Author: Chris Sturgis

When Equity and Student-Centered Learning Go Hand in Hand

October 18, 2018 by

I spent two days at the Student-Centered Learning Research Collaborative meeting last week. Kudos to the Student at the Center team for integrating equity and student-centered learning so deeply that they were one and the same. I’ll share three highlights of the meeting:

First, Eric Toshalis opened up the meeting with an acknowledgement that the meeting was taking place on lands that were originally those of Native Americans and that we were there without permission. After my trip to Aotearoa New Zealand, I have become a firm believer that we can build much stronger cultures of inclusivity if we are in a process of reconciliation and healing. I hold the greatest respect for Eric and JFF in launching the meeting in this way. (For those of you who are interested, this resource on how to honor native land can be helpful.) (more…)

CompetencyWorks Meetup at iNACOL18

October 15, 2018 by

Come meet your colleagues from across the country (and internationally) at 6 pm on Sunday, October 21 at the iNACOL18 President Reception. Look for the CompetencyWorks sign in the Davidson Ballroom/Innovation Corner. See you there!

CBE Problems of Practice: Individualizing Learning

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This is the fourth in a series on problems of practice. (Check out the articles on gradingattendance, and pace.) We are interested in hearing from readers about other problems of practice they’ve seen or are struggling with in implementation.

4. Defaulting to individual learning rather than cohorts of learners. Building on pace, quite a few districts have pushed for individual learning. It takes a very talented teacher to differentiate to this level; few are trained well to do so, few have received any training, and most are struggling. In fact, recent research suggests that collaboration brings valuable benefits to students and should be considered an important aspect of student-centered learning. (more…)

Why New Zealand? A Primer on the NZ Education System

October 12, 2018 by

This is the second 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.

As I planned my trip, I was constantly asked, “But why New Zealand? Are they better than we are?”

The simple answer is I went to New Zealand with the encouragement of Susan Patrick, CompetencyWorks co-founder and President/CEO of iNACOL. She visited several years ago and found that there were many lessons learned to be found there. However, the question of what makes an education system better than another one prompted an internal dialogue: “In what way might they be better? How do we judge the effectiveness of an education system?” It might be based on academic achievement scores but those don’t capture well-being, success in post-secondary employment, training or education, lifelong learning skills, or transferable skills such as problem-solving and communication. Perhaps we could look at the cost-effectiveness or satisfaction of teachers. Thus, I started my trip with an orientation of inquiry rather than analysis.

I am a believer in benchmarking against high performance to discover policies and practices that might bring improvements. However, I have not returned with solid recommendations for how we should replicate New Zealand. What I did find was that my expectations were lifted, my imagination sparked, and my understanding of our own education system clarified.

Below I provide a snapshot of New Zealand’s education system. In future articles, I’ll be looking more deeply at the system and the ways it can help us think about options for the American system.

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Quality Principles for Competency-Based Education

October 11, 2018 by

iNACOL and CompetencyWorks released the book Quality Principles for Competency-Based Education today. This book, which started out as a paper and expanded into a primer on competency education with the help of Katherine Casey, completes the collection of papers developed as part of the National Summit on K-12 Competency-Based Education. (more…)

Enjoying Learning or Completing Tasks? How Do You Explain Competency-Based Education?

October 9, 2018 by

Courtesy of Allison Shelley/The Verbatim Agency for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action.

What is competency-based education? It seems that it is harder to explain than it should be. Or perhaps we haven’t put enough energy into trying to make it easily understood. The problem is if we don’t become better able to explain it, then communities across the country will think it is just about a self-paced curriculum, a jazzed up outcome-based model, or a new system of grading. They’ll only implement a sliver of what is, in fact, a major rehaul so that the education system is designed to support and sustain effective teaching and powerful learning.

The problem is further complicated in that the reporters at local newspapers are highly influential in how competency-based education is described. Take this article in the Courier Express for example. Competency-based education is described as: (more…)

CBE Problems of Practice: Self-Pace and Faster is Better

October 8, 2018 by

This is the third in a series on problems of practice. (Check out the articles on grading and attendance.) We are interested in hearing from readers about other problems of practice they’ve seen or are struggling with in implementation.

3. Designs based on student pace, not depth of learning. Quite a few districts have been designing their learning, curriculum, and instruction for kids to pass through the system as fast as they could. Students earn a passing grade (a 3 or at least a C) on something and then quickly moved on to the next thing. This can lead to a series of learning that was “good enough” but never “great.” So students are essentially doing enough to get by but not enough to excel. (more…)

Snaps from Aotearoa New Zealand

October 5, 2018 by

This is the first 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. Aotearoa is the Māori word for New Zealand meaning ‘long white cloud,’ indicating one of the ways the ancestors traveling from the Pacific islands could identify land. New Zealand is on a powerful trajectory toward biculturalism. Thus, when possible, I will be including Māori concepts along the way to honor their efforts and do my little bit to return indigenous language and culture to its rightful place.

I’m just back from three weeks of school visits in Aotearoa New Zealand and trying to process all that I learned as quickly as possible. Like the Māori god Tāne who brought three baskets of knowledge to humanity, I have returned from New Zealand with three baskets of knowledge. The first is an understanding of the New Zealand education system. The second is about New Zealand’s journey of reconciliation of past injustice toward biculturalism, returning Māori culture and language to its rightful place. The third basket is full of ideas of how the first two can inform, inspire, and guide educators and policymakers in shifting toward personalized, competency-based education. (more…)

CBE Problems of Practice: Attendance Requirements

October 3, 2018 by

This is the second in a series on problems of practice. (Check out the article on grading.) We are interested in hearing from readers about other problems of practice they’ve seen or are struggling with in implementation.

2. Removing attendance requirements. A few district leaders have argued that attendance requirements in a competency-based school are not necessary. They are wrong. Competency-based education is much more than making “time a variable” or “self-paced.” Its also about schools taking responsibility (accountability if you will) to make sure students fully master the skills and knowledge they need to be successful as thay make the transition to college, careers…and life.

Thus, districts that have removed attendance requirements in early stages of implementing competency education are missing some of the core concepts of competency-based education. We want to measure learning, not the amount of time students were in school. However, time is a variable doesn’t mean students don’t need to come to school. Time is a variable means that the effort to learn and the necessary instructional support will vary which may require more time and more resources. (more…)

What’s New in Competency Education

October 2, 2018 by

What’s New

The most exciting news is the direction Idaho is taking in integrating mastery education into the core of its State Department of Education. State legislators were in Idaho last week as part of a NCSL meeting and will be bringing ideas from Idaho back to your states. Be ready to continue the conversation.

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