Category: K-12 and Higher Education

University of Maine at Presque Isle: Eliminating Remediation

January 27, 2016 by
UMPI President Linda Schott

UMPI President Linda Schott

This post is part of the Maine Road Trip series. This is the last in a three-part series on the University of Maine at Presque Isle. Read the first overview here and the second post on a faculty perspective.

One of the most fascinating discussions that was woven throughout my day at the University of Maine at Presque Isle was about the potential (and issues) of deeper alignment with high schools.

Linda Schott, President of UMPI, pointed out that creating the opportunity for students to build college credit while in high school is very important for their students. “Seventy percent of our students are eligible for PELL. High school students earning college credits are saving a huge amount of money, as the cost to them is $15 per credit instead of $220. For many who are going to be the first in their families to go to college, they are learning that they can do college level work. Dual enrollment helps students financially, can speed up the time to degree completion, and of course we hope that they will want to come to UMPI.”

Ray Rice, Provost, described the changes to dual enrollment in a proficiency-based system with, “We have always organized a little bit of early college and dual enrollment with a few of the districts in the county. With the introduction of proficiency-based learning at UMPI, we are retooling the process to meet the expectations of high quality pedagogy and transparent learning objectives, with the high school teachers becoming adjunct professors. UMPI faculty review the syllabus and the summative assessments as well as norming the rubrics in a process to calibrate at a college level.”

According to Rice, UMPI faculty are learning from high school teachers about practices used in proficiency-based learning and vice versa. In addition, the dual enrollment coordinator is now playing a catalytic role in helping to build up a set of proficiency-based dual enrollment courses. Of the sixteen high schools in the county, UMPI is currently working with five of them. (more…)

UMPI: Faculty Perspective

January 25, 2016 by

Dr. Scott Dobrin, Assistant Professor of Biology

This post is part of the Maine Road Trip series. This is the second in a three-part series on the University of Maine at Presque Isle. Read the first overview here or continue with the third post on eliminating remediation.

During my visit to University of Maine at Presque Isle, I had the chance to meet with Scott Dobrin, an Assistant Professor of Biology, to hear about his experience in moving toward proficiency-based learning. He has been wanting to organize a course that would look at consciousness from several perspectives (such as scientific, philosophical, literary, and psychological) for a while. When the opportunity for designing a proficiency-based course arose, he and Lea Allen, an English professor, proposed designing a course for freshmen on consciousness. The first discussion centered on the question of, “What do we want the students to get out of the course? There is no way they are going to learn everything about consciousness in one semester. So we had to identify the learning objectives that we wanted them to do really well.”

They designed the course by identifying themes, out of which they would then build the text, movies (such as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Matrix), and other activities to engage the students. As students engaged in questions regarding consciousness, they then began to develop presentations to capture their analysis and ideas. Thus, in addition to building a base of knowledge, exploring and analyzing complex issues, students built up the workplace skill of organizing and communicating complex ideas.

Our conversation moved to what is different in his biology classes now that they are proficiency-based. As Dobrin put it, “The pedagogy shows you that lecture doesn’t work well. Proficiency-based learning is about students being active and engaged. So now my classrooms are much more about activity than pure lecture. I use the flipped classroom and then develop ways for students to be active in the classroom. My classroom is totally different.” He noted that he hasn’t been able to find all the videos he needed, so he has been making his own videos that are organized to be more “bite-sized and streamlined.” He pointed out, “I tell my students that there is zero possibility for you to be a passive learner in this classroom and get anything out of it. You need to participate and stay on top of things.” (more…)

University of Maine at Presque Isle: Moving at the Speed of Light

January 20, 2016 by

Speed of LightThis post is part of the Maine Road Trip series. This is the first in a three-part series on the University of Maine at Presque Isle. Continue reading with the second post on UMPI faculty perspective and the third on insight into eliminating remediation.

I’m a newbie when it comes to understanding competency education in institutions of higher education (IHE). At the highest level, competency education is the same for higher education as it is for K-12. However, the policy and market context are so, so, so different that I tend to listen carefully for the variations. Furthermore, most IHE are creating competency-based programs to expand the options available for students.

Not so at the University of Maine at Presque Isle. This college is turning proficiency-based from top to bottom (or at least as far as the policy constraints will allow). And they are doing so “at light speed.” What this means is that in a few years, when you travel beyond the end of US 95, you will find what I think will be the first aligned proficiency-based K-12/higher education system. I’m getting goose bumps just writing this! [Note: Given that Maine has a catalytic policy to introduce proficiency-based diplomas across the state, UMPI uses the term proficiency-based, whereas the phrase competency-based is generally used in higher education.] (more…)

‘Student Agency’ Is Not Something You Give or Take

November 11, 2015 by

StepsThis post originally appeared at EdSurge on October 16, 2015.

I feel strange saying that I, a Davidson College Junior named Andrew, have obtained ‘Student Agency.’ Does that make me a ‘Student Agent,’ a sort of James Bond of the educational Free Will? Does that mean I can drop out? Have I made it?

Well, no. I haven’t made it. Because ‘agency’ is a capacity that you never stop developing. You can’t obtain it and you can’t take it away. Education can encourage or discourage ‘agency,’ but education cannot eliminate or provide it. I make this point because ‘student agency’ is often paired with phrases like “the flipped classroom” and “active versus passive learning.” These phrases suggest that agency is a flippable switch: Yesterday, my professor was an onerous, tweed-coated, lecture-giver; today, with an iPad, and an unanticipated boost in self-discipline, I barely even need her!

We can’t continue to frame agency as something that educators give to students. That feeds into the old model of knowledge transmission, where educators stand up and give information to students. Developing ‘agency’, on the other hand, is a collaborative effort where both parties stand to gain (and lose). Collaboration, then, is fundamentally about a relationship between two (or more) equals. As such, ‘agency’ demands a couple of things: individualization, relationship, and equality.

This is important because it lets us see the revolution in education as something more than a couple of quick, life-changing clicks and tips. You can’t just flip the classroom. Developing a student’s capacity to be an ‘agent’ is a horribly difficult, complicated, and personal work. It’s unquantifiable and un-MOOCable. It’s very nearly an art; It’s almost moral; and I believe it is the central role of the educator.

So let’s say this moral, artistic, deeply personal act is part of the educator’s purpose. If it is, I’d like to speak to the way that a group of brilliant, revolutionary educators are cultivating ‘Student Agency’ in me: (more…)

Alternative Credential Adoption in Higher Ed

August 31, 2015 by
Kristi DePaul

Kristi DePaul

This post originally appeared at Next Generation Learning Challenges on August 21, 2015.

Nanodegrees. Microcredentials. Digital badging.

Whatever you might call them, various types of alternative credentials have gone mainstream in many areas outside of academia. Professional associations, industry organizations, and nonprofits have embraced them as a way for members and patrons to demonstrate participation in certain activities or in completing training modules. They are a visual, verifiable answer to “show me what you know,” as employers increasingly seek out hires whose skillsets can be proven rather than merely listed on a résumé.

Many discussions have arisen regarding modularized education and the technology required to support it, such as those resulting from the Next Generation Digital Learning Environment report, which was released by EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative this past spring. Institutions that offer alternative credentials would allow individuals to show knowledge acquisition in niche areas, codifying achievements that previously went unacknowledged as part of a greater whole (the ‘traditional credential’).

Earning an alternative credential, however, remains a bold new frontier for many traditional degree-granting institutions. (more…)

Going International: A Report from Mexico on Competency Education

August 28, 2015 by

EduTrends ReportIn case you missed it and want some end-of-summer reading . . . Mexico’s Observatory of Educational Innovation, Tecnologico de Monterrey, released an EduTrends report in February 2015 titled Competency Based Education, which focuses on higher education, yet many of its concepts apply more globally to K-12 models as well. The publication provides an overview of competency education, describes the changing role of the educator, illustrates international case studies, and analyzes the future of competency education as a learning architecture.

As the graphic below depicts, there is tremendous simplicity in the report’s description of competency-based education as a model that is: 1) centered on the student; 2) focused on mastery of competencies; and 3) based on learning outcomes. The learning outcomes are central to the model and essential to each student’s learning, and time for achieving each learning outcome is variable. This model of education portrays the acquisition of knowledge as the most important attribute of the learning process, not rote memorization nor hours invested.

CBE Model

In addition, the report utilizes the iNACOL/CCSSO/CompetencyWorks five-part definition of competency-based education, demonstrating our widespread reach and global impact on the field. In March 2011, iNACOL and CCSSO brought together 100 leaders in education to establish the following key design principles of competency education: (more…)

Re-Thinking Assets in Competency-Based Transcripts

July 21, 2015 by

ClassroomOne of the opportunities that emerges in competency education (or competency-based education in the world of higher education) is to revise the transcript – both high school and college – to reflect the competencies that students have developed. This can include academic, technical, and the personal traits (habits of learning & work) that students have demonstrated. The Great Schools Partnership has worked with states, districts, and New England college admission directors to develop a prototype proficiency-based transcript. In addition, according to Inside Higher Ed, “The Lumina Foundation has kicked in $1.27 million for NASPA to partner with the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) to explore how to collect, document and distribute information about student learning and ‘competencies,’ including what is gleaned outside of the traditional academic classroom.”

At the high school level, the emphasis has been on developing a proficiency-based transcript that would be accepted by and helpful to the admission process. At the college level, the focus is on creating a transcript that would tell the story of an individual’s overall skills to an employer. For example, we can anticipate that new transcripts might expand to include digital badging so students can demonstrate their credentials or micro-credentials specifically related to technical skills.

This is also an opportunity for us to begin to re-think how we define assets. Our focus on college and career readiness in the K12 sector and the tightening of the pipeline from college into the workplace in higher education has expanded to think more broadly than just academic and technical skills. We now recognize that those “soft skills” that are so hard to develop – such as creativity, collaboration, communication, and problem-solving as well as the personal traits such as persistence – are equally important. (more…)

High Schools May Be Competency-Based Without Knowing It?

April 25, 2015 by

StudentsDoes your high school offer Advanced Placement or IB tests? If so, you may be participating in a form of competency-based education in the higher education sector.

In his The Landscape of Competency-Based Education: Enrollments, Demographics and Affordability, Robert Kelchen includes AP and IB as a form of Prior Learning Assessment. Kelchen breaks down higher education competency-based education into two forms:

  1. Well-established prior learning assessments (PLA), which grant credits for content a student has previously mastered; and
  2. Newer competency-based coursework, where students progress toward a degree as they demonstrate mastery of new academic content.

I want to emphasize that these two forms apply to higher education. In K12, we are seeing the phrase competency education apply to everything from self-paced online curriculum to the full structural changes as advanced here at CompetencyWorks, which are designed to correct the low achievement and inequity of the traditional time-based system. We don’t think about giving credits to kindergartners who already know how to count to fifty when they enter school, instead focusing on where they are on a very long progression and making sure they are learning in their “zone” (as in, the zone of proximal development). (more…)

Green Light for New Hampshire

March 5, 2015 by

Green LightCongratulations to New Hampshire! The U.S. Department of Education has approved New Hampshire to use performance-based assessments in four districts that have been part of PACE.PACE is developing:

  • common performance tasks that have high technical quality,
  • locally designed performance tasks with guidelines for ensuring high technical quality,
  • regional scoring sessions and local district peer review audits to ensure sound accountability systems and high inter-rater reliability,
  • a web-based bank of local and common performance tasks, and
  • a regional support network for districts and schools.

NH will be using SBAC for some grade and the performance assessments for others. New Hampshire plans to expand PACE to eight districts next year.

This is an enormous step forward to building out the systems of assessments that emphasizes higher order skills by using performance assessments. More to come later!


Don’t Capitulate to the Credit Hour, Recreate It

February 24, 2015 by

CompetencyTimeThis post originally appeared at the Christensen Institute on February 23, 2015.

Last month, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching released a report titled “The Carnegie Unit: A Century-Old Standard in a Changing Education Landscape.” Chris Sturgis of CompetencyWorks reacted quickly by authoring two fantastic blogs that analyze and criticize the report’s defensive and reactionary take on the Carnegie unit.

Sturgis’s remarks are on point. Given that it’s been a month since the report appeared, I didn’t want to rehash her thorough criticisms, but instead add the below points to the conversation, particularly as they relate to competency-based approaches in K–12 education.

The result of a two-year study, the report examines the history of the century-old Carnegie Unit and its impact on education reform in K–12 and higher education. Although the authors acknowledge that time is not necessarily the best metric for learning, the report grasps continuously at the virtues of the credit hour. As Sturgis aptly pointed out, the paper seems to ignore that the Carnegie unit is—like Carnegie’s very own steel mills and library buildings—manmade. Instead, it treats this artifact as something of an inevitability in a functioning education system. Indeed, the authors are correct that entire systems for funding, tracking, and measuring attendance are tied to the Carnegie Unit. Yet this does not mean that, as is alluded to throughout, the credit hour ought to maintain a life of its own. The researchers also take pains to insist that the Carnegie Unit grounds certain normative values—particularly equity—that are central to American values. Yet, they rarely pause to consider that the credit hour has only been a background condition as those norms have evolved: it is not necessarily the lever making equity possible, but instead a firmly fixed feature of a system that has begun to care deeply about equity only in recent decades. (more…)

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