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Entry Points: Moving Toward Equity-Oriented Practice

January 14, 2019 by

This is the second post in a ten-part series that aims to make concepts, themes and strategies described in the Moving Toward Mastery report accessible and transferable. The introduction to the series is here.

“In an equity-focused profession, all aspects of practice are designed to ensure success for all learners. Teachers create multicultural and inclusive learning environments and are members of multicultural and inclusive professional communities. They investigate and address their biases and work in partnership with the community to disrupt systemic inequity.” – Moving Toward Mastery, page 21

Almost all competency-based schools and districts would tell you that they are working to close opportunity and achievement gaps to help every child thrive. And yet, while there are examples of progress, equity is far from a reality. Why? That’s a complicated question, but part of the answer has to be about teachers. We can’t get to equity without helping teachers develop the competencies to promote equity every day, with every child.

You might read this and think, “Ok, sure, but how? And, is equity really something that can be taught?” I believe that it is possible for adults to “learn” the mindsets and skill sets needed for equity if they are committed to doing so and if they are supported along the way. What does it look like to be committed? For teachers, it means doing deep personal work that will sometimes be difficult, though ultimately rewarding. For leaders, it means creating the conditions in which teachers can engage in this reflection, addressing systemic inequities and integrating equity into teacher training, hiring, professional learning, evaluation and advancement.

So, what might equity-oriented teaching look like, and how can you cultivate equity-oriented teaching in your school or district? The next three paragraphs paint a vision of what equity-oriented practice would look like. After that, I offer tools to help leaders and teachers assess equity practices in their school or district and identify entry points for action. (more…)

Introducing Moving Toward Mastery

January 11, 2019 by

In November, iNACOL published Moving Toward Mastery: Growing, Developing, and Sustaining Educators for Competency-Based Education. The report grew from a collaboration with educators, leaders, policymakers, and advocates across the country. When I set out on this project I asked dozens of these leaders to help define the “why.” This is what I heard.

To grow competency-based education, help teachers. The competency-based education movement has invested a lot of energy describing changes to the student experience, and how to get there. We can do the same for teachers. While many organizations have drafted teacher competency frameworks – a critical starting point – we can do more to clarify the how. How can teachers shift their practice? How can leaders support them? How will policies and systems need to adapt?

Support teachers, and transform teaching. We have pockets of success. What we need is systems change. Educators and leaders across the country are doing amazing work to shift teaching practices in alignment with competency-based education. But for the most part, our public education system still relies on traditional approaches. Many of us are asking for change within systems that uphold the status quo. Asking educators to make the transition to competency-based practices in spite of outdated systems and policies creates obstacles, even for those who are change-ready educators. And, it discourages others from even trying.

To shift practice, shift mindsets and beliefs. Changing teaching practices is very complex. But as much as these changes require technical clarity and precision, they also require changes in mindsets, beliefs and values. Leaders in the field are emphatic about the importance of the adaptive elements of change: clarifying the why, engaging teachers and families as leaders in the work and creating space and time for teachers and leaders to develop new beliefs and mindsets. (more…)

Webinar on Developing and Sustaining Educators for Competency-Based Education (January 9, 2pm ET)

January 5, 2019 by

iNACOL WebinarPlease join us for a webinar focused on rethinking the educator workforce, on January 9 from 2:00-3:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

The webinar is based on iNACOL’s new publication, Moving Toward Mastery: Growing, Developing and Sustaining Educators for Competency-Based Education, which re-envisions professional practice, learning, and development for educators in competency-based education. (more…)

An Era Shift Raises Big Questions for Education – Part 1

January 4, 2019 by

This article is the first in a three-part series by KnowledgeWorks futurist Katherine Prince on the challenges and opportunities emerging in education.

Educators have a lot to do, and they face many immediate and pressing demands related to supporting learners. Stepping out of the day-to-day to look 10 years into the future may feel like a luxury of time they can ill afford.

Taking that time, however, is crucial. It is important for educators to pause and consider how the world is changing and how those changes could affect learning. Moreover, educators should prepare to help lead the way as we all navigate the murky territory of moving toward a future of learning that can help all learners thrive.

As colleagues and I forecast in KnowledgeWorks’ latest comprehensive 10-year forecast, Navigating the Future of Learning, we are in the midst of an era shift that is changing how we relate with one another, our institutions and even with ourselves. People are interacting with smart devices – such as our mobile phones, voice-controlled personal assistants and the code that powers all those machines – in new and ever-deepening ways. Over the next decade, many facets of our lives will be affected by exponential advances in technology and by the social and economic changes that are accompanying them.

(more…)

Introducing the New CompetencyWorks Director

January 1, 2019 by
Eliot, Students, and Son in 2006

With my students and my son in 2006

When I was a high school teacher, a wonderful student of mine scored too low on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery to achieve his dream of joining the Army. His IEP included reading issues, and English was his second language, although he spoke it fluently. Disappointed but undeterred, he landed a job in security services and later became my first student to earn a college degree—in criminal justice. Now at age 30, he is still doing great. Maybe the ASVAB didn’t fully capture his abilities?

Many CompetencyWorks readers are determined to transform the education system so that every student has what they need to develop their full capacities. That determination is why I’m thrilled to be iNACOL’s new Research Director, with oversight of CompetencyWorks as one of my exciting projects.

My personal voyage to iNACOL has been circuitous. After earning degrees in electrical engineering and psychology, I transitioned to the field of education with a summer doing outreach to street children in Guatemala City and my dissertation on Latino parents’ involvement in Boston elementary schools.

For my post doc, I researched the intensively student-centered learning approach of the Met School in Providence, Rhode Island and wrote a book about them. Impressed by their work, I then went to work for the organization that was spreading their model nationally (Big Picture Learning) and then became a teacher at the Met School for four years. (The photo accompanying this post shows me and a few of my students on graduation day, plus my son, who is a couple feet taller now.) (more…)

Changes at CompetencyWorks

December 10, 2018 by

Chris Sturgis

Oh, I have such mixed feelings. I’ll be leaving CompetencyWorks at the end of December and my emotions are all atwitter.

I’m thrilled with how the field of competency education has advanced over the past eight years and how much we have learned. I’m proud of what CompetencyWorks and the incredible network of leaders from districts and schools across the country have accomplished. I’m excited for the next stage of work to modernize schools. And I’m a bit heartbroken about leaving CompetencyWorks.

However, I’m not leaving our work. You can find me at LearningEdge. I know I’ll keep learning and writing. I’ll continue to collaborate with those of you leading the field. And I’ll be consulting and seeking opportunities to integrate knowledge about how to modernize schools so we can make it easier and easier for education leaders to understand and implement high quality models.

What’s Going to Happen to CompetencyWorks? (more…)

Do You Have Questions About Quality Principles?

December 4, 2018 by

CompetencyWorks is hosting a webinar on Quality Principles for Competency-Based Education with Chris Sturgis and Katherine Casey, December 12, 2-3pm ET. Register here.

Competency-Based Education Quality Principle #9: Ensure Responsiveness

November 30, 2018 by

This is the tenth article in a series based on the book Quality Principles for Competency-Based Education. You can find the section on Principle #9 Ensure Responsiveness on page 66. The links to the other articles can be found at the bottom of this page and will be updated as they are posted.

We don’t blink if you are at the second-grade level when you are in the fourth grade. If teachers really understand the standards and the progressions that are needed to help students move, then we can bridge the gaps. We don’t pretend anymore that students can do higher level work if they don’t have the prerequisites. It makes teaching much more complex as we are teaching students, not just going through a curriculum. Jennifer Denny, Teacher, Red Bank Elementary School, Lexington School District, SC, 2016. (more…)

A Conversation with Bob Lenz About Project-Based Learning and CBE

November 26, 2018 by

Although I’ve known of the outstanding work of the Buck Institute for Education for over 25 years, I’ve never had a chance to meet the leadership team. Thus, I was delighted to grab an hour with Executive Director Bob Lenz at iNACOL18.

The world of project-based learning (PBL) shares a common challenge with competency-based education (CBE): quality. PBL has been growing its field in a sustained way for decades, with the efforts of the Hewlett deeper learning initiatives bringing an increase of attention. CBE, with roots that stretch back into the 1960s, only started to operate as a field in 2011. In the CBE world, the quality issues are looming so large that it could cause our momentum to buckle.

One of the challenges the field of PBL faces is to get greater clarity on what high quality PBL means in a world where anything that that actively engages students can be called a project or PBL. This has direct implications for schools that are becoming competency-based, as we need to make sure all students have opportunities for deeper learning. A hands-on activity just isn’t the same as deeper learning. Thus, PBL’s quality challenge is our quality challenge.

Below are some of my takeaways from my conversation with Lenz about PBL and its intersection with CBE. (more…)

Re-Envisioning Professional Learning in Competency-Based Education

November 8, 2018 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…)

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