March 1, 2013 by Chris Sturgis
In the last three days, in three different meetings, I’ve been asked to summarize what I’m learning about competency education. In yesterday’s meeting with RTT districts I shared the following list of things people starting off in competency education need to think about earlier than later in their process…i.e. this is a place where implementation can go wrong.
1) Start With The Students: We think a lot about college and career readiness, Common Core curriculum, and what we expect students to know and do. If we want to get students there then we need to start with where they are. This means when students enter your school, doing assessments to understand where they are on their learning progression and what gaps they have is essential. Teachers will need to do pre-assessments when students enter their classroom to understand how they are going to need to differentiate, group/regroup.
This is one of the game-changing dynamics of competency education. At today’s meeting with Race to the Top districts this kicked off a huge conversation. Once you do this we can no longer ignore the fact that some students are 2,3, 4 or 5 years behind or don’t have the prerequisite skills they need to do the grade-level curriculum. Scott Benson, Gates Foundation referred to this as the “design and accountability challenge of our time “. I call it the Elephant that we’ve been successfully ignoring for decades. There are many ways of trying to accelerate learning…but we haven’t been systematic in researching this so that districts and schools can be sure they are deploying resources most cost-effectively. (more…)
February 6, 2013 by Barbara Weed
Reflecting on the work that has just been completed is one of the most valuable steps in the learning process, but it’s a step that is easily neglected in school. Students who take the time to look at what they’ve done and think about what they could do to improve are the students who make consistent, visible progress in their learning. Reflection is a competency that should be a routine activity in every student’s school day. Teachers know that students need to reflect, but time constraints make it easy to drop this relatively passive step that is already at the end of a learning experience.
Helping students develop positive learning habits is one way that we ensure that students are prepared to be lifelong learners. Thoughtful reflection has to be one of those habits, otherwise students are just engaging in the skills of the moment and aren’t building on previous learning. Getting students to take the time to ponder what they have learned helps them deepen their learning by connecting the various steps in their process and comparing them to previous experience. (more…)
January 8, 2013 by Chris Sturgis
From Maine Ctr for Best Practices
I’ve been getting increased requests from districts and schools looking for consultants or resources to help them get started in the transformation from a time-based to competency-based system. So I’ve put together a short list of some of the resources that are available to help folks get started (and I’ll keep adding to the wiki as more resources become available). One thing to pay attention to — all the districts that I know about that are getting results were participating with the Reinventing Schools Coalition at some point.
Strategic and Action Plans
December 12, 2012 by Courtney Belolan
In order to get the full experience of this post, please print out and assemble your own teaching and learning Möbius strip as explained in this video, and in the instructions in the box:
1. Make a double sided copy
2. Cut out the strips
3. Tape the two strips together into one long strip
4. Hold an end in each hand, twist, then tape together
5. Draw a line on one side of the paper.
What happened? The line never crossed an edge, but met up with its starting point! A Möbius strip is an object with only one side and no beginning or end.
I see it as a direct analogy for teaching and learning. Practice, instruction, assessment, and application are. These elements cannot be arranged into a definite pattern with a definite beginning or a definite end. Nor can they be teased out from one another without losing their effectiveness. Teaching and learning is a continuous loop with each aspect supporting and strengthening the other.
Keep picturing teaching and learning as a continuous loop. Now, consider how formative assessment is defined. Dylan Wiliam describes formative assessment as “the bridge between teaching and learning.” Marzano states, in the book Formative Assessment & Standards-Based Grading, that formative assessments are “used while instruction is occurring” and refers to Brookhart’s explanation that “formative assessment means information gathered and reported for use in the development of knowledge and skills[…]” The CCSSO defines formative assessment as “a process used by teachers and students during instruction that provides feedback to adjust ongoing teaching and learning.”
December 5, 2012 by Rose Colby and Andrew Miller
Typically, teachers launch projects after students have learned concepts and skills, or as a culminating activity in a lengthy unit of instruction. Also traditional projects generally follow a scripted, one size fits all design. What would happen if a project were launched the first day of a unit of instruction? What if unpacking that project resulted in students determining what is important to know and do in meeting the criteria for the product and presentation?
Welcome to project based learning that allows students to meet multiple competencies! As teachers struggle to work with the rigorous performance assessment demands of the Common Core State Standards, a well-designed project can be the vehicle for highly authentic, rigorous, and personalized learning experiences for students.
The Buck Institute for Education, one of the preeminent organizations with expertise in Project Based Learning, describes the eight Essential Elements of a PBL Project. Included in these elements is inquiry. We are all familiar with inquiry-based learning as an effective framework for the classroom, and similarly, the Project creates the inquiry to learn targeted competencies that integrate both content and 21st Century Skills. Instead of giving the project at the end of a curriculum unit, the Project is presented up front to students to create the “need to know,” the inquiry to engage in the project. In addition, this work is the frame around the learning while engaging the learner in the driving questions. This work is presented to a public, authentic audience. Students are given voice and choice in how they present their learning of competencies to allow for personalized and differentiated instruction. Students become the centers of learning, rather than the teacher. In turn, the teachers arm students with the skills and knowledge needed to meet competency through a variety of instructional activities. (more…)
November 27, 2012 by Barbara Weed
Time is one of the most precious commodities in a school, and students should know how to spend their time wisely. Students frequently expect their teachers to direct all of their time, and they assume that they are free to hang out or socialize if they don’t perceive that they have been specifically directed. This underlying assumption is so pervasive in many school cultures that it isn’t even recognized as a problem. It is, however, a key competency—and independent time management is almost a requirement in a competency-based classrooms.
Teachers universally agree that there is not enough time in the day to do all of the things that are expected. Part of that time crunch stems from the fact that whole class instruction is still a prevalent mode of delivery, and this method inherently wastes a lot of time. Teachers gravitate to whole class instruction because it offers a sense of control and it is easier to manage. Our experience has told us that kids who aren’t being managed are likely to be off task. This doesn’t have to be the case, but it does require some explicit changes in the way that adults talk to students about time.
Teachers have to understand that kids passively wait to be directed because that’s what they have been taught to do. In order to have kids understand that they are responsible for active learning at all times, they have to be taught this expectation and they have to be taught how to manage their time. In my own classroom, I see students in grade 5-8 for a quarter every year. The first time that they come to my room, they sit down and wait for something to happen. That is probably what they do everywhere, but I want them to learn to get their work out as soon as they arrive. That means that I have to devote time to creating an activity that young students, who possess limited executive skills, can initiate independently, and I have to prompt them repeatedly at each arrival. Eventually, they start to get it, and I no longer have to tell them to get started without me. Of course, they are only in my class for a quarter of the year, so they need a little reminder when they come to class the next year, but, in the end, they know that they are expected to get to work as soon as they arrive in my room. Students who are in other classes where this is the expectation find it easier to become self-directed, primarily because the expectation is reinforced by multiple adults in various situations. Those students come to expect that it is their responsibility to get to work. (more…)
October 26, 2012 by Barbara Weed
Students who are caught up in what they are doing don’t need to be managed, and students who succeed become self-propelling. If you can find a way to make your students’ work personal and meaningful, they will offer extraordinary efforts in the classroom. They willingly pursue challenges that personally matter to them.
I once had a student, Average Joe, who put in no more effort than was necessary for him to ensure that he was eligible to play sports. He was a nice kid, but he didn’t find art exciting. Then I decided to see if I could get my students more engaged by letting them make all of the decisions about their projects. I still identified the concept that they needed to demonstrate, but I let the students design the work that they wanted to do in order to show that they understood the skills and concepts.
The result was that most of the students did better quality work than they had ever done. Average Joe’s engagement was the most startling because he had to publicly defend his change of attitude to his peers. Some of his classmates were perplexed by his sudden dedication to art, but he told them plainly that what he was doing was “his” and because it was his, he wanted it to be “right.” That day, I saw the real power of engagement. I saw Average Joe intrinsically motivated. (more…)
October 16, 2012 by Sarah Cargill
The following is reprinted from GettingSmart.
Diane Smith for the Business Education Compact (BEC) released “It’s About Time: A Framework For Proficiency-Based Teaching & Learning”this year in response to a need expressed by the Oregon Department of Education (ODE), which identifies the ways that eliminating seat time and moving toward proficiency-based teaching and learning can improve student achievement.
The workbook provides a roadmap for proficiency-based learning with formative and “just in time” assessments, grouping, learner profiles, personalized learning plans, learning targets, and more. It couples activities in a blended learning environment to offer in-class review time, online learning tutorials, study packets, quick reviews, extended learning time, and flexible schedules for students.
Similar to the personalized learning plan outlined in the DLN Smart Series paper “Data Backpacks: Portable Records & Learner Profiles” produced by Digital Learning Now! (DLN), the workbook suggests Common Core aligned assessments stored electronically for district-wide use among administrators and teachers. DLN points to the ways that “Data Backpacks” and “Learner Profiles” can help teachers improve personalized learning from Day One with assessment data, learner preferences, etc., taking the concept of Smith’s electronic assessments steps further. (more…)
October 9, 2012 by Diane Smith
As a former principal and curriculum director, I can easily tell the difference between good and bad professional development. I’m embarrassed to admit that I have had my hand in delivering some poor quality events in my career. Some of my colleagues refer to past trainings as a “spray and pray” approach to learning something. In other words, we offered a one-time event and hoped that teachers would walk away with some great idea to use. Fortunately we have seen the error of our ways and now use embedded professional development options that have teachers collaborating with peers to learn new skills. Implementing proficiency-based learning options for the long term requires purposeful and specific components to ensure that practices can be sustained and result in a new learning culture that improves student achievement.
Approximately 150 Oregon secondary teachers recently completed an 18-month period of professional development that focused on implementing proficiency-based practices. Their activities resulted in the publishing of It’s About Time – A Framework for Proficiency-based Teaching & Learning. This teacher self-evaluation workbook highlights the six major areas Oregon teachers recognize as critical elements in any proficiency-based experience. Teachers use these elements, called “constructs” in the book, in any order based on student needs. It’s worth looking at each of these constructs through the lens of effective and regularly scheduled professional development.
Construct #1— Target In a standards-based classroom, teachers TARGET the standards as their primary instructional foci. A strong professional development plan has districts scheduling summer collaboration time, as well as regular meetings of content area specialists to identify which standards teachers will address. During these events, teachers practice how to break down a standard into manageable instructional chunks and focus on designing activities around the smaller learning targets.
September 4, 2012 by Chris Sturgis
I’m a TQM-freak. I admit it. I think Total Quality Management and continuous improvement is just the best management practice ever developed. So I distinctly remember the moment ten years ago when I realized the power of competency education when the great team at the Young Women’s Leadership Charter School walked me through their management reports.
By tracking the progress of students mastering learning objectives in their management information systems, YWLCS could generate two powerful sets of reports. In addition to individual learning progression for each student, YWLCS would generate:
Exception Reports: By knowing which students haven’t yet mastered specific competencies, YWCLS can organize groups of students to work with specialists in the classroom or afterschool or Saturday programs for extra help. This allows teachers and the school to organize supports and opportunities during the semester rather delaying interventions. (more…)