Tag: communication strategies

Strategic Reflection on the Field of Competency Education: Future Action

September 25, 2017 by

Photo by Allison Shelley/The Verbatim Agency for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action

In this fifth post on our annual strategic reflection. Click here for the discussion on our progress, the growing number of organizations and literature in the field, and our lessons learned. You can hear the entire webinar on this topic here.

We use the term charting the course to discuss what needs to happen to develop the most effective competency-based systems possible, support its expansion, and shape the context that will make it sustainable. It’s pretty easy to list all the problems and issues that need to be worked through, but it’s a lot harder to think about how to do that in a way that is consistent with the values of competency education, builds the capacity and leadership of the field, leverages current organizations and infrastructure so that more than one piece of the puzzle is put into place at a time – and does all of this with limited resources.

Below are a number of the things we think are high priority to tackle – and hope it will catalyze conversation about how we do that so that several can be addressed or reinforced by initiatives.

1. Strengthen diversity in the field.

2. Strengthen the working definition and create logic model.

3. Improve communication strategies targeted to different stakeholders

4. Build shared understanding of quality. Tools to support learning across schools and communities of practice.

5. Engaging higher education and colleges of education to:

  • Prepare leaders and educators for personalized, competency-based systems.
  • Build bridges across K-12 and higher education to address college admissions issues including ranking by GPA.
  • Build aligned understanding of credentialing learning with proficiency-based diplomas and multiple pathways.

6. Shift district top-down policies to more bottom-up or co-design in order to support greater school autonomy.

7. Generate demand for the information management systems for CBE models and student-centered learning.

There are also a number of things we need to pay attention to in order to improve teaching and learning within CBE schools: (more…)

Strategic Reflection on the Field of Competency Education: Emerging Issues

August 25, 2017 by

Photo by Allison Shelley/The Verbatim Agency for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action

In this fourth post on our annual strategic reflection, the focus will be on emerging issues. Click here for the discussion on our progress, the growing number of organizations and literature in the field, and our lessons learned. You can hear the entire webinar on this topic here.

As you probably know if you follow along on CompetencyWorks, we identified four important challenges that we need to fully understand and address if competency education is going to be fully effective and become the backbone of the new education system. These four issues – equity, quality, meeting students where they are, and policy that is fit for purpose – were deeply explored at the National Summit on K-12 Competency-Based Education from January – June 2017 with revised papers to be released by the end of this year. You can also find articles on these issues starting here.

At the Summit, we also spent some time talking about emerging issues. Of course, what may be an emerging issue for one person may be a been-around-for-some-time frustrating issue for another. Furthermore an issue may be emerging in one place in the country, but others will have made significant headway (and are hopefully sharing their insights on CompetencyWorks). So it may be better to think of these as challenging issues.

What makes an issue challenging? I think they aren’t easily resolved because they are beyond our experience in some way. Either we don’t have enough knowledge (either research-based or implementation knowledge); they require us to be operating deeply within the new sets of values, assumptions, and beliefs when we still are wearing blinders that cause us to analyze situations through the traditional lens; or they are bigger than any one of us and require strategic collective action.

As you look at this list of challenging issues, do you have something to help understand the issue or resolve it? If so, please do let us know.

1. What Research and Evaluation is Needed to Advance Competency-Based Education? We need to make sure that we are operating on the best evidence about learning, systems, and implementation. What is known and what isn’t? What type of research and evaluation might help us improve competency-based models? What is needed to ensure that we are going in the right direction?

2. How Can Technology Best Support Competency-Based Education? Technology can be used in many ways to support students, parents, teachers, principals, and districts. How can technology can be used to support competency-based education? What is state-of-the-art in terms of student information management systems that support student learning? What are advancements in resolving interoperability challenges?

3. How Can We Build the Critical Elements in Building Balanced Systems of Assessments for Personalized, Competency-Based Education? We know that we need to re-orient systems of assessment to be contributing to the cycle of student learning and organizational learning (i.e., continuous improvement). What are the critical elements of what is needed in balanced systems of assessments that reflect the principles of personalized, competency-based education? What will it take, and who can we learn from in developing and implementing these elements?

4. What Do We Know about Changing Mindsets? If everyone needs to develop a new mindset that believes students and adults can all grow and learn, if everyone needs to shake off old beliefs about learning and learn to make decisions based on the learning sciences, are there ways that we can do this more quickly and easily? We need to share ideas and resources about how to help teachers, parents, students, and community members make the paradigm or mindset shift to competency-based education and personalized learning more easily. What is the wish list of tools, resources, and training to support districts and schools in this important step toward building a competency-based system? (more…)

Strategic Reflection on the Field of Competency Education: Lessons Learned

by

Courtesy of Allison Shelley/The Verbatim Agency for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action

In this third post on our annual strategic reflection, the focus will be on how our understanding of competency education is deepening (i.e., lessons learned). Click here for the discussion on our progress and the growing number of organizations and literature in the field. You can hear the entire webinar on this topic here.

When it comes to competency education, everyone is learning. Below are just a few of the areas around which our learning has been deepening over the past year. We are very interested in what you are learning. Please leave comments or consider writing an article on three things you learned about competency education this year. 

1. Developing diverse leadership requires intentionality and changes in practice and processes. As a field, we got off to a bad start in terms of diversity with way too many meetings and panels that were filled with white people relatively comfortable with the fact that we were missing critical expertise and perspectives. At CompetencyWorks, we’ve been working hard to correct that situation, including ensuring that the Summit reflected the beautiful diversity of America. We surpassed our goals and learned a lot along the way. To sum it up – we had to change our processes and had to keep the commitment to diversity front and center in our decision-making. I’ll write more about this later.

2. Invest in building the culture as much as the structure. Agency and empowerment matter. We’ve known the culture of competency education is important. I used to call it the spirit of CBE. At the Summit, there was consensus in the group working on the issues related to quality that we can build a perfect technical CBE structure, but if it is rooted in the traditional culture, there is no reason to believe that there will be changes. Thus, CBE is both a cultural and structural transformation (and still requires effective instruction, by the way!). We will now start thinking and learning about what really goes into this culture and how schools are making the cultural shift. One thing we know is that it requires a commitment to equity and inclusivity.

3. We need to be able to directly confront the institutional practices and bias that leads to inequity. During the Summit process, we did a lot of research on equity, and the participatory Technical Advisory Group process introduced us to even more. We realized that you can design for a more fair system but it requires more than that. First, we have to make sure we are drawing from all the research on how to best serve students who have been historically underserved into the core instructional practices, not as add-ons. Second, it’s not just about doing the right thing. We also have to dig out the problematic practices in the institutions and be upfront that we all have biases that shape our behaviors and decisions. By committing to air out biases, we can engage in conversations that don’t have to be colored by shame, but by the shared exhilaration of working together against racism and other isms.

4. Pedagogy first – if there is a shared understanding of the principles of learning and teaching based on the learning sciences, every part of implementation will go easier. As I wrote in the paper Implementing Competency Education in K-12 Systems, schools that convert to competency education begin to focus on aligning and improving instruction, learning experiences (curriculum), and assessment soon after they build a shared and transparent continuum of learning. However, we have discovered that some schools clarify their pedagogy – creating a shared understanding of the principles of teaching and learning based on learning sciences (including engagement and motivation) – before they convert to competency education. They begin the commitment to doing what is best for kids by leading with instruction and assessment – the core function of schools. It’s much easier to understand and value CBE when the district or school shares the commitment to doing what is best for kids in the classroom. (more…)

Looking Back at Mastery Week

August 24, 2017 by

Thanks to Springpoint, Mastery Collaborative, Great Schools Partnership, KnowledgeWorks, NGLC, and all the other great organizations that participated in last week’s Mastery Week. It was a whirlwind of ideas and resources…and to be honest, I’m still processing it all.

Here is a quick guide to all the resources that were generated:

In addition to these articles, I put together my thoughts in Competency Education and the Complicated Task of Communicating after reading the New York Times article on mastery-based education. I discuss the challenges we have in communicating the big ideas when critics may be using lenses that are different than our own or operating on little or no experience in competency-based schools. (more…)

Five Examples of Effective School Communication Strategies, on Five Different Platforms

August 18, 2017 by

This post originally appeared on KnowledgeWorks’ site, here.

Communicating effectively to people throughout your school district presents several challenges. What’s your message, who needs to hear what and, more and more, what vehicle is the most appropriate for each message. As digital platforms proliferate, things can be both quicker and easier. The challenge remains as it always has, though: how do you make best use of the marketing vehicle to deliver your message?

Read about five examples of school districts effectively sharing their stories using very different marketing tools:

  1. District Website:

Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) reaches 35,000 students and their families, staff and community partners with their easy-to-use website. While a website is a must-have for any school district, a good website is more difficult to achieve. That is especially the case when you’re providing information to so many people about more than 50 schools. So what makes the CPS site stand out?

  • The design is bright and clean with lots of photography. That combination makes you want to spend more time on the site.
  • The web architecture, or how the information is organized, is done in as few broad categories as possible. This means fewer links cluttering up the navigation, as well as few clicks as possible to find what you need.
  • The most important information – a login access point and an index of CPS site – is accessible through omnipresent links that float along the right-hand side of the site.

Visit the CPS website and see how they’re taking advantage of web communications for their district.

  1. Classic School Building and Classroom Signs:

Garfield County School District 16 is communicating expectations to students and their families, as well as school staff, using signs throughout the schools in their district. Colorfully decorated bulletin boards in hallways and classrooms aren’t necessarily innovative, but the transparency of expectations at Garfield 16 is helping transform the district to be more student-centered and transparent.

Students at Garfield 16 are introduced to five habits of a learner that the district refers to as CRISP (collaboration, responsibility, inquiry, service and perseverance) and evidence of these habits are prominently displayed in hallways on different signs. While the communication may seem simple, it’s working.

“Students can be heard using CRISP language and holding each other accountable to being a Crew member,” KnowledgeWorks Director of Teaching and Learning Abbie Forbussaid.

Learn more about CRISP and how Garfield 16 approaches making students owners of their own learning experiences. (more…)

Competency Education and the Complicated Task of Communicating

August 17, 2017 by

Did you see that competency education (the same as mastery-based education) was mentioned in the New York Times? In some ways it is a very helpful article to introduce people to the idea of competency education, highlighting students taking ownership, students engaging more, the opportunity for students to really learn or master the skills and content before moving on, and the focus on growth.

Yet the article also includes examples of the difficulty we are facing in communicating what competency education is about, what it means to have a high quality competency-based school, and the noise from some of the critics. Below is a sample of the conversation I had with the author (in my mind, of course) while reading the article.

Instruction

One of the issues we are facing is that although competency education is primarily a cultural and structural shift, it also has implications for instruction. We know that instruction matters – it matters a lot. You can have strong instructional practices or weak instructional practices in a school. You can have some teachers with strong professional knowledge or some with weak professional knowledge in a school.

What competency education does is creates a structure by which teachers are talking with each other about what it means to have a student become proficient, aligning their assessments and instructional strategies, and exploring what is working and what isn’t working to help each and every student reach proficiency. Competency education, when well implemented, should be igniting the professional learning of the educators.

Competency education does introduce a few important implications for instruction and assessment:

  • Students need to be active learners with opportunity to apply their learning to new contexts (this is what makes it about competencies and not just standards). This means there also need to be assessment strategies that assess students at higher levels of Bloom’s taxonomy (i.e., performance-based assessment).
  • Instructional strategies need to meet students where they are. Yes, we want to think about grade level standards AND we want to think about where students’ performance levels are and where they have gaps. Then using their professional knowledge and taking into consideration the needs of other students and resources, educators work with students to develop strategies that will help them progress.
  • To the degree possible, summative assessments should be aligned with the depth of knowledge and the learning goals of the students. This may mean organizing assessments to be “just-in-time” with students bringing forward evidence of their learning. A student who has completed a unit at the beginning of the week and believes they have fully learned the material shouldn’t have to wait until the end of the month to move on to higher level work. In other learning experiences, there is going to be value in students working on a large project all with the same due date. But when the curriculum can be organized into more modular units, it opens the door to more flexibility for students.

When I see something like “students work at their own pace through worksheets, online lessons and in small group discussions with teachers” I get worried that either the school isn’t offering enough applied learning opportunities or we aren’t communicating what is happening instructionally in the classroom. First of all, students should know where they are on their own learning paths. Second, teachers are offering instruction through several methods, including individual and small groups, online videos they have made, or perhaps online instruction. In most, most but not all, of the classrooms I have visited, students talk about the use of online adaptive programs as how they practice. Most will say they prefer to learn about new material from their teacher or from a video their teacher made. Third, there will often be choices about how students practice and then demonstrate their learning. Worksheets might be one of them, and I’ve seen students playing games to practice and build math and vocabulary fluency, working on projects, writing essays, and engaging in large, inquiry-based projects that will wrap-up with a presentation. (more…)

Welcome to Mastery Communications Week!

August 14, 2017 by

Educators implementing mastery-based learning can enumerate a list of priorities to conquer. But all too often the strategy for communicating what mastery means for students, families, and community partners can be left until the end, or ignored all together. Mastery-based learning — also known as competency-based education (CBE) — has the potential to transform how students learn content and acquire skills. Messaging this fundamental truth is key to building understanding, garnering buy in, and implementing a successful mastery-based system.

That’s why Springpoint has joined forces with national partners and schools to present Mastery Communications Week — five days devoted to exploring how to communicate about mastery that starts today.

We’ve partnered with Great Schools Partnership, Mastery Collaborative, Next Generation Learning Challenges, KnowledgeWorks, iNACOL, and CompetencyWorks to share expertise around some of the most common questions about mastery communications. Throughout this week, principals, teachers, students, district leaders, community partners, and parents will share their experiences with mastery and their role in ensuring that it supports and accelerates student learning. We hope this compilation of best practices, tools, tips, ideas, and open questions can spark an insightful conversation and prove useful for educators and school leaders as they prepare to engage key stakeholders on all things mastery in the coming school year.

Defining Mastery-Based Education

To communicate effectively about mastery, educators first must get clear on their own working definition. While mastery can mean many things to different people, we generally cite CompetencyWorks’ five elements:

  1. Students advance upon demonstrated mastery.
  2. Competencies include explicit, measurable, transferable learning objectives that empower students.
  3. Assessment is meaningful and a positive learning experience for students.
  4. Students receive timely, differentiated support based on their individual learning needs.
  5. Learning outcomes emphasize competencies that include application and creation of knowledge, along with the development of important skills and dispositions.

(more…)

Mastery Communications Week Launches on Monday #masteryweek

August 11, 2017 by

What is competency education? To answer this question, we need to have strong communication strategies and messages.

To help us improve our communication strategies, Springpoint Schools (along with Great Schools Partnership, New York City’s Mastery Collaborative, Next Generation Learning Challenges, KnowledgeWorks, Getting Smart, reDesign, CompetencyWorks, and iNACOL) has organized Mastery Week. Throughout this week, we will be shining the spotlight on insights and best practices on communications regarding competency education. (See the flyer on Mastery Week for more information)

There will be digital sharing and online collaboration that can help schools and districts develop their communications plans. Each day during Mastery Week, our Mastery Week site will feature an article from one organization on a specific area of mastery communications. You’ll also find stories and resources from practitioners that illuminate successful approaches. We encourage everyone to share useful content and join the conversation on social media and other platforms.

Here is the schedule:

Monday’s Focus is on Resources: The welcome post on the Mastery Week website will explain the mechanics of the week, discussing resources that can help schools communicate with diverse stakeholders. There will also be five questions for engaging teachers and students.

Tuesday’s Focus is on Post-Secondary Institutions: The Great Schools Partnership will discuss communicating with postsecondary institutions and engaging with parents around what mastery means for their students’ postsecondary opportunities with five questions to engage college admissions experts.

Wednesday’s Focus is on Equity: The Mastery Collaborative will explain how a clear mission with an equity lens can drive a communications strategy. You will also find five questions for Border Crossers and NYC students to underscore these themes. There will be a Twitter chat at 3 pm ET.

Thursday’s Focus is on Teachers: Next Generation Learning Challenges will share best practices, tools, and resources that highlight how to support teachers as critical ambassadors for mastery learning. You can find five questions for teachers and school leaders.

Friday’s Focus is on Multi-Media Communications: KnowledgeWorks will provide an overview on the ways in which multi-media communication creates deep engagement around mastery education. You will also find a podcast from Getting Smart and resources from reDesign.

(more…)

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