CompetencyWorks is an online resource dedicated to providing information and knowledge about competency education in the K-12 education system. Drawing on lessons learned by innovators and early adopters, CompetencyWorks shares original research, knowledge and a variety of perspectives through an informative blog with practitioner knowledge, policy advancements, papers on emerging issues and a wiki with resources curated from across the field. CompetencyWorks also offers a blog on competency education in higher education so that the sectors can learn from each other and begin to align systems across K-12, higher education and the workplace.

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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…)

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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…)

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Seeding the Future of Learning Today – Part 3

January 9, 2019 by

This article is the concluding post in a three-part series by KnowledgeWorks futurist Katherine Prince on the challenges and opportunities emerging in education. Part 1 is here; Part 2 is here.

Ten years ago, competency-based education was just beginning to take hold as a way of preparing all learners for college, career and life. Since that time, the movement has grown steadily, with more schools, districts and states implementing the approach or creating the policy and other conditions necessary for it to spread. The seeds for today’s successes were planted through many people’s past actions.

Similarly, tomorrow’s approaches to learning will have their seeds in the actions that educators and system influencers take today. In the face of ever-greater complexity, education stakeholders need to examine what the changing landscape could mean in their contexts and what futures of learning they would like to see and shape.

This post draws upon KnowledgeWorks’ new 10-year forecast, Navigating the Future of Learning, to explore some critical starting points for responding to the changing landscape today. It builds upon previous posts describing drivers of change that are influencing education and creating possibilities for the future of learning. (more…)

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An Era Shift Creates New Opportunities for Education – Part 2

January 7, 2019 by

This article is the second in a three-part series by KnowledgeWorks futurist Katherine Prince on the challenges and opportunities emerging in education. Part 1 is here; Part 3 is here.

Putting students at the center of learning and pursuing competency-based education is at once an exciting and daunting challenge. Pursuing systems change is hard work. But the shifting climate surrounding education could create new urgency and new opportunity for reorienting learning around mastery and students’ needs.

In my last post, I described five drivers of change that invite educators and system influencers to steer the future of education toward one that supports all learners in thriving amid a rapidly changing world. These drivers of change, and the era shift to which they contribute, are raising big questions for education. They are also raising exciting possibilities for competency-based education and other approaches to learning. (more…)

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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…)

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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.


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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…)

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Wrap-Up on the New Zealand Series

December 31, 2018 by

For those of you thinking about learning about the education system in Aotearoa New Zealand, I’ll offer two pieces of advice. First, beside kia ora (hello), spend time learning a bit about the Māori language and familiarizing yourself with the phrases used at the Ministry of Education. Whanau, Te Marautanga o Aotearoa, and Kāhui Ako will be frequently dropped into conversation. Second, there are loads of great reports on the NZCER website. Take the time to read up before you go. I highly recommend NCEA in Context to understand the reasons and revisions in shaping their method for certifying learning and Ka Whawhai Tonu Matou/Struggle Without End to prepare you to engage effectively in understanding New Zealand’s biculturalism.

Below are all the articles on New Zealand published at CompetencyWorks. I’ll be continuing the series with more school profiles at LearningEdge in 2019. (more…)

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16 Quality Principles to Guide Implementation to Competency-Based Education

December 30, 2018 by

If you are just starting out or are midway in your process of making the transition to personalized, competency-based education, please take the time to read Quality Principles for Competency-Based Education. If you are in planning stages, be sure to read the first section, which is a primer on competency-based education including the flaws in the traditional system. It’s important to understand the problems with the traditional system so you can think about what you need to stop doing as well as what you want to put into place.

The best way to read Quality Principles for Competency-Based Education is either by purchasing the book or printing out the quality principles one at a time. Take the time to write down your questions, engage your peers in conversation about whether you think the quality principle makes sense in terms of helping students to learn, and what you have in place that you can build upon. This isn’t an implementation guidebook, as schools chose different entry points and roll-out strategies. Instead, it’s designed to help you make the shift in thinking from the top-down, time-based traditional system to the empowered, flexible system that is designed to make sure that every student is able to succeed and make progress toward college- and career-ready knowledge and skills.  (more…)

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Competency-Based Education Quality Principle #16: Advance Upon Demonstrated Mastery

December 28, 2018 by

This is the seventeenth article in a series based on the book Quality Principles for Competency-Based Education. You can find the section on Principle #16 Advance Upon Demonstrated Mastery on page 99. The links to the other articles can be found at the bottom of this page.

The mastery-based grading helps me understand what I need to learn or do differently. In the old way, when I got a number, I wouldn’t know what to do differently. With the learning targets, I can make better choices and revise things. Student, Young Women’s Leadership Academy

Advancement upon demonstrated mastery is a multi-layered concept that challenges many of the conventions of traditional schools. Too often it is condensed into a concept of ‘self-pace’ that fails to capture the big idea. In fact, if you think that competency-based education is about self-pace, I recommend that you go back to the beginning of the book Quality Principles for Competency-Based Education and read why the traditional system is failing us and the ten distinguishing features of competency-based education.

Advancement upon demonstrated mastery is better thought of as a culminating capacity that is developed when all the other 15 quality principles are in place. Let’s take a look at the three major capacities that are needed to have students be able to advance upon mastery in a way that is designed so every student is successful. (more…)

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