Lingering Questions #2: Flexibility in Instruction and Delivery

July 22, 2013 by

CBE, when done best, requires an interdisciplinary approach to learning, which in turn requires an interdisciplinary approach to teaching. — Jennifer Davis, Innovation Lab Network

This was originally published on the College & Career Readiness & Success blog.

On June 24th, the American Youth Policy Forum and the College and Career Readiness and Success Center at the American Institutes for Research co-hosted a webinar on “State Implications for Competency-based Education Systems.” Presenters included Kate Nielson, Policy Analyst, National Governors Association; Diane Smith, Director, Teaching and Learning Initiative, Oregon Business Education Compact; Sandra Dop, Consultant for 21st Century Skills, Iowa Department of Education; Carissa Miller, Deputy Executive Director, Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). Following the webinar, we collected a series of lingering questions from participants on a range of topics. Their responses to the second of three important questions is below:

Competency-based learning calls for more flexibility in terms of how content is delivered and an emphasis on project-based learning opportunities that often require interdisciplinary approaches. How have states thought about this type of instruction in competency-based systems and what implications might it have for teacher preparation, ongoing professional development, and even teacher credentialing?

Jennifer Davis, Director, Innovation Lab Network, CCSSO (responding in place of Carissa Miller)This question hits the nail on the head – CBE, when done best, requires an interdisciplinary approach to learning, which in turn requires an interdisciplinary approach to teaching.  Many sites implementing CBE have re-defined the role of teachers as “learning facilitators” who work with other teachers in cohorts, camps, or teams that collaborate around the needs of a designated group of students, sometimes following those students from year to year to preserve continuity.  Schools provide time and space for these teachers to plan together, and also often provide coaching to support teachers who are new to the system.  Districts and states have a responsibility to ensure that professional development and teacher preparation programs are reflective of the new roles for educators. Some states are looking to redesign teacher preparation programs in an effort to make them more competency-based.

Diane Smith – This question addresses the sustainability of competency-based practices, ensuring that through recognized licensure pathways, we invest in and create the quality teachers that our students deserve.  With regard to teacher preparation, the teacher preparation programs are finding it difficult to find adequate sites with solid competency-based education practices in place for their student teachers.  Of course, we are not very far down the road in infusing competency-based practices in our pre-service coursework.  This is something that current legislation and motivation is likely to change within the next 2-5 years.  In addition, at the administrator level, one of our state universities offers a course in competency-based education for administrator licensure.  We’re fortunate that the move to competency is happening at a time when schools are embracing learning communities for their teachers, as well as, in some cases, for their students!  When professional growth occurs in a community of learners, there are great strides made and walls are replaced with transparent practices.  We are finding that teachers use our available rubrics to self-evaluate where they are on the journey to understanding and implementing competency-based practices.  Then, either as an individual, department, or team, they advocate for and participate in personalized professional development in the areas in which they need the most growth.  As far as teacher credentialing is concerned, these conversations have occurred only between interested organizations and Schools of Education; no formalized proposals have surfaced.

About the Author

Andrew Valent is a Program Associate at the American Youth Policy Forum. He works on a variety of issues, including afterschool/expanded learning, college and career readiness, and career and technical education and is excited to add competency-based education to the list.

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