Tag: competency-based learning

Moving Toward Mastery Blog Series Conclusion

March 1, 2019 by

This is the final post in a series that aims to make concepts, themes, and strategies described in Moving Toward Mastery: Growing, Developing, and Sustaining Educators for Competency-Based Education accessible and transferable. Links to the other articles in the series are at the end of this post.

Over the past six weeks this site has shared nine posts about Moving Toward Mastery, a report focused on growing, developing, and sustaining educators for competency-based education. (See the bottom of this post for links to all posts in the series.) Each post has expanded upon a theme from the report and worked to translate ideas into practical actions for leaders. As the blog series comes to a close with this tenth and final post, I am compelled to share my own reflections on the vision, the process, and the possibilities ahead.

I have been working on Moving Toward Mastery for almost a year. From the outset it has been a profoundly collaborative effort—over one hundred people participated on the technical advisory group, I have interviewed over two dozen leaders, and I have connected with many people working in the field to turn the report’s ideas into practice. Before I write anything else, I need to write this: thank you to the community of passionate people who tuned in and turned out to make this project possible.

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ACTIONS – Ideas and Strategies for District Leaders

February 18, 2019 by

This is the ninth post in a series that aims to make concepts, themes, and strategies described in Moving Toward Mastery: Growing, Developing, and Sustaining Educators for Competency-Based Education accessible and transferable. Links to the other articles in the series are at the end of this post.

I spent years in a district leadership role trying to help schools navigate the shift toward personalized, competency-based education. One of the the many things I learned during this time was that in order to help schools innovate, I also had to help central office innovate. Specifically, I had to think differently—first for myself, and then for others—about the roles of central office in navigating and sustaining innovation.

In my experience, being called “someone from the district” by someone in a school could carry any number of connotations: someone who made rules, someone who added to teachers’ plates, someone who didn’t get what things were really like in a classroom. Now, this wasn’t one hundred percent true for me, and it’s certainly not one hundred percent true in every district. Still, I share this experience because I think it reflects a concern we have all seen, felt, or experienced at some point: that central office and schools are not always on the same page about how to approach innovation, or how to help teachers help kids.

However—and this is a BIG however—there are lots and lots of examples that prove this perception wrong. More specifically, there are lots and lots of examples of district leaders who play very different roles in orienting, enabling, and supporting learning and teaching on the ground. This is one of  big ideas I want to get across in Moving Toward Mastery: that district leaders can play powerful roles in creating the conditions where teachers can learn and grow so that students can learn and grow. Toward the end of the report I describe the leverage that district leaders have in their roles (page 68). But, I stop short of describing specific actions they can take. This post picks up where the paper left off, offering three big ideas and ten action ideas for district leaders who are trying to grow, develop, and sustain educators for competency-based education. (more…)

VOICES – Jennifer Kabaker on Changing the Narrative and Recruiting Lifelong Educators

February 15, 2019 by

This is the eighth post in a ten-part series that aims to make concepts, themes, and strategies described in the Moving Toward Mastery: Growing, Developing, and Sustaining Educators for Competency-Based Education report accessible and transferable. Links to the other articles in the series are at the end of this post.

How can we recruit and retain lifelong educators who will learn, improve, and lead over the course of their careers? This of course is a question for the entire field of education, not just for competency-based education. But I think it is a particularly important question for competency-based districts and schools to grapple with because becoming a competency-based educator is a continuous process of personal mastery. You don’t become masterful overnight; it takes time.

Moving Toward Mastery touches on this question in two sections: diversifying pathways into the profession and diversifying pathways through the profession. Essentially, the paper says that states, districts, and schools share responsibility for (1) creating recruitment, preparation, and placement pathways that meet teacher workforce needs and ensure diversity; (2) connecting these early stages of a teacher’s professional pathway to their ongoing learning, development, and advancement; and (3) creating opportunities for teachers to grow and lead in their careers so that they stay in the teaching profession.

These ideas can seem far away and unreachable. To bring them closer into view, I thought it would be useful to highlight a leader and organization working to create pathways into teaching, and crafting a narrative about teaching as a lifelong profession. This post highlights the voice and work of Jennifer Kabaker and the team at TEACH. (more…)

ENTRY POINTS – First Steps Toward a Lifelong Profession

February 4, 2019 by

This is the seventh post in a ten-part series that aims to make concepts, themes, and strategies described in the Moving Toward Mastery: Growing, Developing, and Sustaining Educators for Competency-Based Education report accessible and transferable. Links to the other articles in the series are at the end of this post.

“A lifelong profession engages, develops and sustains educators over the course of their careers. Educators are supported and trusted as respected members of a respected profession. They are meaningfully and adequately prepared for the roles they will take on, they have opportunity to grow and specialize in their careers, and they are evaluated in ways that support improvement and promote advancement.” – Moving Toward Mastery, p. 51

Becoming a masterful educator does not happen overnight, or in a year, or in two. It is a continuous process of learning and growth. As Peter Senge wrote, “personal mastery is not something you possess. It is a process. It is a lifelong discipline.” Getting to equity for our students and families means finding, developing, and keeping exceptional people in the classroom.

Moving Toward Mastery paints a picture of teaching as a “lifelong” profession. But admittedly, of all the ideas in the paper, “lifelong” can seem the most abstract. Of course we want teachers to have powerful experiences in their preparation programs, to be able to learn and grow as educators, to be evaluated in fair and meaningful ways, and to stay in the profession while they develop mastery. But the changes needed to bring about these conditions can seem far away, especially for people working in schools or districts.

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VOICES – Lisa Simms on Leading and Sustaining Innovation

February 1, 2019 by

This is the sixth post in a ten-part series that aims to make concepts, themes, and strategies described in the Moving Toward Mastery: Growing, Developing, and Sustaining Educators for Competency-Based Education report accessible and transferable. Links to the other articles in the series are at the end of this post.

“Competency-based districts and schools are innovative at their core. Educators are at the forefront of innovation, leading the way as they test and share new practices. But, it is a mistake to think about innovators as lone actors or rogue agents of change. Innovators are collaborative practitioners focused on trying, testing and growing new ideas that improve student learning and support school improvement.” – Moving Toward Mastery, p. 48

“Creating a culture of innovation” gets talked about a lot in competency-based education. Almost everyone can agree that implementing dramatic changes in education at all levels requires that everyone, from students to superintendents to state leaders, be willing and able to try, test, and refine new ways of working. What’s sometimes harder to understand is how a “culture of innovation” actually happens. As I listen to teachers and leaders reflect on challenges in their work and as I reflect on my own leadership in the field, here are some questions that come to mind for which there are no easy or clear answers:

How do leaders actually create environments in which people can innovate well? How can leaders balance the need for innovation with the pressures for performance? In what ways does innovation look different (and require different leadership and structures and activities) in early-stage endeavors compared to late-stage ones? What does it look like to sustain innovation over time?

To help answer these questions, I spoke with Lisa Simms. Lisa is a founding design team member and current principal at Denver School of Innovation and Sustainable Design. DSISD opened its doors in fall of 2015, offering competency-based and project-based learning in early college pathways. In this post, Lisa reflects on what it means to lead for innovation in the fourth year of a new competency-based high school: how she supports teachers to innovate and stay the course as they prepare to graduate their founding class. (more…)

ACTIONS – Ideas and Strategies for School Leaders

January 25, 2019 by

This is the fifth post in a 10-part series that aims to make concepts, themes, and strategies described in Moving Toward Mastery: Growing, Developing and Sustaining Educators for Competency-Based Education accessible and transferable. Links to the other articles in the series are at the end of this post.

School leaders are closest to teachers, who in turn are closest to students. As a school leader, your daily actions, the values you model, and the decisions you make about resources like time and people have a direct impact on teachers and on the quality of education. Toward the end of Moving Toward Mastery I describe the leverage that school leaders have in their roles (page 69). But, I stop short of describing specific actions leaders can take. This post picks up where the paper left off, offering three big ideas and ten action ideas for school leaders who are trying to grow, develop and sustain educators for competency-based education. 

School leaders, my goal is not to tell you what to do — developing a change strategy is a very specific, local process. And, my goal is not to give you a lecture on what “should” be happening in your school. I recognize the complexity of the roles you play day to day. My goal is simply to offer ideas for actions that can serve as conversation points, entry points, or points of continuous improvement. (more…)

Entry Points: Moving Toward Learning-Centered Practice

January 23, 2019 by

This is the fourth post in a ten-part series that aims to make concepts, themes, and strategies described in the Moving Toward Mastery: Growing, Developing, and Sustaining Educators for Competency-Based Education report accessible and transferable. Links to the other articles in the series are at the end of this post.

“Development is a process, not a destination. Learning spans the course of a lifetime, and professional development spans the course of a teacher’s career as they try, test and extend new practices that help them improve student learning and advance equity. Like learners, teachers pursue learning progressions along competency-based pathways and are met where they are with timely, differentiated supports. Their personal learning is rooted in student learning and closely connected to improvement at the team, school and system levels. Competency-based approaches are supported by growth-oriented and flexible systems of support, feedback and evaluation. For students and teachers alike, teaching and learning are grounded in meaningful demonstrations of learning rather than seat time.” – Moving Toward Mastery, p.35

To adopt new practices and improve their instruction, teachers need to learn. Simple, right? And yet this often does not happen in the traditional education system. The majority of “learning” happens during teacher training. After that, most formal “learning” is constrained to mandatory professional development, while the on-the-job learning that teachers do on their own is rarely recognized, supported, or evaluated. The end result is that much time and money spent on professional development activities may do little to improve teachers’ knowledge or skill. This is a problem for any system trying to improve teaching and learning. It is a particular problem for systems trying to navigate the shift to competency-based education, because this shift requires so much learning for teachers.

So, what would it look like if education systems addressed these challenges of professional learning for teachers? And, how can you cultivate these conditions in your school or district? The next three paragraphs paint a vision of what a learning-centered system would look like. After that, I offer tools to help leaders and teachers assess learning practices in their school or district and identify entry points for action. (more…)

VOICES: Stacey Wang and Jane Bryson on Developing Teacher Mindsets

January 16, 2019 by

This is the third post in a ten-part series that aims to make concepts, themes, and strategies described in the Moving Toward Mastery: Growing, Developing and Sustaining Educators for Competency-Based Education report accessible and transferable. Links to the other articles in the series are at the end of this post.

What mindsets matter for teachers in competency-based, personalized classrooms? How do we know? How can leaders help teachers shift existing mindsets and develop new ones? These are questions that teachers and leaders grapple with every day. Moving Toward Mastery communicates the importance of developing teacher mindsets, but does not provide specific strategies for how to do this work. This post picks up where the paper left off. I co-authored this post with leaders from Transcend Education, Stacey Wang and Jane Bryson. We reflect on a few big questions. What are mindsets? Can you change them? If so, how? And, how do we do this in our own work?

Background

The “Mindsets Project” did not start as such. Initially, Lindsay Unified School District, Summit Public Schools, Transcend Education, and Columbia University’s Center for Public Research and Leadership came together to co-create a student impact model that would help define quality personalized learning (see Figure 1). As we developed this model, we realized that teacher and leader mindsets have a huge impact on student outcomes and that we needed to make these mindsets more explicit. We studied mindsets research, reflected on hiring practices and success conditions at Lindsay and Summit, and engaged experts around the country. Through this process we found that there are six critical mindsets for teachers to hold about “learners and learning,” and six critical mindsets about “myself and my role.” These are shown in Figure 2 and explained in more detail in An Early Inquiry into Educator and Leadership Mindsets. (more…)

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…)

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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