Tag: competency-based learning

What Do We Mean by Completion?

June 24, 2014 by

cover of A framework for selecting quality course providersI always save an hour or two on Friday afternoons to read about things I don’t know much about. It’s a practice I started years ago as program director at Greater Boston Rehabilitation Services as I needed to be comfortable talking about issues through a broad spectrum of perspectives. There was always more to be learned. In fact, it was where I was first came upon the work of Peter Senghe and the concept of personal mastery.

Increasingly, I find myself reading anything and everything about education through the lens of competency education. What would be the implications if systems were competency-based? How might we think about these issues if we consistently placed  student agency, student learning, pace and progress front and center to all decisions?

Last week I dived into A Framework for Selecting Quality Course Providers at Competitive Prices from Digital Learning Now. State contracting for online courses is a topic I know nothing about but care about deeply, as it is imperative that students in rural communities, alternative schools or any small school have access to a much wider set of courses,  especially where there is a dearth of teachers (Advanced Placement physics, for example). It is also going to be an essential capacity if schools are going to lift the ceiling and let kids fly beyond their grade level.

As the paper was so accessible, the competency education lens flipped on immediately as I read about how states can structure a mix of base pay and incentive pay based upon completion. Completion? How exactly are states defining completion? In a competency-based state or district, completion with a C or D, i.e. with gaps in knowledge, isn’t acceptable. In competency education, completion equals proficiency. Will this mean that states will create statewide understanding of what completion means in terms of proficiency at a specific depth of knowledge in order to clarify contracts with online providers? (See the discussion in Idaho about whether states or districts should be determining what mastery is.)  This could be an important state level function that is done in partnership with districts so that a shared understanding of proficiency/completion is created. (more…)

Does Competency Education Mean the Same Thing for K-12 and Higher Education?

June 19, 2014 by

houstonhighwayOver the past two months, I’ve had several invitations to discuss the intersection of higher education (HE) and K12 in competency education. It makes sense to see these two sectors of education as one huge movement. Both receive complaints from their customers of poor and inconsistent quality (i.e., students are ill prepared for advanced studies and entry into the workforce). Both sectors are turning to greater personalization, online and blended learning and competency education to help them improve their systems. It’s easy to leap to the conclusion, especially if you are a systems thinker who jumps for joy when alignment is in the air, that the pieces are all going to snap into place.

No matter what we all imagine, no matter how beautiful our maps of an aligned system are, there are two important things to remember. First, in a personalized world where students have agency, we have to let go of our mental model of a linear, conveyor belt model. We need to think about adaptive systems. If you need a picture to hold in your mind, think highways with lots of on and off ramps.

Second, there may be risks in talking about HE’s and K12’s transition to competency education as one and the same. Certainly both emphasize progress upon mastery. However, much of the drive for change in HE is to reduce tuition costs, whereas in K12 it is to personalize education so that all students get what they need to succeed. Thus, the K12 focus is on cost-effectiveness, not cost reduction. This may have large implications about what is emphasized and how models develop. Furthermore, our efforts will come to a grinding halt if we lead policymakers to assume that they can reduce budgets in K12 competency education systems. We can explore competency education in both sectors without advancing the idea that they are the same thing.

I’m now going to break a rule of blogging with a very long exploration of the intersection of competency education across K12 and HE. I start by exploring the similarities, differences and intersection of the two systems and close by looking at the implications of the different contexts in which competency education is developing in each sector.

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Interested in Innovative School Models? What to Consider to Make Sure They Are Successful

June 10, 2014 by
Anthony Kim

Anthony Kim

In working with over 100 schools across the country on new approaches to integrating instruction and technology in order to personalize learning, we’ve learned a lot about school models.

For decades, many schools have looked to digital content and online instruction primarily as a way to move students on one axis, below grade level to at grade level or at grade level to above grade level. This is demonstrated by the proliferation of credit recovery programs as well as the massive use of programs like Khan Academy. Often, the use of these programs for individual students is geared towards having students start at one point and complete tasks at a level of proficiency to get to another point (Figure 1, click on images for larger view).

Figure 1

Figure 1

The blended learning approach and subsequent new school models start to look at two axes, with x-axis being the one we already discussed, levels of learning (and acceleration of learning content), and the y-axis being the depth of learning (Figure 2).  For example, we often show a three group rotational model and associate the potential of these rotations to focus on different levels of Bloom’s (Figure 3). You can also apply Webb’s Depth of Knowledge here, but in this example, we will use Bloom’s for consistency. The independent station is great for students to learn at their own pace to be introduced to or practice new skills using adaptive digital content,  which emphasizes the lower levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy – remembering and understanding.  At the small group instruction station, students receive instruction from the teacher to learn to apply and analyze skills. The project/collaboration station is great for students to work together on projects and develop mastery (evaluating and creating). [As a note, we can describe other models using the same approach, but I’m using the rotational model since it’s the easiest to describe.]

figure 2

Figure 2

figure 3

Figure 3

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100%

June 5, 2014 by

New England ConsortiumOne hundred percent of the public institutions of higher education in five states have endorsed proficiency-based education. That’s right — 100%.

The New England Secondary School Consortium (NESSC) announced that all the public colleges and universities as well as three private colleges in Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont have endorsed proficiency-based education. That’s 55 colleges and universities.

I recently talked with Cory Curl from ACHIEVE about their meeting last week with higher education representatives and competency education leaders. She reported that there was general agreement that proficiency-based transcripts should not be a problem as colleges are used to receiving and making sense of all kinds of transcripts.  She also said there were several higher education associations at the meeting that are considering raising competency education at their meetings to get further support and acceptance for proficiency-based transcripts.

The conversation with Cory touched on what it is going to take to get elite colleges to endorse proficiency-based education. She suggested that a specific ask, such as a statement on their admissions websites that clearly states that they accept proficiency-based transcripts, might be considered rather than trying to get endorsements. Elite colleges, being elite. tend to avoid engaging in and advancing specific education reforms or participating in state-level efforts.

So I think it is safe to say we are making steady progress at addressing a fear, some considered a barrier to be overcome, about competency education. We are continuing to get confirmation that competency-based transcripts are not going to impact college admissions. We just have to keep working to get more colleges and universities in other parts of the country to sign on, or at a minimum say they’ll accept proficiency-based transcripts. One of the very easy things all of us can do is start to lay the groundwork by sending a letter to the president and trustees of our alma mater encouraging them to clarify on their admissions web page that they accept competency-based transcripts. Hopefully other intermediary organizations will take on the leadership role that NESCC has shown in engage higher education in other states and regions.  I’m sure NESSC would be glad to share their process and road bumps. (And bravo to all of you that facilitated the conversations and coordinated the endorsements).

FYI: The press release from NESSC was full of great quotes that others might find handy in their work: (more…)

Teachers in Charge: USC Hybrid High’s Approach to Competency-Based Blended Learning

June 4, 2014 by
Student at USC

From USC Hybrid High School web site

Originally posted June 3, 2014 at Christensen Institute.

Last week I had the privilege of visiting the USC Hybrid High School (HHS), a new charter school in Los Angeles and winner of a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Next Generation Learning Challenges grant. HHS is pursuing a blended and competency-based model—that is, the school is leveraging technology to deliver some academic content online and building opportunities for students to advance upon mastery, rather than according to hours of instruction. HHS has seen numerous iterations over its past two years in existence (EdSurge’s Mary Jo Madda did a great write-up of these changes earlier this year).

For example, last year the school used Apex Learning almost exclusively to drive a flex blended-learning model (wherein online learning is the backbone, and teachers work with students one-on-one and in groups on projects and tutorials). Now, in its second year, the school has shifted away from a single-provider model to instead making teachers the primary designers of the blended-learning models in their individual classrooms by using a wider range of tools. The school is also putting its money where its mouth is in this design: each teacher receives a stipend to purchase his own software products according to his particular course(s) and tastes. (more…)

Iowa Goes BIG: Next-level learning

May 22, 2014 by

This blog was originally posed May 20, 2014 at the Iowa Department of Education with the sidebar, below. Be sure to watch the video about BIG — it’s really fun and interesting.

Some say they learn best by reading. Others say they learn best by doing.iowa big logo

For students who prefer the latter, the Cedar Rapids and College Community districts have joined forces to offer a non-traditional setting where the classroom has no walls, the coursework has no textbooks, and the grade level is not a consideration. Be assured this is no cakewalk: The students master skills and content consistent with their classroom counterparts. But they do so through projects that go beyond the school yard and solidly into the community.

The districts call the school Iowa BIG – big for its concepts, even bigger for its impact. (more…)

Iowa Goes BIG: From Reservations to Success

by

This blog was originally posted May 20, 2014 at the Iowa Department of Education. Be sure to watch the video about BIG — it’s really fun and iowa_de-150x150interesting.

There is no particular formula for successful competency-based education (CBE). Programs vary from in-school coursework where the student learns at his or her own pace to internships and project-oriented work.

Ideally, students could choose which path to take since they have different preferences in the way they learn, said Iowa Department of Education Consultant Sandra Dop.

“Some students might choose one type of learning over another,” she said. “For instance, a student might want a specific learning environment for gaining proficiency in a particular subject, but another learning environment to demonstrate proficiency in another area.  All of this is negotiated with the teacher.  Kim Carter of QED Foundation calls it, ‘negotiated pace with gradual release,’ meaning that the students are not completely on their own to set a pace, and they slowly take over their learning as they develop the skills to do so. ” (more…)

Blending Toward Competency: A Closer Look at Blended Learning in New Hampshire

May 21, 2014 by
Originally posted May 21, 2014 at Christensen Institute.

inside a classroom

New Hampshire abolished the Carnegie unit in 2005.

Blended learning comes in various shapes and sizes in New Hampshire.

In 2007, Exeter Region Cooperative School District (SAU 16) in Exeter, N.H., applied for a statewide charter to launch the Virtual Learning Academy Charter School (VLACS), New Hampshire’s first fully virtual charter school. Steve Kossakoski, the district’s then assistant superintendent for technology and research, took the helm as CEO of VLACS in 2008. Under Kossakoski’s guidance, VLACS has grown into the leading competency-based online course provider in the state. VLACS students move through online courses at their own pace, and the school has implemented competency assessments that require that students not only complete coursework, but also demonstrate mastery of each competency associated with a given course.

In 2008, in Durham, N.H., Celeste Best, an award-winning science teacher at Oyster River High School, noticed that her students lacked ownership of their learning. Best decided that instead of teaching all of her students at once, she would assign students to different projects or learning opportunities—either online or offline—depending on how they were progressing through the material.

That same year, in Litchfield, N.H., Campbell High School received a Federal Title-II-D grant to implement technology in its classrooms. But Andrea Ange and Justin Ballou, a library media specialist and a teacher, respectively, at the high school, noticed that the program fell short because the software programs they purchased were not user-friendly. As a result, the two decided to start their own company, Socrademy, which launched in 2012. Socrademy aims to serve as a personalized learning platform, where students can select and complete competency-based, modular content focused on their passions at their own pace. (more…)

Performance-Based Assessment in Action

May 20, 2014 by

Originally posted May 16, 2014 at gettingsmart.com.  For more on Danville’s overall approach see District Transformation in Danville.Screen Shot 2014-05-19 at 7.09.43 AM

Close your eyes and imagine an innovative school, a next-generation school that excels at preparing students to thrive in college and career. Picture a school that engages students in rigorous and authentic project-based learning opportunities, a school that has developed ways to get technology into the hands of students in a way that connects to its goals around next-gen teaching and learning. You’re probably imagining a flashy high-tech building situated in well-resourced district with dollars to spare. You’re probably thinking “Sounds good, but my district can’t do this because of [insert your reason here].”

My guess is that you’re not picturing a traditional school district in the middle of Kentucky. My guess is you’re probably not picturing a building that was built in 1912. My guess is you’re probably not picturing Bate Middle School in Danville; but you should be. (more…)

What Does Competency-Based Education Have to do with Disruption?

May 19, 2014 by

christenseninstituteOriginally posted May 16, 2014 at christenseninstitute.org

Last week, we published the first paper in a two-part series on competency-based education. That paper investigates what competency-based education means in practice in New Hampshire, the first state to abolish the Carnegie unit and grant high school credit on the basis of mastery rather than hours of instruction.

What does that policy—and corresponding practice—have to do with the theory of disruptive innovation? Disruptive innovation describes a force by which industries that start off expensive, centralized, and complicated (they require deep expertise) become affordable, accessible, decentralized, and offer products that are more foolproof. When we talk about disruptive innovation in education, we often think about the explosive growth of online learning over the past two decades that has offered students a new paradigm in learning. Other innovations like peer-to-peer learning or early college high school models likewise may tug at the foundation of the traditional, centralized, factory- and time-based models that have dominated our education system for over a century. (more…)

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