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CompetencyWorks is an online resource dedicated to providing information and knowledge about competency-based 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.

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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.

(more…)

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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 of 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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Competency-Based Education Quality Principle #15: Develop Processes for Ongoing Continuous Improvement and Organizational Learning

December 27, 2018 by

This is the sixteenth article in a series based on the book Quality Principles for Competency-Based Education. You can find the section on Principle #15 Develop Processes for Ongoing Continuous Improvement and Organizational Learning on page 96. The links to the other articles can be found at the bottom of this page and will be updated as they are posted.

I think that one can argue that every school, whether it is a traditional school or a personalized, competency-based one, should have processes for continuous improvement in place. It only makes sense that any organization should be in the process of improving. However, traditional schools and school systems are highly bureaucratic in nature. The emphasis is much more on compliance than it is on an organizational drive toward excellence.

Our schools operate in an environment with layers and layers of policy, regulation, and reporting. These layers and layers of governance often create cultures of fear and mistrust. Thus, creating a strong continuous improvement and organizational learning culture, structure, and processes requires leadership. It may be the personal leadership of a teacher who uses formative assessment data to improve his own skills in learning how to help students develop the metacognitive and emotional skills to self-regulate their thinking and behavior. It may be the departmental leader who looks deeply at the data to identify that there are gaps in the domain-specific instructional approaches of teachers. Or it may be the organizational leadership of the principal or the superintendent who takes the courageous stance that they are going to do what’s best for students and manage the compliance requirements as needed.

The point is: In a bureaucratic world, truly engaging in organizational learning and continuous improvement can’t be separated from leadership. (more…)

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Competency-Based Education Quality Principle #14: Increase Organizational Flexibility

December 21, 2018 by

This is the fifteenth article in a series based on the book Quality Principles for Competency-Based Education. You can find the section on Principle #14 Increase Organizational Flexibility on page 92. The links to the other articles can be found at the bottom of this page and will be updated as they are posted.

This structural quality principle about Organizational Flexibility goes hand-in-hand with the pedagogical Principle #9 Responsiveness. It comes down to this: We can’t expect teachers to be able to be responsive to meet students’ needs based on where they are unless the school has been designed to be flexible. For example, in today’s traditional environment, teachers have to purchase many of their own learning resources because the budgeting policies and practices are rigidly run by the district. If teachers are going to be able to respond to where students’ wonder, curiosity, and intellectual passions take them, they are going to need resource allocation operations that can turn on a dime. (more…)

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