Category: Classroom Practice

Project Example: Mobile App Design at Urban Assembly Maker Academy

April 16, 2019 by

Students Working on Laptops at UAMAThis is the fourth post in a series about the Mastery Collaborative in New York City. Links to the other posts can be found at the end of this article.

Whether you’re already deeply engaged in competency-based learning and assessment or just starting, it’s helpful to see how other teachers who are doing this work are structuring their units. After our recent visit to Urban Assembly Maker Academy, a Living Lab school in New York City’s Mastery Collaborative, the design teacher shared one of his unit plans and student work. This blog post discusses the unit and aspects of the Definition of Competency-Based Education and the Quality Principles for Competency-Based Education that it illustrates.

The unit plan on mobile app design from Teacher Gerry Irizarry’s prototyping course is here. This course is part of UA Maker’s digital media sequence, one of their two approved Career and Technical Education pathways. The unit plan begins with naming the design outcomes (here called “standards”) that are being assessed, such as:

  • I can demonstrate the application of the design process to define and solve design problems.
  • I can demonstrate purposeful arrangement of text and image for a creative layout: size, shape, location, and resolution.
  • I can demonstrate an understanding of a target audience.
  • I can demonstrate the ability to give constructive criticism & feedback.

Mobile App Design Project Components

The project summary section of the unit plan describes an “entry event” intended to increase student engagement by personalizing it to their experiences and interests. First students write a list of their favorite mobile apps, then the group discusses the lists together. This leads to a discussion of the most popular music apps and the pros and cons of each, and finally a more general discussion of what makes apps successful and popular (or not).

With students’ knowledge about apps activated and deepened, the work becomes more individualized, with each student selecting profiles of at least two target buyers (based on factors such as (more…)

How Data Notebooks Can Support Goal-Setting and Student Agency in Elementary School

February 25, 2019 by

This is the final article in a nine-part “In Real Life” series based on the complex, fundamental questions that practitioners in competency-based systems grapple with “in real life.” Links to the other posts can be found at the end of this article.

Goal-setting plays a big role in a personalized, competency-based learning environment: cultivating an awareness of why you’re working on what you’re working on, what’s next and instilling a sense of ownership over your learning and in your classroom community.

Even when you’re six.

At Batesburg-Leesville Primary School in Batesburg-Leesville, South Carolina, students in first and second grade keep data notebooks to help them record their behavior, reading goals and progress. They track their growth each day and reference their data notebooks not only when they’re working, but also as a means of reflecting on their week. The data notebooks make students’ learning tangible to them.

Cultivating an awareness of learning is critical for all students – especially those students who struggle. According to Michelle Maroney, a second-grade teacher, “that visible record changes a student’s thinking. Before when we gave assessments, it was just taking a test. Now when they take an assessment they can see what it looks like from the last time to what it looks like today. They have that   visual,” says Maroney. “For kids way behind grade level, they feel defeated a lot. But when they can see their growth, they move at a much higher rate.”

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In Real Life: How do CBE systems support all students to reach mastery?

February 20, 2019 by

Alison Kearney, Assistant Principal, Noble High School, ME

This article is the seventh in a nine-part “In Real Life” series based on the complex, fundamental questions that practitioners in competency-based systems grapple with “in real life.” Links to the other posts can be found at the end of this article.

Since learners are met where they are in CBE systems and are supported to reach mastery at their own pace, what supports are needed to ensure everyone succeeds?

To better understand this question, I sat down with Alison Kearney, Assistant Principal at Noble High School in North Berwick, Maine.

A rural school, Noble High School serves roughly 1,100 students across three towns up to an hour bus ride away. Its students often come from rural poor backgrounds, influencing how the school has structured its student support system. Noble High’s proficiency-based system was profiled in a CompetencyWorks blog post in 2015.

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3 Tools to Engage Ownership in Your Classroom

November 19, 2018 by

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

It’s easy to say teachers should give students more ownership of their learning. It’s easy to say students have to be motivated to learn. It’s easy to say teachers need to give up more control of the teaching and facilitate more of the learning. It’s easy to say but they are definitely NOT easy to do.

When students are drivers of the learning and not just passive recipients, it turns a dormant classroom into a thriving incubator of innovation. Many educators want to do all of these things but are too often left to figure out how to do it. (more…)

The Day in a Life Student in a Personalized, Competency-Based School

July 31, 2018 by

Mile Wolking

Mike Wolking, currently completing an Axford Fellowship while on leave from Education Elements, sent me a summary of a short investigation he completed in how a student spends their day. He followed a student in a New Zealand secondary school for a day and tracked her activities. As I read through the summary, I thought it might be a helpful way to begin to think about the quality of personalized, competency-based education. This type of data could be useful for reflection and opening up conversations about where there might be opportunities for strengthening instruction, assessment, and learning experiences as well as identifying where operational policies or organizational habits are getting in the way. One would have to also consider the question: How do we think a student should spend their time in order to optimize learning and development? (more…)

Three Misconceptions of Competency-Based Education

July 25, 2018 by

Stephen Johnson

Every school in every district wants to meet students where they are and allow them to show what they have learned. As good as this sounds, schools have different ways of getting there. We find that school leaders use many of the same words and phrases but those phrases imply something different. Definitions of models like competency-based education (CBE), student-centered learning, and a number of other learner-centered models affect the way in which the strategies are implemented, leading to scattered, inconsistent results in student achievement. Recently, national efforts have been led to connect entities in the CBE space to share ideas and to establish a common language. This common language would help to ensure that the words spoken carry the same universal meaning, regardless of locale. (more…)

Mythbusters: Misconceptions About How Students Learn

May 4, 2018 by

From the Teach to One blog. This article was written by Gabe DeAngelis and Brad Cameron from the Instructional Content and Progressions team at New Classrooms.

In our jobs at New Classrooms, we are constantly thinking about how to create and refine personalized paths to guide students through the mathematical landscape. This requires us to consider myriad factors—what, where, when, how, and with whom— that shape a student’s learning experience. Often, this means confronting long-held misconceptions about how students learn and ensuring that our program—Teach to One: Math—doesn’t reinforce these myths.

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Just “Let It Go”

May 3, 2018 by

As a personalized learning coach and trainer for Competency Based Education Solutions, I have seen the triumphs and trials of implementing personalized learning. I have heard the following phrases: “this too shall pass” and “I will get on board after my team figures it out.” To this I respond, it’s not about you, it’s not about the history of failed initiatives. Rather, it’s about what is right for students and how to help them to become successful lifelong learners. (more…)

Unpacking Thinking: Empowering Students in Proficiency-Based Education

April 24, 2018 by

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

What does it take for all students to meet high standards? All students, including those with functional and academic disabilities, can meet rigorous standards. All students can be empowered to reach rigorous standards, increase opportunities for growth, and deepen their learning when provided with explicit instruction on how to use the knowledge taxonomy as the foundation. The knowledge taxonomy serves as a resource for students and teachers to clearly map out what students need to do for demonstrating proficiency. (more…)

Three Take-Aways

April 6, 2018 by

The MC community is always digging in to rubrics! Here, teachers take advantage of a bulletin board at KAPPA International to see rubric criteria.

This post and all images originally appeared at Mastery Collaborative on February 27, 2018.

Recently Meredith Matson, Assistant Principal/Mastery rockstar, facilitated a professional development about enriching rubric criteria for the staff at MC Active Member School Urban Assembly School of Design and Construction. Below, three take-aways from Meredith’s session.

1. Rubrics too often contain “laundry-lists.”

Learning tasks should push students to higher-order thinking. Because rubrics guide these tasks, the criteria for mastery should reflect the deep thinking students need to engage in.

Non-example: Cite at least three sources.

Example: Provide sufficient evidence and reasoning to support your claim. (more…)

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