Category: Understanding Competency Education

Increasing Student Trajectories

November 20, 2012 by

from Making Mastery Work

Students Receive Rapid, Differentiated Support – that’s the fourth element of the working definition of competency education.  Without support, competency education wouldn’t be any different than the traditional A-F system, which tolerates students not learning very much or just enough to pass on to the next grade.

For anyone planning the transition to competency education, an essential step is to have an intentional strategy for providing support. Start by asking yourself two questions:

  • How are we going to support the students that don’t reach proficiency the first time they encounter a new skill or content?
  • What is our strategy for supporting students that enter our school significantly behind or with gaps in their academic skills?

Don’t wait to think about it. You can learn from Andrew Skarzynksi, Principal at Medical Professions and Teacher Preparation Academy:

“In hindsight, we would have spent more time identifying additional instructional opportunities for students, and examining the role of anytime, anyplace education. Due to a variety of factors, such as academic need, different learning backgrounds, and a lack of prior exposure to concepts such as ‘the historian’s craft,’ we discovered a distinct need to increase many students’ learning trajectories. We would now incorporate more alternative learning approaches, such as the flipped classroom and extended day learning. We initially began with a summer academy and realized early on that we need to incorporate more opportunities for ‘any time, any place education.'” (more…)

Mud Season and Modules

November 14, 2012 by

from Making Mastery Work

One of the things that Making Mastery Work: A Close-Up View of Competency Education brings into focus is the number of design choices competency-based schools and districts have in deciding how to shape their models.  For example, there are lots of design choices about time. Yes—all of the schools share a belief that time is a variable and not a constant. Yet, how they begin to create flexible use of time varies substantially.

Below are two examples from Making Mastery Work about how two schools organize time for students.  I realized while preparing this post (ahh, writing is such a great way to force deeper understanding!) that it’s not an issue of just more time or less time, extended or expanded time. There are other dimensions such as constructing “time” for application of learning including project-based, problem-based, and fieldwork.  There are also dimensions about how much time is expected between steps, such as modules, trimesters, semesters, and transitional time to provide flexibility.  It seems to me that we should be able to figure out some common language to expedite our thinking strategically and through multiple dimensions in how we use time.

Casco Bay High School, Portland Maine:  To facilitate student access to the power of collective learning, Casco Bay organizes its students into grade-level cohorts, and its school day has recognizable bell schedule with block periods. The block periods make it possible for students to undertake the deep thinking work required by Expeditions while also providing flexibility to accommodate student learning outside the classroom, such as fieldwork. … At two points during the school year, Casco Bay offers “Intensives” in which students study one topic for a number of days. Intensive topics range from Bridge-Building Engineering to Winter Sports. A smaller portion of students also use this time to continue working toward mastery of learning targets they have not yet achieved. (more…)

Where Do End-of-Course Exams Fit In?

July 19, 2012 by

Ready for the exam

Anyone deep in competency education is probably getting a lot of calls from around the country asking for briefings, and advice about how to move forward. So we are going to start a new category of posts aimed at making sense of competency education. We’ll just call it Understanding Competency Education, and it is designed for people who are just diving into the topic. Quite honestly, it is probably for all of us as our understanding deepens.

 

The first topic is something we are asked about frequently: What is the relationship between competency education and “end-of-course” exams? Does using an end-of-course exam mean that you have implemented competency education? Do you have to use end-of-course exams in a competency education system?

Let’s take this step by step. We are all working together to sharpen our thinking, so please jump in if you think I don’t have this quite right. (more…)

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