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.

a project of

inacol logo

What to Do When the Field Goes “Mustard”

November 15, 2018 by

This is the seventh in a series on problems of practice. (Check out the articles on gradingattendancepace, individualized learning, granularity, and late work.) We are interested in hearing from readers about other problems of practice they’ve seen or are struggling with in implementation.

What do we call the stage of field development when the so-called “experts” and expert organizations are providing inadequate, weak, or even bad advice? Several Google searches didn’t come up with an answer, so I’m going to call it the “mustard” stage… As in, we aren’t performing at the level needed to fully support districts and schools – in other words, we “aren’t cutting the mustard.” (more…)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Competency-Based Education Quality Principle #5: Cultivate Empowering and Distributed Leadership

by

This is the sixth article in a series based on the book Quality Principles for Competency-Based Education. You can find the section on Principle #5 Cultivate Empowering and Distributed Leadership on page 48. The links to the other articles can be found at the bottom of this page and will be updated as they are posted. For more on equity, see Designing for Equity: Leveraging Competency-Based Education to Ensure All Students Succeed.

It’s difficult, if not impossible, to implement or sustain a personalized, competency-based system through top-down bureaucratic approaches. You can’t simply write a memo to tell schools and educators how to change their practices. You can’t tell people to change their beliefs and assumptions. The change process requires engagement. Engagement requires trusting relationships and time for dialogue and learning. Trust is developed and demonstrated by listening to, investing in, and respecting the ability of others to make strong decisions. Thus, districts and schools making headway in creating competency-based systems will usually refer to the importance of empowerment and distributed leadership that give schools and educators more autonomy. But autonomy doesn’t mean the individual makes all decisions. Rather, it refers to decisions being made closer to and involving the people who are being impacted.

The other problem with top-down decision-making in the transition from traditional to competency-based education is that it will slow decisions down. Decision-making forms bottlenecks as problems are identified and move up and down the hierarchical ladder. Furthermore, the superintendent or principal is unlikely going to have a grip on all the information they will need to make a wise decision. They are going to need to bring in multiple perspectives and involve others in thinking through the chain reaction of changing any one piece of the system. Thus, even though distributed decision-making may appear to take longer, it is actually likely to make better and, in the long-run, faster decisions. Some schools embrace the mantra Go slow to go fast to help them shift their values from expediency to effectiveness. (See the Code of Culture about the use of heuristics.)

Leader Becomes Leaders. Roles Change. (more…)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Step by Step Our Field Builds Its Capacity for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

November 14, 2018 by

Equity Principles (Click Image to Enlarge)

At iNACOL a few weeks ago, people from three different organizations came up to me to tell me about their progress in building organizational capacity around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Some are making steps in building diverse candidate pools that are leading to greater diversity on staff. Some are starting to use an equity lens to review decisions. Some are turning the equity framework developed through the National Summit on K-12 Competency-Based Education into tools to use with their networks.  

I think a good example of how our field is moving step by step (let’s be honest, there are still way too many panels of all white people or equity added as the last bullet point rather then integrated into the core of our work) is from NGLC. In their latest Practitioner Guide, they recount their story toward building their organizational capacity around equity: (more…)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Starting the Competency-Based Education Journey…Again

November 13, 2018 by

I spent 10 years of my career working in a high school that successfully transitioned from being very traditional to one that is now competency-based. Although in reality the work is never really complete, it’s still satisfying to look back and celebrate just how far you’ve come. For those of us in the competency-based education (CBE) trenches, we know that changing the way people think about teaching and learning isn’t easy. It’s difficult to let go of long held beliefs about how schools should operate and how classrooms should be run. The transition to a CBE model also takes time. Educators must commit to years of hard work in order to make CBE a reality.

Not long ago I hit the professional reset button and accepted a position in a district that was just beginning to develop a CBE system. I knew that going back to the “old way of doing school” would be difficult, but like a true CBE educator I was eager to apply what I had learned in my previous setting to a new one. However, no two schools are alike and no transformational journey is the same. (For school leaders who are looking for a prescriptive path or a step-by-step manual to CBE, you’re out of luck, those don’t exist.) Instead of creating a CBE “to do” list, I spent a considerable amount of time observing current practices and gaining an understanding of what was already working. Three themes emerged from my observations that could be universally applied to any school embarking on the path to CBE. (more…)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Pt. England Primary: Creating a Culture of Respect, Belonging and Learning

November 12, 2018 by

This is the fourth article in the series Baskets of Knowledge from Aotearoa New Zealand, which highlights insights from a totally different education system about what is possible in transforming our education system. Read the first article here.

Everything starts with the value of respect at Pt. England Primary in Auckland, including the pedagogical philosophy. Respect for your own language, culture, history, and ancestors as well as the language, culture, history, and ancestors of others. Respect to take care of one’s self and well-being. Respect for the community at large. As Principal Russell Burt and I toured the school, he stopped to put his hand on the shoulders (never the head, as it would be disrespectful in the Māori culture) of students, “Are you having a respectful day?” (more…)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Pt. England Primary: Making Sense of the New Zealand Curriculum

November 8, 2018 by

Principal Russell Burt

This is the third article in the series Baskets of Knowledge from Aotearoa New Zealand, which highlights insights from a totally different education system about what is possible in transforming our education system. Read the first article here.

Soon after Russell Burt, principal of Pt. England Primary in Auckland, and I met, he was taking out the New Zealand National Curriculum. “You’ve seen this, right?” he asked. “This is the bible for schools. Like the bible, there are two parts, and they don’t always go together that easily.”
(more…)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Re-Envisioning Professional Learning in Competency-Based Education

by

Educators are vital to developing and expanding competency-based education. Where competency-based education is most successful, it has been shaped and sustained by teams of innovative teacher-leaders.

Today, iNACOL and CompetencyWorks released a new report, Moving Toward Mastery: Growing, Developing and Sustaining Educators for Competency-Based Education to address these challenges head on. It describes the roles educators play in competency-based systems and the new knowledge and skills they need, presenting an aspirational vision of a teaching profession fully aligned with the culture, structures and pedagogy of competency-based education. It offers 15 strategies that leaders, educators and communities can enact to move their systems forward on the pathway toward this vision. (more…)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Competency-Based Education Quality Principle #4: Foster the Development of a Growth Mindset

November 7, 2018 by

This is the fifth article in a series based on the book Quality Principles for Competency-Based Education. You can find the section on Principle #4 Foster the Development of a Growth Mindset on page 45. The links to the other articles can be found at the bottom of this page and will be updated as they are posted. For more on equity, see Designing for Equity: Leveraging Competency-Based Education to Ensure All Students Succeed.

Think about it: The traditional system of education is built upon the belief that intelligence is fixed: there are smart people and not-as-smart people, there are winners and losers, and there is little anyone can do to change someone’s innate ability or potential.

I don’t believe there is any reason to discuss the psychological insights offered in Carol Dweck’s Mindset: The New Psychology of Success or resources on how to help yourself and students in your classroom develop a growth mindset, as this is a set of research that is becoming embedded in schools across the nation (and possibly globally!). However, if for any reason the adults in your school have not become familiar with and knowledgeable about how to develop the growth mindset in themselves and others, stop reading this article and spend your time on Mindset. This is a non-negotiable step in creating a system of education designed for success for all. (more…)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Mapping out the Terrain of Competency-Based Education Implementation

November 6, 2018 by

One of the greatest inventions of the last twenty years has to be mapping services like Mapquest or Google Maps. Not only can a mapping service help you navigate to any location, it can also use real-time traffic and road conditions to help you avoid long delays during transit. Our research on K-12 principals’ perceptions of the facilitators and barriers to competency-based education implementation is intended to act like a Mapquest or Google Maps of sort. Let me explain.

Many states, districts, and/or schools around the United States are transitioning to a competency-based approach to education. This means that state policymakers as well as school and district leaders find themselves searching for the most efficient roadmap to help their communities and other stakeholders move from a traditional system of education to a competency-based system. Many advocates have written about quality design principles and other characteristics of competency-based systems, which can serve as a basic roadmap for policymakers and practitioners as they start along this journey. What is less known, however, are the traffic and road conditions that can occur along the way to either speed along or hinder the journey, depending on the context and real-time adjustments. (more…)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

What Lessons Are We Learning from Maine

November 5, 2018 by

The people of Maine have been reflecting and re-setting strategies regarding proficiency-based learning since this summer when the state legislature took a step back and said that districts could return to traditional systems and diplomas or continue on the path of modernizing their education systems with proficiency-based learning.

National public reflection has begun about lessons learned from Maine’s pathway toward proficiency-based learning for other states. However, the variety of tone and framing will certainly influence the lessons that we learn. Those who write about schools are creating a narrative that stretches from “uphill battle” to “roll-back” to “failure.”

(more…)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
WordPress SEO fine-tune by Meta SEO Pack from Poradnik Webmastera