Tag: competency education, competency-based learning

Going International: A Report from Mexico on Competency Education

August 28, 2015 by

EduTrends ReportIn case you missed it and want some end-of-summer reading . . . Mexico’s Observatory of Educational Innovation, Tecnologico de Monterrey, released an EduTrends report in February 2015 titled Competency Based Education, which focuses on higher education, yet many of its concepts apply more globally to K-12 models as well. The publication provides an overview of competency education, describes the changing role of the educator, illustrates international case studies, and analyzes the future of competency education as a learning architecture.

As the graphic below depicts, there is tremendous simplicity in the report’s description of competency-based education as a model that is: 1) centered on the student; 2) focused on mastery of competencies; and 3) based on learning outcomes. The learning outcomes are central to the model and essential to each student’s learning, and time for achieving each learning outcome is variable. This model of education portrays the acquisition of knowledge as the most important attribute of the learning process, not rote memorization nor hours invested.

CBE Model

In addition, the report utilizes the iNACOL/CCSSO/CompetencyWorks five-part definition of competency-based education, demonstrating our widespread reach and global impact on the field. In March 2011, iNACOL and CCSSO brought together 100 leaders in education to establish the following key design principles of competency education: (more…)

Non-Cognitive Skills: Bad Name, Really Important

August 27, 2015 by

BlocksThis post originally appeared at Getting Smart on August 15, 2015.

The research is clear, so called non-cognitive skills are key to success in college and work.

  • A 20-year study, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and published in the July 2015 issue of the American Journal of Public Health, suggests that kindergarten students who are more inclined to exhibit “social competence” traits—such sharing, cooperating, or helping other kids—may be more likely to attain higher education and well-paying jobs.
  • A University of Chicago literature review funded by the Lumina and Raikes foundations said, “Students must develop sets of behaviors, skills, attitudes, and strategies that are crucial to academic performance in their classes.”Teaching Adolescents To Become Learners outlines categories of non-cognitive factors related to academic performance including behaviors, perseverance, mindsets, learning strategies, and social skills. It’s not just struggling students that benefit, “all students are more likely to demonstrate perseverance if the school or classroom context helps them develop positive mindsets and effective learning strategies.” The report outlines five key learning strategies, 1) study skills, 2) metacognitive strategies, 3) self-regulated learning, 4) time management, and 5) goal-setting.
  • Research done by Penn prof Angela Lee Duckworth determined that grit and self-control predict success in life. On the other coast Stanford prof Carol Dweck found that a “growth mindset”–the belief that abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—was critical to success compared to a belief that intelligence is fixed.
  • Bill Sedlacek partnered with the Gates Millennium Scholars Program (GMSP) to study what attributes were predictors of college degree attainment for students of color. He found eight noncognitive competencies that were higher predictors of success in college than either GPAs or SAT/ACT scores. The non-cognitive competencies include realistic self-appraisal, navigation skills, focus on long range goals, leadership, work experience.

(more…)

What’s Personalization Got to Do with It? On the Road to College and Career Success

August 26, 2015 by

I am delighted to have the chance to visit the Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative in Hazard, KY and meet with educators in their Next Generation Leadership Academy this week. They are spending time reflecting on the different ways to think about college and career success. Below is my presentation on how we might begin to think about college and career success in a competency-based structure.

The districts that are part of the Next Generation Leadership Academy at the Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative have been investing in many different ways to improve their schools. These include the Appalachian Renaissance Initiative to advance blended learning, efforts to raise student voice and leadership, personalized approaches to educator effectiveness, ways of approaching children wholistically, including early childhood health and trauma-informed services, and STEM.

What’s more even more impressive is that they are building their capacity to use design – enabling districts to begin to weave all these pieces together into the next generation districts and schools.

Slide 2

Designing anything always starts with having a clear idea of what you want to achieve. Sometimes, this is described as a problem you want to solve or something you want to improve, such as less expensive or more cost-effective. Or it may be described as your goal, the change you want to make happen in the world.

The question we have to ask ourselves in thinking about next generation education is what we want for our graduates of high school. We need to describe the change or, if you want to use a business lens, describe the product. However, there is also a big problem we are trying to solve that will shape every step of the design process. We haven’t yet been been able to figure out how to make sure all students become proficient in grade level skills, get a diploma, or are fully prepared for college. We need to think about the elements of a system that will be more reliable.

Today, we will spend sometime thinking about the goal, the system that would reduce inequity, and what it is going to take to get us from here to there. (more…)

Have You Made Plans for the iNACOL Symposium Yet?

August 25, 2015 by

AirplaneAs you may know, the only place to network with all your competency education colleagues from across the nation is at the iNACOL Symposium on Online and Blended Learning coming up on November 8-11 in Orlando, FL. iNACOL organizes an entire strand on competency education, highlighting approaches and issues for districts and schools that are already moving towards blended learning as well as those that are making the conversion without the help of technology.

I’ll be highlighting the competency education strand in the next couple of weeks. However, we wanted to let you know that there are two pre-conference workshops on November 8th just in case you are thinking about your travel plans.

In the morning on the 8th, you can find an advanced session on Expert Seminar on Standards (Data, Content Metadata, Technology) for Competency Education starring Liz Glowa, iNACOL; Jim Goodell, Quality Information Partners, Inc.; and Brandt Redd, SmarterBalance. The description is below:

Competency Education operates at the crossroads between achievement standards, student information standards, technical standards, systems of assessments and content metadata. An understanding of the landscape of education data and technology standards will help organizations select and build technology solutions to support their competency initiatives. CEDS, system integration and data transfer options and challenges, interoperability and the role of metadata in relating learning content to learning maps will be discussed.

This workshop will bring together leaders in designing and delivering competency education to discuss the ecosystem of technology needed to support competency education and how the parts fit together to make a successful whole. To deliver competency education, we need:

  1. information about content,
  2. information about learners, and
  3. information about learner interactions… with content (e.g. assessments/activities) and with other people (teachers/peers)

NOTE: This session is for participants who have an advanced understanding of education data and technology standards.

(more…)

Teaching: The Most Intellectual Job in the World

August 24, 2015 by

IntellectualRecently I received the question below. It starts with a concern about choice and agency and then expands to a number of questions about teaching and learning. Although I certainly don’t know the answer to all these questions, I have had several conversations with educators in competency-based schools that might provide some insight. As always, we’d love to have others share their thoughts on these questions.

My concern is that the practical implementation of personalized learning in classrooms can and in many cases, will lead paradoxically and tragically to the diminution of choice and agency for students. An example of this might sound like: Sorry John, but you can’t go on to multiplication until you have demonstrated mastery of two digit addition.

This begs some other questions: Who decides what skills are essential to be granted access to the next series of content/instruction? On what basis (cognitive, research-based) is that determination of sequencing made? Under what circumstances is it helpful for students to have exposure to topics that are beyond their independent or even instructional level? What are the grouping (tracking) implications of the way competency-based learning is, or may be rolled out?

Agency and Choice: Let’s tackle the question about student agency and choice: If we are comparing a personalized classroom to a traditional chalk and talk/pacing guided classroom, I can’t imagine how student agency and choice can be much less. However, I do think as a field we need to be much more clear about what it means to be personalized, the techniques for helping students to build agency, and the different ways to structure learning experiences to enable the three concepts of agency, voice and choice.

Certainly, there are schools that have chosen to use adaptive software programs that provide little personalization other than pace, with students plodding through a pretty boring curriculum, answering questions at the level of recall and comprehension. I’ve seen this most often in credit recovery programs and mediocre alternative schools. However, I’ve also seen it in a school that is touted as an innovative school, described as personalized because of the flexibility in pacing.

However, the example above about John who hasn’t learned two-digit addition isn’t as much about choice (assuming that we don’t consider choosing not to learn something as an option) as it is about teaching and learning. (more…)

From Formative Assessment to Tracking Student Mastery: The Road to Competency-Based Instruction

August 20, 2015 by
Megan Mead

Megan Mead

This post originally appeared at Getting Smart on July 16, 2015.

Once upon a time, classrooms were filled with students who were expected to learn the same thing on the same day. Students rushing to their seats at the first sound of a bell, sitting quietly, taking notes, practicing independently (struggling silently), proving understanding through end of unit tests, and awaiting for their instructors cue to move forward. If you walk into the classrooms of today, you may still see this scene. BUT, in more and more classes across the country, you will see something very different; you will see classrooms that are dynamic and increasingly next gen, classrooms that are breaking the mold in an effort to make the learning experience one that is both personalized and engaging for students.

Fundamental to competency-based learning and any attempt to personalize is mastery tracking, fed by formative assessment. In Formative Assessment to Initiate Learning, we touch on the idea that formative assessment is an ideal starting point on the path to personalization. Next, we dive into why using these results to track mastery is so important.

Learning Productively

Personalization and a competency-based model lead to learning more productively. Looking at a traditional school day, how much time is wasted? How much time is spent on efforts that do not link to directly to instruction? This is not to assume that non-academic events are all a waste of time, this is often where life skills are experienced and memories are made, SO lets focus on the actual instructional time, of instructional time, how frequently are all kids getting the right subject at the right time with the right support?

Realistically, 5% – 10% a typical day is spent on instruction that is targeted. What if we flip that so that learning at the right level in the right the way occupies the majority of the day? Then we optimize customization, increase productivity, maximize motivation, boost persistence — all while radically improving achievement.

Why Track Student Mastery

If we want all kids to reach higher standards faster, then learning productivity is key. We must understand who our students are as thinkers and where they are at academically in order to maximize a sequences of experiences that are tailored for them. If we can do this well, then we can get kids to succeed at higher levels. At the core of this is tracking student mastery. And here are 10 reasons why: (more…)

A Reflection on the Field of Competency Education

August 19, 2015 by

GraphEach summer, CompetencyWorks takes a bit of time to reflect on where we have come from, accomplishments, and emerging issues. Our advisory board is absolutely instrumental in this process, helping us to understand nuances and variations across states.

Below are the highlights of our discussion this year. It’s long, but I think sharing in detail is worth it, especially as each week people contact us seeking help in understanding the field. Please, please, please – we would love to hear your insights and understanding of where we have come from and what we need to think about in terms of advancing competency education. It’s the richness of multiple perspectives that allow us to be as strategic as possible.

I. How Are We Doing in Terms of Expansion?

When we wrote the first scan of the field in 2010, there were only pockets of innovation across the country, each operating in isolation. Five years later, eighteen states are actively pursuing competency education through a range of strategies including proficiency-based diplomas (ME, NH, CO, AZ), integrating competency education into the education code (VT, NH), innovation zones (KY, WI, CT), pilots (OR, IA, OH, ID), and task forces in partnership with districts (SC, WY, OK, HI, DE). Federal policymakers are now familiar with competency-based education in the K12 and higher education sector, with ESEA policy discussions considered pilots for new systems of assessments.

Districts are converting to competency education across the country, with or without state policy enabling the change. In addition to the northern New England states, which have strong state policy initiatives, districts are converting in AK, AR, CA, CO, CT, FL, GA, MI, and SC.

New school models are developing that push beyond the traditional organization of school to high levels of personalization, including those at Summit Public Schools, Building 21, Virtual Learning Academy Charter School, Boston Day and Evening Academy, Making Community Connections Charter School, EPIC North, and Bronx Arena. Schools for the Future has recently announced record-breaking results in its first year of operation.

Some people think the rate of expansion is too slow. Personally, I think we need to really “get it right” – robust competency-based structures, high levels of personalization so our most historically underserved populations of students are thriving, upgraded instruction and assessment aligned to higher levels of knowledge, and effective use of online learning – before we worry about the speed of expansion. Let’s practice what we preach. We are in the midst of huge learning as we deconstruct the traditional system and put into place a more vibrant, personalized system, and it may take us a bit of time. It took us well over 200 years to create the traditional system, and its rituals are deeply rooted into our own personal lives. I don’t think it is a problem if it takes us a few more years to get it right.

The Results from our Early Adopters: The early adopters are now three to four years into implementation (with the exception of Chugach School District, which has been using a competency-based model for nearly two decades). Many have developed the systemic framework within a traditional agrarian, course-based model, which means that at first glance, it appears there is little innovation…until one looks deeper to see the benefits of greater personalization, student agency/voice/choice, consistency of proficiency scales across the school, and greater responsiveness to students who are struggling. (more…)

Finland Offers Lessons for Building Student, Teacher Agency

August 17, 2015 by

Finland FlagThis post originally appeared at the Christensen Institute on August 13, 2015. 

Rhonda Broussard is the founder and president of St. Louis Language Immersion Schools, a charter management organization. In 2014, she traveled to and explored the education systems of Finland and New Zealand as an Eisenhower Fellow (full disclosure: I was also a 2014 Eisenhower Fellow). As I listened to her discuss her travels this past May in Philadelphia, I was struck by how relevant some of the insight she had gained in Finland were for those creating blended-learning schools that seek to personalize learning and build student agency. What follows is a brief Q&A that illustrates some of these lessons.

Q: Your observations around student agency in Finland and how it stems from the great trust the Finnish society has in children are striking. Can you explain what you saw and learned? Do you have takeaways for what this means in the context of the United States?

A: What amazed me most during my school visits in Finland is what I didn’t observe. Finnish schools had no recognizable systems of “accountability” for student behaviors. Finnish schools believe that children can make purposeful decisions about where to be, what to study, how to perform. Whether via No Excuses or Positive Behavior Intervention Support, American schools don’t expect youth to be responsible for themselves or their learning. When I asked Finnish educators about student agency, they responded that the child is responsible for their learning and general safety. When prodded, educators responded that the child’s teacher might send a note home to parents, speak with the child, or consult their social welfare committee about destructive or disruptive behaviors. Despite the fact that Finland is the second country in Europe for school shootings (they have had three since 1989), none of the schools that I visited had security presence or protocols for violent crises.

My first trip to Finland was during the immediate aftermath of the Michael Brown shooting. When I juxtaposed those events with the high trust I observed in Finnish society and schools, the reality of micro-aggressions in our schools became more apparent. In my piece “Waking up in Helsinki, Waking up to St. Louis,” I cite a few examples of what trust looks like in Finnish schools. The absence of trust in American schools requires educators to police our youth daily, and do so in the name of respect. Many U.S. peers respond to my observations with, “But our kids are different, they need structure.” Our country, society, and expectations are different, but our kids are not. American hyper-attention to accountability reinforces the belief that people, young people in particular, cannot be trusted. (more…)

What I Am Learning from Anthony Kim

August 14, 2015 by
Instructional Models

Click Image to Enlarge

Sometimes I’m a little slow.

I loved the ideas that Anthony Kim, CEO of Education Elements, put together in his post Interested in Innovative School Models? What to Consider to Make Sure They Are Successful – merging together 1) depth of learning, 2) acceleration of learning, and stages of student independence or student agency.

But it wasn’t until I had the opportunity to hear Kim present at the New Hampshire Educators Summit last week (click here for video) that I actually started to really comprehend what this all means. And honestly, my guess is that these ideas are so profound that I’m just starting a journey of understanding what this means for competency-based schools. (I might call these types of inquiries a “learney” – a journey of learning.)

One of my huge pet peeves is that a lot of writing about blended learning only talks about the tech part and fails to provide an overall picture. Rarely does it talk about what is needed for blended learning  to address the tremendous change that is happening with the introduction of the Common Core – moving from a focus on recall and comprehension, the first two levels in most knowledge taxonomies, toward the higher (and deeper) levels of analysis and application. Much of the knowledge base on blended learning focuses on models, products, and the necessary tech infrastructure….but not about what needs to be happening the rest of the time in the classroom to provide deeper learning.

Kim did not fall into this trap. Instead, he illuminated how blended learning can help us build capacity for deeper learning. By using the three-part axis of depth of knowledge (such as Bloom’s or Webb’s), stages of independence (students move dependent on direction from the teacher and toward self-directed learning), and acceleration (students start at different points and progress at different rates, meaning a student who is behind grade level may actually be learning at a much faster rate of learning), he provides a robust picture of what schools need to be able to do and how they can best do it using technology. (more…)

Support for Teachers in a Competency Education School

August 13, 2015 by

LockersAs a high school principal who has worked for the past six years through a transition from traditional to competency education, I am often asked how our school district has supported teachers both in the past through the transition process and also currently as we sustain our competency education model. Our teacher support system has many layers, each designed to support teachers at different points along our journey.

Professional Learning Communities

Perhaps the single biggest investment our school district made prior to implementing competency education was to establish the Professional Learning Community (PLC) model in each of our schools. I keep this quote from PLC architect Rick DuFour on my desk to remind me what role PLCs play in our school’s teacher support system: “A team is a group of people working interdependently to achieve a common goal for which members are mutually accountable.” PLC teams, when implemented correctly, focus their work around four essential questions:

What is it we want students to learn?

How will we know when they have learned it?

What will we do if they haven’t learned it?

What will we do if they already know it? (more…)

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