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Tag: habits/lifelong learning competencies/college-career readiness

Negotiating Release

January 26, 2015 by
Ollie and Tobey

Ollie and Tobey

My husband and I have two dogs. Ollie is a springer spaniel; Tobey is a rather unfortunate cross between a Yorkshire terrier and a miniature husky. We live near water and enjoy spending time in the lake when the temperatures rise.

Ollie took to the water immediately. In no time she figured out swimming, and she could be counted on to paddle leisurely until we were ready to leave. Not the case for Tobey. He surprised us with his reluctance to put a paw in the water.

Tobey did eventually learn to swim and now enjoys a quick lap or two, but it involved a process. We had to introduce him gradually, making sure he had the skills and confidence to move from the beach area to deeper water.

I mention my dogs because they serve as an example of how we make assumptions. I assumed that all dogs instinctively knew how to swim. After all, they enjoyed going down to the beach with us. As teachers, we are tempted to make the same assumption: because our students like to use technology, surely they know how to use it effectively.

A tenant of proficiency-based teaching and learning is that students will determine how and when they will “show what they know.” This implies that the student will be asked to direct their own learning. We avail ourselves as facilitators, flip our classrooms, determine pacing guides, and do less direct instruction. Time, not mastery, is now the variable. (more…)

On Perseverance in the Classroom

January 22, 2015 by
Eric Toshalis

Eric Toshalis

This post originally appeared at Students at the Center: Teaching and Learning in the Era of the Common Core

Have you ever sat through a difficult or dry lesson and were told by your teacher when you began to struggle that if you simply tried harder, you would succeed? If so, didn’t it sound like your teacher was saying, “If you just banged your head harder against this brick wall, you could break through!” You likely realized then what researchers have known for decades: that simply isn’t true. While effort is important when attempting work of any kind, perseverance in school is frequently depicted as a quality either a kid has or doesn’t have, as if the circumstances surrounding that student’s struggles were irrelevant. And far too often, teachers and others use concepts like perseverance to blame students from disadvantaged backgrounds for “lacking motivation,” when it is the learning environment itself that is largely to blame.

I’ve been thinking about this concept of perseverance because I recently had the opportunity to review the report, Equity in Competency Education: Realizing the Potential, Overcoming the Obstacles, by RAND authors and commissioned by Jobs for the Future’s Students at the Center initiative. I applaud the authors for tackling a tricky subject often glossed over and under-researched in the rush to advocate for competency education. Their treatment presents a broad and well-organized array of scholarship that highlights the enormous potential of competency-based reforms to elevate achievement and enhance equity. However, the paper raises a lingering concern: discussions of the concept of perseverance can easily devolve into a blame-the-victim ideology rather than an improve-the-context search for solutions.

Perseverance can be a seductive explanation of student failure due to the way it shifts attention away from pedagogical factors that may hinder students’ achievement and instead draws attention toward perceived deficits in students’ motivation. This effectively absolves adults of responsibility for students’ struggles. Given the culture of blame that surrounds the profession of teaching these days, it’s not surprising that some would seek shelter in explanations that deny culpability in student failures. I would argue, however, that to overcome academic struggles, it is the educator’s responsibility to teach the skills necessary for success and to present material using techniques that motivate students to engage. In this way, perseverance is less a prerequisite of learning and more a product of good teaching. (more…)

The Advantage of Separating Behaviors and Academics Through a Competency-Based Grading System

May 5, 2014 by

If we were to return to giving grades that are a combination of academics, behaviors, and anything else a teacher decides to include, we, as educators would be remiss in our responsibilities.

As I watched one of our teacher’s training sessions this past Wednesday, I considered how far we had come in grading practices in a fairly short period of time.  Our school made the transition to competency-based grading four years ago, and despite some of “bumps in the road”, we really have never looked back.

Terry Bolduc, a fifth grade teacher at our school, is also one of our training team members for our staff.  Terry was sharing with other classroom teachers at our Wednesday afternoon training session how her grading practices have continued to evolve.  This particular session was related to how Terry continuously assesses students on their behaviors or dispositions, both through daily assignments, and weekly formative assessments.  Terry was explaining that by doing this, there are a number of points of data that can support where a student is in each particular area.

These dispositions, or 21st Century Learning Skills, we assess our students on are based off of the Responsive Classroom’s CARES (Cooperation, Assertion, Responsibility, Empathy, and Self-regulation).  Each of these has indicators that teachers use to assess student growth.  What has typically happened over the past few years is that teachers have had minimal data in their gradebook related to CARES behaviors.  Academic areas had multiple assignments attached to standards, but the data related to our CARES was somewhat limited.  Most teachers were continuing to input a CARES assessment grade just prior to the distribution of progress reports and trimester report cards.  We have worked very hard to get away from “subjective” grading in academic areas, so why should work habits be any different? (more…)

Counted or Not, Doing What Counts in Competency-Based Education

April 29, 2014 by
Eduardo Briceño

Eduardo Briceño

“Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”
– William Bruce Cameron (and on a sign hanging in Albert Einstein’s office)

Competency-based education comes with the risk that we focus only on those competencies that can easily be measured and overlook other competencies that are also critical for success in today’s and tomorrow’s world. If we’re mindful of what students need and design our competency-based systems accordingly, however, we can make competency-based education all it can be.

How we can get into trouble

In a competency-based system, each learner focuses on knowledge and skills at the right challenge level, just beyond what is known, and progresses to the next level upon mastery rather than based on age or time. This makes a lot of sense. It’s how people learn. (more…)

College and Career Readiness in a Competency-Based System

August 6, 2013 by

Screen Shot 2013-07-23 at 12.46.44 PMThis post was originally published on July 18, 2013 at the College & Career Readiness & Success Center

“College and Career Readiness”—you can’t read anything in education these days without this concept popping up. At times it can seem like a nebulous and ever changing term. For states, districts, and schools transitioning to competency-based education systems, what are the implications and opportunities emerging that may help us in managing the concept of college and career readiness for all students?

Here are a few of the things I see emerging:

1) Empowered by Students:  One of the most meaningful parts of competency-based education is the transparency of the competencies and what proficiency looks like. Even in the most teacher-centered classroom, transparency has the power to open up the learning process for students.  What might we expect as schools become increasing driven by students seeking new ways to learn and demonstrate proficiency? Will students seek out ways to earn credit and become credentialed outside of school? Perhaps districts will take a broader role in managing competency development across schools, organizing or purchasing online courses for a broader set of competency development than any one school can provide, or validating skills developed outside traditional academic courses.

2) Academics, Skills, and Dispositions to Dispositions, Skills, and Academics: We know that dispositions such as perseverance and problem-solving skills are equally if not more important to our success in life as academic content knowledge. However, our current systems emphasize academics over other aspects of development.  As we begin to separate students’ progress on academic learning progressions from the skills and dispositions (keep an eye on Oregon as they roll out their new reporting expectations starting July 1), we are going to find ourselves face to face with the problem that our schools are not designed to help students build those skills and dispositions.  Nor do we know how to assess them without bias.  Certainly, performance assessment will increase in importance – that’s a no brainer.  However, it’s possible that problem-based learning, project-based learning, and “leaving to learn” (have you read Elliot and Charlie’s new book yet? They push out the importance of students having real-world experiences including gap years while in high school) are going to increase in importance. (more…)

Lingering Questions #3: Habits of Mind (Non-Academic Factors)

August 2, 2013 by
Screen Shot 2013-07-11 at 11.53.09 AM

Personal management umbrella?

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 last of three important questions are below:

There is growing consensus that schools should recognize not only academic content mastery, but the additional knowledge and skills (e.g. critical thinking, communication, social and emotional, self regulation, self advocacy, etc.) required to become college and career ready.  What role can a competency-based system play in helping students develop these skills? Additionally, how have states/districts begun to develop competency-based assessments and what do they look like?

Jennifer Davis, Director,  Innovation Lab Network, CCSSO (responding in place of Carissa Miller) – Some states, such as Maine, Oregon, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin have defined the knowledge, skills, and dispositions they require of students to include these cross-curricular skills, and have embedded them into their state-defined competencies and/or diploma criteria.   Many states are exploring how both formative and summative assessments in a competency-based system can play a role in ensuring students develop these skills.  Various models exist, ranging from stand-alone assessments (for example, EPIC’s CampusReady and ThinkReady, MSLQ, QISA MyVoice, ETS Personal Potential Index, ACT ENGAGE, the Grit Scale, INCLASS, and so on) to integrated assessments (for example, PISA for schools), to performance-based assessments.  States in CCSSO’s Innovation Lab Network are beginning work intended to better understand the learning progressions that describe students’ progress through these skills and dispositions, and to design performance-based assessments that capture them.  The Center for Collaborative Education is taking on similar work as well. (more…)

21st Century Skills and Designing Competencies

January 23, 2013 by

andrew miller

Competencies provide a unique opportunity to truly teach and assess 21st Century Skills. While there are many 21st Century Skills out there, the 4Cs (Creativity, Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Communication) are probably the most prevalent. As I wrote in a blog on the Huffington Post, many educators run up against the wall of true assessment of 21st century skills in our traditional Education System. Many districts are not comfortable putting “grades” to 21st Century Skills, but as we move towards competencies, all educators will not only have be comfortable, they will have to embrace them with open-arms. (more…)

A Student Reflection on Competency Education

January 15, 2013 by
Screen Shot 2013-01-10 at 1.42.53 PM

Elizabeth Sturms

The following was originally posted on The Iowa Forum on Competency-Based Education. Elizabeth Strum, a senior at Muscatine High School, reflects on competency based education in response to a question in the application for the Presidential Scholarship at University of Iowa: Tell us about an idea or an experience you have had that you found intellectually engaging. Describe specifically how the idea or experience engaged and affected you, as well as its significance.

Imagine you are given the opportunity to redesign education with no limitations. You can eliminate what no longer works to create a new education system from scratch. This may sound far-fetched, but I was blessed with this amazing opportunity toward the end of last school year when I was invited by district members as one of six students to be a part of the design team for a new methodology called competency-based education (CBE). CBE is an innovative way of educating where the primary focus is not seat time, but rather demonstration of understanding of the Iowa Core standards. My role on the design team included attending meetings during the school year and summer to voice my opinions on what was being discussed in the process of designing a plan for CBE. At the first meeting I felt reserved about CBE. I grew up in a traditional classroom so my mind was stuck there. I was stubborn about changing what I was comfortable with, but as I attended more meetings I realized the many benefits that CBE would provide, and that change in our education system was long overdue. Everything from trends to technology have evolved from my grandparents’ time to my time—even from my parents’ time to my time—but education has remained the same, which is a disservice to my generation. We are receiving an old-world education to prepare us for new-world times; however CBE is the solution to this gap in education. I am honored to be a part of this team that is enhancing and shaping my education as well as the future education of all students who attend Muscatine High School. (more…)

Boston Day and Evening Academy: Where Competency Education is Good Teaching Practice

June 21, 2012 by

This is the second post in the Boston Day and Evening Academy series. Continue reading the first and third posts.

During my site visit to BDEA, Alison Hramiec, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, explained that at BDEA “competency is synonymous with good teaching practice, with clear rubrics and discussion around student work. Competency education instills a sense of ownership in the learning process for teachers and for students. Learning comes alive.” Below are a few highlights of the BDEA competency education model.

Competencies, Benchmarks, and Assessments: BDEA defines competency as “able to demonstrate understanding and application of specific skills and content independently, multiple times, and using the correct vocabulary.” BDEA uses three levels: basic competent, competent, and highly competent.

BDEA uses benchmarks to organize learning and monitor progress. They do not use traditional grades or traditional grade levels. Their students earn benchmarks; each benchmark has a rubric. The Individual Learning Plans with the benchmarks for math, science, and humanities can be found on the wiki. (more…)

Learning from the EU

June 12, 2012 by

I’m just back from the EU Lifelong Learning VISCED meeting in England.  While there I had a chance to learn a bit more about the EU’s approach to competency education.

The EU Framework identifies Lifelong Learning Competencies as those that ‘all individuals need for personal fulfilment and development, active citizenship, social inclusion and employment’.

In the Key Competences for Lifelong Learning – A European Framework , they list 8 competencies: (more…)

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