Tag: student agency

New Emerson: Learning the Effective Practices of the Learner-Centered Classroom

March 9, 2017 by

New Emerson 1This article is the ninth in the Designing Performance-Based Learning at D51 series. A reminder: D51 uses the phrase performance-based learning or P-BL.

Can performance-based learning help an award-winning school get even better?

New Emerson Elementary, a lottery-based magnet school in District 51 in Colorado, was developed in the early 1990s. The original design of a very strong focus on literacy has now expanded to include science as well with a partnership with John McConnell Math and Science Center.

In 2015, the teachers voted to become one of the seven demonstration schools to begin the process of transformation to a personalized, performance-based system. The reason: To have learners take responsibility for their learning and to move away from the time-bound aspect of all learners learning at the same rate and the same time. The school has engaged parents and students in shaping a shared vision to guide their school: Together, through the building of positive relationships, our community strives to create self-directed, interdependent, empathic, and creative thinkers with growth mindset. (more…)

Competency-Based Education Gains Momentum

March 8, 2017 by

This post first appeared in the EDUCAUSE Transforming Higher Ed blog on Febuary 6, 2017.

We’re examining competency-based education (CBE), an approach that has been celebrated for its customization and modularized structure, enabling students to demonstrate mastery and move at their own pace through academic programs. Beyond its timing advantages, CBE also has been cited as a means of supporting student equity, and encouraging knowledge transfer—in order to sufficiently educate kids as well as adults for roles that are currently evolving, or perhaps those which have yet to be created.

While CBE remains somewhat nascent across K-12 districts and postsecondary institutions, it has gained a foothold and interest in it continues to grow across the United States.

I spoke with educators, academic experts and institutional leaders to learn more about the ways in which CBE is serving students of all ages, grades and skill levels, and to better understand existing collaborations or points of intersection between schools and academia.

The approach is currently bridging gaps between employers and aspiring college graduates; there appears to be significant potential for CBE to also positively impact younger students.

Embracing the Real World

Matthew Prineas, Vice Provost and Dean of The Undergraduate School at University of Maryland University College, agrees.

“The promise of competency-based methodology is its power to create new connections and seamless pathways between K12, higher education, and the workplace,” he said.

“At UMUC, we are developing competency-based learning experiences that connect the real-world skills employers are asking for with the intellectual abilities our students need for academic success. We believe that competency-based approaches are equally adaptable to the needs of our adult students, who are looking to connect their prior experience with a college credential and a profession, as they are for high school students, who need to develop the foundational skills and behaviors necessary for success in college and beyond.

The emphasis is, of course, on demonstrated mastery rather than rote memorization.

“By putting the focus on what students can do, not just what they know, competencies give us the means to construct learning experiences that are more relevant and engaging—and that is to the benefit of all students, wherever they are in their educational journey.” (more…)

Hear Ye! Hear Ye! All of You Planning on Attending iNACOL17

March 7, 2017 by

Hopefully iNACOL17 is on your calendar. It will be held at the Swan & Dolphin Resort in Orlando, Florida on October 23-25, 2017.

As I think most of you know, we organize a strand of sessions on competency-based education at the iNACOL Symposium. So we wanted to make sure you know that iNACOL has opened their process for submitting workshop and session proposals to present at the iNACOL Symposium. The deadline is Wednesday, March 15, 2017 at 11:59 p.m. ET.

Here are a few ideas of topics/questions that I think could be really helpful in creating a strand that would meet the needs of people based on different levels of experience:

  • What is Competency-Based Education? It would be great to have a session that is an open conversation to help people really new to CBE make the paradigm shift, ask questions, and learn about different models. We always need to make sure there is a 101 session.
  • Personalized Learning Coaching: In most districts, there is anywhere from one to ten people who take on the role of personalized learning coach to help teachers build the new practices. I think it would be wonderful if there was a session that was created for personalized learning coaches to talk about their work, share practices, and perhaps build some shared knowledge (job descriptions, options for offering personalized learning modules for teachers to learn about personalized learning in a CBE school, etc.).
  • Creating a Unified Set of Equity Strategies: We know that there are sub-groups of students who have been historically underserved as well as groups of students who may be marginalized in schools (for example, Muslims or LGBT students). If we want to make sure that all students benefit from personalized approaches, districts need to make sure there is capacity to provide proven strategies designed to address learning needs of students. What if there were a session to accumulate and integrate these strategies? (This idea has developed in the Equity Technical Advisory Group but needs more work to build out.)
  • Student Agency: It’s becoming more and more clear that student agency, in addition to intentionality and transparency in CBE schools, is a really powerful and important change. We need to build knowledge on 1) the different ways that schools are structuring themselves, 2) the processes used for classroom management, and 3) how schools are taking advantage of student agency to create more opportunities for cultural responsiveness, lifelong learning skills and other important features of learning.
  • The Policy Horizon: It’s really hard to think outside the box of any given policy context. But we can’t get what we need unless we can envision it. Is there a way to take examples of policies from different states to begin to build out a more comprehensive understanding of what we need for policy to support and sustain personalized, CBE?
  • Innovations at the Margin: There are some schools and districts pushing on what CBE can do to explore very different approaches. We have Young Women’s Leadership Academy’s design of ten skills driving learning; Building 21’s dual credit system; and using continuums rather than grade level standards to open up opportunities for students in Waukesha and Kettle-Moraine. I think we are ready to start looking across these models to think about what they tell us about what is possible.
  • Telling the Information System Vendors What We Need: The vendors of information management/student information systems that monitor learning are failing us badly. (What I hear is that they say there isn’t a market. Well  they may want to read Clayton Christensen’s work. Because they are going to lose the market to the first one who can support personalized, competency-based systems.) Let’s talk about what we really need for these systems to do, build agreement, and then figure out how to engage them. This could require two steps – one part might be to look at each other’s systems currently in use to see how they are designed and how they might be better. This would allow us to create a short article on strengths and weakness of each model and publicize it. Second, we could then put together the core functions we need – and maybe we could start doing a survey or petition to show the number of schools that want this functionality.

These are just a couple of ideas. I’m hoping our network has gotten strong enough that people can find each other to help think about sessions that are building on knowledge in multiple schools and districts. I’m also thinking that it might be possible to use iNACOL17 as a place of building knowledge as well as sharing it.

We are going to have a leadership forum as a pre-conference session for anyone with one or more year experience to spend some time working through more challenging issues together. So plan on coming for October 23 if you have 1+ years experience in competency education (And newbies we’ll make sure there are valuable opportunities for you as well).

What’s New in K-12 Competency Education?

March 6, 2017 by

What's new! star graphicSchool Designs

  • Colorado’s District 51 is moving to “engage, equip and empower” students and engaging its community members in its shift toward performance-based learning. (Learn more about D51 in a recent blog series by Chris Sturgis.)
  • McComb School District is producing students empowered to change the world. Its Kennedy Early Childhood Center accelerates the development of knowledge, skills and dispositions; uses competency-based progressions; learning is socially embedded; and children have open-walled opportunities to learn.
  • A new STEM-focused micro-school is planning to open its doors in Decatur, Georgia in August 2017.
  • New Hampshire’s Pittsfield Middle High School is using competency-based, student-centered learning approaches to combat bullying.
  • The UP Education Network in Massachusetts is using tailored supports to better serve students with disabilities and English language learners.
  • New Hampshire’s Manchester School of Technology uses academics to support career training, and uses competency-based structures to ensure student success.

Student Agency

Blogs from the Field

  • New Profit is publishing an #AdvanceEquity blog series to promote new dialogue on equity and inclusion. You can find 30+ blogs in this series here.
  • Where and how does competency education align in K-12 and higher education? This blog post reflects on emerging and established areas.
  • This KnowlegeWorks blog highlights the Metropolitan School District of Warren Township (Indiana), their journey towards competency education, and key takeaways.

Policy

  • KnowledgeWorks released ESSA and Personalized Learning: State by State, which is an interactive map and state-by-state analysis of state strategies to advance personalized learning. This resource highlights emerging ideas states are considering as they leverage flexibilities in their state plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
  • Rhode Island’s Office of Innovation released the Statewide Personalized Learning Initiative, outlining a plan to scale personalized learning statewide.
  • Here are top education issues to watch during the 2017 Utah Legislature, including competency education.
  • The Idaho legislature allocated $1 million to support the implementation of mastery-based systems of education.
  • A bill in Utah, SB34, would allow schools to keep funding when students graduate early, intended to benefit competency-based schools and reward schools when students complete graduation requirements ahead of schedule.
  • Thirty-two schools in 19 Idaho incubator programs are currently using mastery education as part of H110, which passed both chambers and was signed by Governor Otter in March 2015.

(more…)

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

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How to Participate in the Meeting Students Where They Are Technical Advisory Group

February 10, 2017 by

Meeting Kids TAGCompetencyWorks will be holding a National Summit on Competency-Based Education in June to convene 100 leaders representing a range of perspectives, geography, expertise, and racial/ethnic diversity. Yet, there are thousands of leaders and educators across the country who have expertise in competency education who could make valuable contributions to these conversations. Thus, we have designed Technical Advisory Groups that will create a participatory process leading up to the Summit to draw on your knowledge and ideas.

The third Technical Advisory Group (TAG) is coming up soon: We will be focusing on Meeting Students Where They Are between February 27 and March 3, 2017. The Meeting Students Where They Are TAG is an opportunity to think about how students learn academic skills and content as well as how it varies by age, stages of development, and across domains. We know that any academic learning is also dependent on students developing a growth mindset, student agency, and social-emotional learning. We are delighted to announce that this Technical Advisory Group will be facilitated by Antonia Rudenstine, Dixie Bacallao, and Sydney Schaef from reDesign, an organization specifically committed to developing strategies, practices, and designs that help practitioners meet the needs of our most vulnerable students.

Our focusing question: (more…)

Proficiency is for Hope

February 3, 2017 by

PathwayI recently found myself discussing the latest round of State test scores with a group of Maine superintendents. There was concern that we are not realizing the overwhelming success we had wished for when we began the march to proficiency-based education. As a result, they want to leave proficiency-based grading and return to traditional grading and reporting. I wonder, does how we report student progress truly have an impact on Standardized test scores?

What we are trying to create in a true learner-centered or personalized school is not improvement on a snapshot of academic achievement. We want young people to see a future they desire and persevere to make it real regardless of the obstacles that lay ahead of them. We want a world of thinkers and not simply knowers. Learners who know life’s pathways all have struggles, but see them as mounds to get over or go around. We want students to have hope. The research is clear, the level of hope a student has is a far better predictor of future success in college and life than aptitude or achievement scores. I argue that you cannot get there unless you have clear learning expectations and success criteria. Those bones come from being proficiency-based.

How can schools have a positive impact on a student’s perception of what lies ahead? The answer might be found in a definition created using the brilliant work of Shane Lopez in Making Hope Happen. Shane reports that hope has three core competencies: goals, pathways, and agency. Hopeful people believe the future will be better than the present and they have the power to make it so. Also, people with hope are aware that there are many pathways to their goals and none of them is free of obstacles. A school system that is truly learner-centered, competency-based can help create the goals, agency, and pathways that build students’ hope. (more…)

Why Educators are Moving Away from the Station Rotation Model

January 6, 2017 by

desksThis post originally appeared at the Christensen Institute on December 13, 2016.

The Station Rotation has consistently reigned as the most popular blended-learning model implemented by elementary schools. Of the 235 active elementary schools currently profiled in the BLU school directory, 136, or 58 percent, of them have a Station Rotation program. Over the past few months, however, we’ve started to see a number of these schools shift away from the Station Rotation model and instead opt for an Individual Rotation or Flex model. Although still early, this data provides a trend line worth following as blended and personalized learning continue to evolve.

In 2013, when we published our hybrids paper, Clay Christensen, Michael Horn, and Heather Staker predicted that the Station Rotation would remain the most popular blended-learning model at the elementary school level for years to come. There were several reasons, both practical and theory-driven, for this prediction:

  1. Low-hanging fruit. Many educators, particularly at the elementary school level, have rotated students among centers or stations for decades. As a result, replacing one of those stations with online learning is a low conceptual hurdle for teachers to overcome.
  2. Scalability. A Station Rotation typically operates within the confines of a single classroom and therefore can require little to no coordination with other teachers, departments, or facilities. As a result, a Station Rotation allows educators to introduce the benefits of online learning while preserving the traditional classroom structure, which makes it easily scalable.
  3. Differentiated instruction. A Station Rotation breaks up the class into smaller groups, which allows teachers to work with students in small-group settings on a daily basis. In these settings, teachers can more easily differentiate instruction for groups of students based on their respective needs. Online learning also gives students independent time to work through adaptive online content and receive real-time feedback on their learning progress.
  4. Pockets of nonconsumption. Disruptions often get their start in pockets of unmet demand, called nonconsumption. For this reason, we envisioned high schools and, to a large extent, middle schools to be susceptible to larger scale changes because they operate on a course-by-course basis where pockets of nonconsumption, such as students in need of advanced courses or credit recovery, are rampant. Elementary schools, on the other hand, operate on a whole-class basis instead of course-by-course and aren’t yet dealing with dropouts or students in need of credit recovery.

In light of this growing subset of schools that are innovating within a Station Rotation modelor moving away from them entirely—it will be essential to understand what is causing the change and whether or not it is a trend that has the potential to scale.

Note: Early next year, I will be doing an in-depth case study on this trend and would love to hear from practitioners who are shifting away from a Station Rotation model. Feel free to send me an email or leave a comment below.

(more…)

What’s New in K-12 Competency-Based Education?

December 1, 2016 by

What's NewNews

States

Practitioner Perspectives

Agency

  • Fletcher Elementary School students are hiring staff for next fall, including job searches, reviewing applications, writing questions and conducting interviews—as a means to promote student leadership, agency and engagement.
  • Winooski School District shared a video highlighting their story of how personalized learning opened opportunities and prepared students for college and career.

Community Engagement

  • Colorado’s District 51 is engaging their community and setting a new vision for K-12 education by asking, “What skills do we want our graduates to have?”
  • The Vermont Department of Education has made stakeholder engagement part of their continuous improvement project as they transition to ESSA.
  • This article is an example of how one might work through the many concepts undergirding the shift to personalized learning—by questioning a broader way of defining student success and proficiency-based learning. How might you respond to someone who raises these questions in your community?

(more…)

Policies for Personalization: Student Agency

November 1, 2016 by

booksThis is the fourteenth article in the series Implementing Competency Education in K-12 Systems: Insights from Local Leaders.

If a district puts into place all the pieces described earlier, they will be well on their way to creating a strong standards-referenced system—but not a student-centered one. The new value proposition is based on an integration of personalized learning that takes into consideration students’ needs, interests, and aspirations along with a competency-based infrastructure focused on proficiency, pace, and progress.

The following discussion, organized into two articles, is on the policies and procedures that need to be in place to ensure that the system you are implementing has students and their academic success—not the standards themselves—at the center.

Student Agency

Personalization and student agency go hand in hand—it is nearly impossible for teachers to manage a personalized classroom if students are constantly turning to them for direction. Thus, as schools move toward personalized, competency-based education, they will also want to create the conditions for students to take ownership over their education (i.e., student agency). There are a number of essential ingredients required to create an environment and learning experiences that help students build the skills they need to have agency: a school culture that is grounded in a growth mindset, strategies to help build habits of learning, opportunities for choice and co-design, transparency of learning objectives with well-developed assessments, and high levels of teacher autonomy. (more…)

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