Tag: competency education, competency-based learning

Education Philosophy Becomes Practice

April 29, 2013 by

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This post was originally published at the Partially Examined Life:  A Philosophy Podcast and Blog.

Over the past hundred years Constructivists and Traditionalists have enjoyed an uneasy truce in the world of education practitioners.  Constructivism “says that people construct their own understanding and knowledge of the world, through experiencing things and reflecting on those experiences.” [thirteen.org]  Traditionalists were more influenced by the “scientific management” of Taylorism, seeing schools on the industry model. Schools are factories with inputs, throughputs  and outputs.  The compromise between the two:  educators would agree that Constructivism was true, but would act as if it were not.

Yes, it made sense as a model to discuss how learners “construct” knowledge” rather than “acquire” it. Of course, any teacher would say, students learn at different rates, in different ways, and according to their circumstance. But it was so impractical – hordes of students operating according to their individual motivations. Who can afford that?  And how are you going to track progress?  How will you know if you are getting your money’s worth from your schools? (more…)

Good Work: Tapping the Dark Matter

April 26, 2013 by

3  This post was originally published by Getting Smart on April 14, 2013.

“Education is like the night sky; edreform offers a few points of light and the rest is dark matter,” said Nick Donohue.  “The real opportunity is deeper public engagement–tapping the dark matter.”

Nick Donohue has been a high school head master, a college trustee, and a state chief.  These days he leads The Nellie Mae Education Foundation.  In addition to being a big advocate of innovations– particularly competency-based learning– Nick serves on the iNACOL board (with me) and supports the work of CompetencyWorks. (more…)

Should Every Student Be in A Competency-Based System?

April 22, 2013 by

Screen Shot 2013-04-19 at 11.52.39 AMIn a discussion with Lilian Pace from KnowledgeWorks this morning, the fascinating question of whether every student should be in a competency-based system  or whether it should be an option for students came up.

This led to a discussion of whether competency education is a specific school design, instructional model or a systemic framework.  In a policy environment that encourages choice and personalization, we of course don’t want to establish one-size fits all school designs or instructional approaches. (And I certainly don’t think competency education is a school model or instructional approach). However, as a systemic framework, is competency education something we want for everyone?

The only way I know to answer this question is to walk through it step by step:

1) Should a student be provided with education that responds to where they are in their learning progression?

It’s the Goldilocks answer.  If the curriculum is too easy or too hard, frustration, boredom and disengagement occur. We want the curriculum to be “just right” – at and above the level where students are in their learning progression so they are challenged.  The zone of proximal development, if you will. (more…)

Rethinking Teacher Evaluation for the Competency-Based Grading & Reporting Environment

April 17, 2013 by
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from Making Mastery Work

Introduction:  Rethinking the Effectiveness of the Dog & Pony Show Model
During my first three years as a high school math teacher in Massachusetts back in the early 2000s, I had grown accustomed to having an administrator in my classroom observe as I taught a math lesson. As a new teacher I was required by district policy to be observed at least three times per year. Both my administrator and I knew how the drill worked:  We would pick a date and a class for me to be observed. We would meet in advance to talk about what I was planning to teach. During my observation I would make sure to use innovative teaching strategies or cooperative learning activities with my students. We would meet after the lesson to talk about what went well and where I could improve. The administrator would write up a narrative, I would sign it, and it would be filed away. The process would then repeat, and repeat, and repeat. Over my first three years I had nine observations. Once I reached my fourth year, I was considered tenured and thus my observations went down to one every other year. This means it would have taken me an additional eighteen years of teaching before I would have completed another nine observation cycles.

I don’t think my experience in this regard is unique, as many school districts used and still use a model very similar to this one. As I reflect back on that experience as a new teacher, years later, I don’t think I ever remember actually using anything that came from my evaluations as a way to improve my own teaching. Don’t get me wrong, my pre- and post-conferences always yielded great advice. My administrator and I always had great discussions about my lessons. We never really talked about my teaching. What I did on a day-to-day basis as a teaching professional to impact the lives of my students wasn’t easily observable during the dog and pony show, the name I had given for the act of preparing an observable lesson that would showcase all the innovative teaching strategies I could cram into a ninety-minute block. (more…)

Personalizing Competency Education

April 10, 2013 by

csbouldersmallBased on school visits across the country, I have come to believe that competency education needs a large dose of personalization to bring it to life.  In Maine where personalization is the leading policy concept, proficiency-based education and student voice and choice are being integrated as standard operating practices.  However, in district-run high schools I visited in other states that don’t lead with personalization, competency education classrooms often lack that pride of learning that comes when students own their education.  We need to build on the combination of what personalization and competency education together can offer if we are going to truly transform our education system into a place where everyone can succeed.

However, it’s hard to untangle the relationship between competency education and personalization, as the “field” of personalization hasn’t created a common understanding of what personalization is, and the variety of ways we can personalize education. I’ve often resorted to a basic Venn diagram where I’ve come to the conclusion that competency-based education is inherently personalized in terms of differentiated responses to students when they get stuck or fall behind, as well as offering flexibility in time. And it enables personalization by offering explicit competencies and rubrics. Looking at it through the lens of personalization, one can have many forms of personalization without competency-based practices. Some argue that personalization requires competency education in order to ensure equity. (more…)

Unleashed to Learn: Book Highlights Performance Assessment

April 4, 2013 by

Screen Shot 2013-04-04 at 8.44.43 AMA new book by Linda C. Aronson, Unleashed to Learn: Empowering Students to Learn at Full Capacity, makes a clear and passionate argument about the power of performance assessment in a competency-based/learner-centered system.

Performance assessment – in which students pursue genuine interests, in real world settings, and in ways that suit their learning styles – is one of the keystones of Maine’s vision of proficiency-based/learner-centered education.  The Senior Capstone, implemented by Hall-Dale High School (RSU2), is a shining example of performance assessment.  A video featuring the Senior Capstone was included in Maine’s Center for Best Practice.  The energy is remarkable.

Aronson spent six years at Hall-Dale High School designing and refining the Senior Capstone. Drawing from the stories of that time – both the shining moments and the hard challenges – she has written a moving case study and passionate jeremiad about why and how students should be allowed to guide their own learning. Performance assessment – and Senior Capstone – can help that happen.

About the Author

Gary Chapin is a Senior Associate at the Center for Collaborative Education.

Collegiate Endorsement of Proficiency-Based Education and Graduation

March 22, 2013 by

Screen Shot 2013-03-19 at 1.56.25 PMWe all know higher education plays a big role in designing and institutionalizing competency education, including alignment of admissions policies, increased access to competency-based dual credit courses, and teacher preparation, as well as building competency-based systems within their own organizations.

We are starting to see higher education formally take on this responsibility.  Here are two examples (and let us know what is going on in your state):

1) Today, March 22 at the High School Redesign in Action Conference, 25 institutions of higher education in New England have formally endorsed proficiency-based education. These institutions include: (more…)

Just Around the Corner: New England Secondary School Consortium Conference

March 13, 2013 by

Screen Shot 2013-03-12 at 1.35.44 PMWith interest in competency education growing rapidly, it’s absolutely critical that we make it easier for people to learn about what competency education is, what some design choices are, and some of the prevailing implementation issues surrounding competency education, so that they can develop robust systems that will move the needle.

One opportunity is just around the corner. The New England Secondary School Consortium’s upcoming meeting is highlighting competency-based (or proficiency-based) models from Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island.  Below are a few of the schools that will be sharing their learning. If you are attending, we would love to have you share a few of your “a-ha!” moments on CompetencyWorks. (more…)

Which Pilot Do You Want Flying Your Plane?

March 12, 2013 by

apLast week I had the opportunity to deliver the keynote to a large group of school administrators from Oregon at their 2013 State Proficiency Conference, sponsored jointly by the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators (COSA) and the Business Education Compact (BEC) in Portland. I began my talk by sharing with the group how I explained the idea of competency-based grading to a woman, Kathy, whom I shared a plane ride with on my way to Oregon. Kathy was very curious to learn more about competency-based grading. She is a mother of three and lives in the Portland area. Her oldest just graduated from high school and is now in the Air Force. She has another child in middle school and her youngest is in elementary school. As a result, she is very invested in educational reforms that promise to give her children a better future.

To help her understand the competency-based system, I asked her to hypothetically consider how the pilot school was organized that our airline pilot attended. We both agreed that in order to be able to fly our plane that day, he had to have been deemed “proficient” by his pilot school. We can only assume that his school taught him everything he needed to know about being a pilot. I offered her two hypothetical situations about the pilot school, and I asked her to then consider which school she thought was better. (more…)

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