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Tag: mastery-based

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…)

Wrap-Up on the New Zealand Series

December 31, 2018 by

For those of you thinking about learning about the education system in Aotearoa New Zealand, I’ll offer two pieces of advice. First, beside kia ora (hello), spend time learning a bit about the Māori language and familiarizing yourself with the phrases used at the Ministry of Education. Whanau, Te Marautanga o Aotearoa, and Kāhui Ako will be frequently dropped into conversation. Second, there are loads of great reports on the NZCER website. Take the time to read up before you go. I highly recommend NCEA in Context to understand the reasons and revisions in shaping their method for certifying learning and Ka Whawhai Tonu Matou/Struggle Without End to prepare you to engage effectively in understanding New Zealand’s biculturalism.

Below are all the articles on New Zealand published at CompetencyWorks. I’ll be continuing the series with more school profiles at LearningEdge in 2019. (more…)

16 Quality Principles to Guide Implementation of Competency-Based Education

December 30, 2018 by

If you are just starting out or are midway in your process of making the transition to personalized, competency-based education, please take the time to read Quality Principles for Competency-Based Education. If you are in planning stages, be sure to read the first section, which is a primer on competency-based education including the flaws in the traditional system. It’s important to understand the problems with the traditional system so you can think about what you need to stop doing as well as what you want to put into place.

The best way to read Quality Principles for Competency-Based Education is either by purchasing the book or printing out the quality principles one at a time. Take the time to write down your questions, engage your peers in conversation about whether you think the quality principle makes sense in terms of helping students to learn, and what you have in place that you can build upon. This isn’t an implementation guidebook, as schools chose different entry points and roll-out strategies. Instead, it’s designed to help you make the shift in thinking from the top-down, time-based traditional system to the empowered, flexible system that is designed to make sure that every student is able to succeed and make progress toward college- and career-ready knowledge and skills.  (more…)

Competency-Based Education Quality Principle #16: Advance Upon Demonstrated Mastery

December 28, 2018 by

This is the seventeenth article in a series based on the book Quality Principles for Competency-Based Education. You can find the section on Principle #16 Advance Upon Demonstrated Mastery on page 99. The links to the other articles can be found at the bottom of this page.

The mastery-based grading helps me understand what I need to learn or do differently. In the old way, when I got a number, I wouldn’t know what to do differently. With the learning targets, I can make better choices and revise things. Student, Young Women’s Leadership Academy

Advancement upon demonstrated mastery is a multi-layered concept that challenges many of the conventions of traditional schools. Too often it is condensed into a concept of ‘self-pace’ that fails to capture the big idea. In fact, if you think that competency-based education is about self-pace, I recommend that you go back to the beginning of the book Quality Principles for Competency-Based Education and read why the traditional system is failing us and the ten distinguishing features of competency-based education.

Advancement upon demonstrated mastery is better thought of as a culminating capacity that is developed when all the other 15 quality principles are in place. Let’s take a look at the three major capacities that are needed to have students be able to advance upon mastery in a way that is designed so every student is successful. (more…)

Competency-Based Education Quality Principle #15: Develop Processes for Ongoing Continuous Improvement and Organizational Learning

December 27, 2018 by

This is the sixteenth article in a series based on the book Quality Principles for Competency-Based Education. You can find the section on Principle #15 Develop Processes for Ongoing Continuous Improvement and Organizational Learning on page 96. The links to the other articles can be found at the bottom of this page and will be updated as they are posted.

I think that one can argue that every school, whether it is a traditional school or a personalized, competency-based one, should have processes for continuous improvement in place. It only makes sense that any organization should be in the process of improving. However, traditional schools and school systems are highly bureaucratic in nature. The emphasis is much more on compliance than it is on an organizational drive toward excellence.

Our schools operate in an environment with layers and layers of policy, regulation, and reporting. These layers and layers of governance often create cultures of fear and mistrust. Thus, creating a strong continuous improvement and organizational learning culture, structure, and processes requires leadership. It may be the personal leadership of a teacher who uses formative assessment data to improve his own skills in learning how to help students develop the metacognitive and emotional skills to self-regulate their thinking and behavior. It may be the departmental leader who looks deeply at the data to identify that there are gaps in the domain-specific instructional approaches of teachers. Or it may be the organizational leadership of the principal or the superintendent who takes the courageous stance that they are going to do what’s best for students and manage the compliance requirements as needed.

The point is: In a bureaucratic world, truly engaging in organizational learning and continuous improvement can’t be separated from leadership. (more…)

Competency-Based Education Quality Principle #14: Increase Organizational Flexibility

December 21, 2018 by

This is the fifteenth article in a series based on the book Quality Principles for Competency-Based Education. You can find the section on Principle #14 Increase Organizational Flexibility on page 92. The links to the other articles can be found at the bottom of this page and will be updated as they are posted.

This structural quality principle about Organizational Flexibility goes hand-in-hand with the pedagogical Principle #9 Responsiveness. It comes down to this: We can’t expect teachers to be able to be responsive to meet students’ needs based on where they are unless the school has been designed to be flexible. For example, in today’s traditional environment, teachers have to purchase many of their own learning resources because the budgeting policies and practices are rigidly run by the district. If teachers are going to be able to respond to where students’ wonder, curiosity, and intellectual passions take them, they are going to need resource allocation operations that can turn on a dime. (more…)

Competency-Based Education Quality Principle #13: Invest in Educators as Learners

December 20, 2018 by

This is the fourteenth article in a series based on the book Quality Principles for Competency-Based Education. You can find the section on Principle #13 Invest in Educators as Learners on page 87. The links to the other articles can be found at the bottom of this page and will be updated as they are posted.

Competency-based education believes that all students, with the right supports, can learn. Similarly, advocates of competency-based education believe that all educators, with the rights supports, can learn the skills needed to help each and every student to learn. (more…)

How Competency-Based is New Zealand?

December 19, 2018 by

This is the final article in the CompetencyWork series Baskets of Knowledge from Aotearoa New Zealand. Links to the full set of articles are at the bottom of this page. You can find more about New Zealand at LearningEdge.

When I returned from Aotearoa New Zealand, I was frequently asked, “How competency-based is New Zealand?” It was never an easy question to answer because we’ve created a working definition and ten distinguishing features of competency-based that may or may not be the right ones. Furthermore, there are at least three core drivers or bar-raising policy goals that are shaping our understanding of competency-based education:

  • Redesigning schools and learning experiences around what we know about how children learn rather than continuing to operate upon a set of out-of-date beliefs and mindsets that form the traditional system.
  • Responding to changes in society and the economy that require a system that develops a broader set of knowledge and skills for student success: academic knowledge and skills, transferable skills (deeper learning and higher order skills), and lifelong learning.
  • Creating a more equitable system that monitors both growth and achievement to ensure that every student has opportunity to discover their potential and have doors opened for them upon graduation.


Insights from Aotearoa New Zealand: NCEA

December 18, 2018 by

This is the twelfth article in the series Baskets of Knowledge from Aotearoa New Zealand, which highlights insights from a totally different education system about what is possible in transforming our education system. Read the first article here.If you are going to New Zealand, be sure to read NCEA in Context. There are other resources at NZQA and NZCER that will be valuable as well.

The National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) is not a high school diploma. It is a certificate of achievement that indicates the level of achievement that students have learned at their completion of school. NCEA certificates of achievement aren’t received. They are earned. Time in the seat doesn’t matter. What matters is demonstrating learning.

The NCEA is a very sophisticated system with intentional thought given to ensuring that it is meaningful to students, schools, and the tertiary system. I’m going to do my best to translate the NCEA to our American education system by highlighting features of the system in bold. (more…)

Neuroteach: Brain Science and the Future of Education

December 17, 2018 by

Glenn Whitman and Ian Kelleher begin Neuroteach: Brain Science and the Future of Education (2016) with a bold and inspiring statement: “Teachers are brain changers” (p. 1). Thus begins their exploration into how teachers can leverage Mind Brain Education (MBE) strategies to design enhanced learning experiences for students. Early on, Whitman and Kelleher, both teachers at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School in Potomac, Maryland, make a powerful analogy between teachers and doctors to relate the importance of keeping up on research and innovations in practice. As medical patients, we would not choose a doctor whose only treatment plan consisted of the use of leeches, as this would indicate both an impoverished ‘tool kit’ and a lack of knowledge (although leeches are still used in innovative ways). Likewise, the authors of this book argue that we would not want teachers working with our students who are not keeping up with pedagogical advances. It is simply not good enough to do things the we always have just because it has worked for us in the past. (more…)

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