I’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?
- What Is Competency Education? is a section from our most recent paper Reaching the Tipping Point: Insights on Advancing Competency Education in New England. It looks at why the traditional system is a barrier to equity and achievement as well as the conditions that are necessary for competency education to take root.
- The Past and the Promise: Today’s Competency Education Movement by JFF includes background on the research base for competency education and a discussion on the complementary nature of personalization and competency education.
- It’s helpful to review the different ways that competency education is defined and described. Another strong explanation of proficiency-based learning can be found at Great Schools Partnership.
- It is important to understand the differences between competency education, personalization, and blended learning and how they fit together to create powerful next generation education systems. Mean What You Say: Defining and Integrating Personalized, Blended and Competency Education by iNACOL explores these topics, as does Maximizing Competency Education and Blended Learning (pages 11-26).
- The Shift from Cohorts to Competencies by Digital Learning Now, Foundation for Excellence in Education, and Getting Smart includes a primer. There is a stronger focus in this paper on how digital technology can help us create a more responsive education system. However, it is important to remember that competency education is NOT THE SAME as online learning. Competency education is a structure that helps us focus on learning and making sure students are mastering skills, while online learning is an option for how instruction is delivered.
- There are also videos and infographics that can be helpful. The article Telling Our Story includes videos from Lindsay Unified and KnowledgeWorks. You can see other videos at NYC Mastery Collaborative and Maine’s Center for Best Practices. Achieve has a helpful infographic that walks through experiences of students, and Foundation for Excellence in Education has created this comparison of traditional to competency-based practices.
- Delivering on the Promise: The Education Revolution, a book that tells the story of the transformation in Chugach School District, is still one of the best resources for explaining the values and benefits of competency education. It’s not free and it will take longer to read, but you will find it well worth the investment. We also prepared a paper about Chugach but it does not have the depth that the book offers in explaining the shift in values and assumptions.
What Does Competency Education Look Like in a School?
- This article lists all the descriptions of all the schools and districts we have visited at CompetencyWorks. Don’t try to read them all. We have heard from educators that it is best to use them as a basis for discussion at a PLC or staff meeting. Either pick one district/school or have staff pick one that is interesting to them, and then share what is most exciting, most challenging, and what they would like to do but may need support (professionally and organizationally) for.
- There are a series of reports that have described competency education. They tend to be focused on high schools, and thus won’t give you the understanding of what a K-12 system looks like: Inside Mastery-Based High Schools (Springpoint) and Making Mastery Work (Nellie Mae Education Foundation).
How Do We Get Started in Making the Transition to Competency Education?
- If you want to read about how districts and schools are moving toward competency education, read Implementing Competency Education in K-12 Systems: Insights from Local Leaders (it’s broken into small segments in the CompetencyWorks Resources so that you can use for discussion). The report was based on smaller districts so larger districts will also want to think about scaling strategies as described in the articles about Henry County, Lake County, and Charleston.
Resources to Help You
- There are technical assistance providers that can help you at the different stages of your work. This article lists the organizations that are providing technical assistance on competency education.
- The best place to network nationally with competency education practitioners is at the iNACOL Symposium. iNACOL has expanded its mission to advance a comprehensive personalized, competency-based education system. It offers a strand of workshops on competency education (you can read highlights of the symposium on CompetencyWorks) as well as informal “meet-ups” where we introduce ourselves to each other to strengthen the national network. There are also regional gatherings such as those sponsored by the New England Secondary Schools Consortium and Oregon’s Business Education Compact & COSA. Finally, there are institute’s such as Boston Day and Evening’s REAL Institute and Sanborn’s Design Institute each summer. Some of the TA providers also offer institutes as well.
Again, please share your best resources in comments for others to learn about. And any tools you have used that have been helpful in getting up to speed on competency education.