifying priority student learning outcomes and ways of measuring (or estimating) those outcomes.

2. Do the research. Create a shared vision of what good practice looks. Unless you’re inventing a new set of practices, that picture should be research-based. BrightBytes is a decision support tool used by almost 1500 districts that allows teams to compare their outcomes with research recommendations.

3. Build a learning model. A common approach to supporting powerful learner experiences may include shared

  • Content, tasks and assessments (i.e., curriculum);
  • Teacher practices (e.g., Teach Like a Champ);
  • Values and behavioral norms;
  • Guidance and youth and family support services; and
  • Structures, schedules and staffing strategies that support learning.

Voluntary and managed school networks (and districts that act like networks) are disciplined about defining and supporting a learning model including some or all of these factors.

Some districts and networks go a step further and identify core processes and support systems for each (listen to an interview with Colorado’s District 51).

4. Identify metrics and source the data. In the 90s, best practice was a war room of handwritten data that allowed teachers and leaders to visually spot problems. By 2000, Excel spreadsheets were common. Data shops like Schoolzilla, spun out from Aspire Public Schools in 2013, help organize district data. Unfortunately, it’s still challenging to combine all the data schools are receiving.

5. Adopt a shared improvement framework. “School leaders need to focus their attention on creating the conditions where teachers have the resources, courage and support to experiment with improving their practice, and then the space to share what they are learning with other educators,” said Justin Reich, executive director of the MIT Teaching Systems Lab.

An improvement framework identifies core processes (e.g., reading instruction), shared practices (e.g., guided reading), quality metrics (e.g., observations, running record), improvement tools, and review cycles.

The improvement framework for the New Tech Network (below) incorporates shared values, process tools and common structures. (more…)

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Find Your CBE Colleagues at SxSWedu

March 1, 2017 by

I’m starting to get ready for my first trip to SxSWedu. It’s kind of fun to be a newbie!

Here are some of the highlights of sessions of people in the CompetencyWorks network if you want to connect with colleagues across the nation:

Susan Patrick, Virgel Hammonds, and I are doing a Pop Up Problems of Practice in Competency Ed on Monday 4-6 pm. And yes, there will be dancing if you come a little early!

There is also a Personalized Learning & Competency Ed Meet Up on Wednesday, March 8 at 11:00AM – 12:00PM in Austin Convention Center – Room 18D.

Samantha Sherwood and Ty Cesene are highlighting their approach at Bronx Arena High School Learning in the Arena: Reimagining High School

Patrica DeKlotz (Kettle-Moraine School District) is on a panel on EdTech Research: Who Pays Attention?

Cederick Ellis (McComb School District), Jim Rickabaugh (The Institute for Personalized Learning), Kelly Young, and Trace Pickering (Education Reimagined) are speaking on It’s a Paradigm Shift. So What?

(more…)

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Creating a Transparent Performance-Based System at D51

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D51 SEL

This is what co-design looks like.

This article is the eighth in the Designing Performance-Based Learning at D51 series. A reminder: D51 uses the phrase performance-based learning or P-BL.

Grand Junction feels like a rugged western city, bordered as it is by towering mesas and the Colorado River. That’s why the sculptures that spring up at almost every downtown corner let you know that something else is happening here. Creativity runs through the city just as it runs through the school district. You can see it and feel it in the tremendous process of design that is taking place as D51 as it outlines the architecture of the performance-based system.

They are also in an intensive process of aligning these elements to offer a transparent and coherent system of learning:

  • Graduate profile: Will inform graduate competencies, school design, and learning experiences.
  • Shared vision, mission, and guiding principles: Used to make decisions and allocate resources from school board to classroom.
  • Competency Framework: Graduate competencies, standards, and rubrics create transparency for what students should know and be able to do at each performance level. This serves as the structure by which teachers can calibrate proficiency and ensure alignment of instruction as assessment to levels of rigor.
  • Teaching & Learning Framework: Guides policies, professional learning, and feedback loops to teachers, and adds new capacities and functionality in the system. Defines the instructional practices needed for personalized learning in all classrooms regardless of content or grade level
  • Effective Practices: The core set of practices that enable students to take ownership and teachers to create the capacity for personalization in their classrooms.
  • Foundation of Growth Mindset, Social & Emotional Learning and Habits of Mind: Standards and continuua that are used to help students build the skills of being a lifelong learner.

As described in the article on D51’s Implementation Strategies, the district is using a simultaneous roll out of strands of work, thus requiring them to intentionally loop back for further aligning before they complete this phase of work.

Much of their work is similar to the efforts that have been described in articles about Henry County, Lake County, Charleston, and the report Implementing Competency Education in K-12 Systems: Insights from Local Leaders. However, the features of D51’s transformational process (a culture rooted in a growth mindset; a shared vision; transparency and alignment; data-driven processes; personalized learning; and collective ownership) are shaping the processes and emphases in ways that give them depth. Their Teaching & Learning (T&L) Framework stands out as an important step that I haven’t seen before in other districts. (more…)

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February 2017 CompetencyWorks Catch-Up

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Guiding Students in Reflection: The Gateway Process at Parker

February 28, 2017 by

notesThis post originally appeared at the Center for Collaborative Education on November 30, 2016.

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

― Søren Kierkegaard

When we take the time to reflect, we take a moment to stop and critically think about what has come to pass. Without an understanding of why things unfolded the way they did, we rarely feel empowered to change the status quo. However, we often focus on the “living forwards” instead of “understanding backwards” – reflection.

Quite often, the time for reflection is the first agenda item to be compromised in a course or meeting. After powering through a class, educators often leave reflection as an afterthought, a final half-hearted question. After a couple students share out their brief, underdeveloped thoughts, educators often consider the subject complete and ready for assessment. Eventually the student receives a grade and moves on to the next task.

I recently sat in on a conversation between my cousin and my aunt about a low test grade. My aunt attempted to guide my cousin in reflecting about why he received his grade, her final statement being:

 “At the end of the day, I don’t care about your score as long as you understand what you got wrong and go back and learn those concepts well.” 

His response:

 “Are you kidding me?! You don’t care about the score?! That’s all that matters!” 

There are many reasons for my cousin’s response, but I would argue that one is that his learning does not intentionally incorporate reflection; he hasn’t discovered who he is as a learner.
(more…)

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Vermont: Comprehensive Policies of Personalization and Proficiency-Based Learning

February 27, 2017 by

This is the sixteenth post in the series Reaching the Tipping Point: Insights on Advancing Competency Education in New England.

Instructional practices shall promote personalization for each student, and enable each student to successfully engage in the curriculum and meet the graduation requirements… Schools must provide students the opportunity to experience learning through flexible and multiple pathways, including but not limited to career and technical education, virtual learning, work-based learning, service learning, dual enrollment and early college… Students must be allowed to demonstrate proficiency by presenting multiple types of evidence, including but not limited to teacher- or student-designed assessments, portfolios, performances, exhibitions and projects.
– VERMONT EDUCATION QUALITY STANDARD

 

vermontVermont understands that personalization and proficiency-based education go hand-in-hand. In order to allow greater flexibility, schools need processes in place that create greater accountability for students to reach proficiency and make progress.

Authority from several governing bodies was needed in order to put into place a comprehensive policy that could serve as a platform for a personalized, proficiency-based system. In 2013, the Board of Education approved the Education Quality Standards, which went into effect the next year, while the state legislature passed Act 77 to expand flexible pathways.

Implementation Support

The combined power of these two policies has created a clear message that the state is taking a new direction. However, local control is respected in Vermont (as in most of the other states). Thus, supervisory unions have substantial leeway in how they organize a personalized, proficiency-based system. The Vermont Agency of Education (AOE) is providing substantial support in the form of training and sample resources, with the understanding that the supervisory unions will develop systems that reflect their communities and build upon their strengths.

Vermont hopes to help supervisory unions and schools reach a deep understanding that can help them launch implementation efforts through a seminar series organized by the Great Schools Partnership. The series includes sessions on proficiency-based learning, personalization, flexible pathways, student work and norming, grading and reporting, community engagement, assessing transferable skills, student voice, instruction, and graduation. To date, more than half of the state’s supervisory unions have participated in the training.

Supervisory unions receive $22,000 for teams of five-to-seven people who participate for two days per month over the course of the school year. The strategy is that at least one member will be trained as a facilitator to support implementation and to train others. The next step is for teams to create implementation plans. In addition, the AOE has created a number of tools to support supervisory unions and schools as they think through the questions they will need to answer for implementing each of the policy elements.

Other efforts that are supporting schools in developing personalized, proficiency-based systems include New England Secondary School Consortium’s League of Innovative Schools, the Vermont Professional Learning Network, and Partnership for Change, which is providing support to Winooski and Burlington. (more…)

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