Tag: mastery-based

September 2018 CompetencyWorks Catch-Up

October 1, 2018 by

Here are the highlights from September 2018 on CompetencyWorks. Happy reading. And let us know if you have questions you want us to delve into!

CASE STUDIES AND SITE VISITS

Mastery Education in Idaho

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Are You a Neuroteacher?

September 26, 2018 by

This is the fourth book in the series Conversations with Authors About Competency-Based Education.

I hadn’t realized that the concept of the “empty vessel” in which we pour knowledge into children’s brains was still lurking in my mind, shaping what I was learning, until I read Neuroteach: Brain Science and the Future of Education by Glenn Whitman and Ian Kelleher. Over and over again, the authors reinforce the idea that for learning to happen, the mind must be active. Over and over again, they also reinforce the idea that “teachers are brain-changers.” They explain that a neuroteacher is “one who intentionally applies research from the field of mind, brain, and education to his or her instructional design and work with every student.” (more…)

Updated: Competency-Based Education Across America

September 25, 2018 by

I received several requests to organize this by geography, not date. Most recent update: September 2018.

We recently updated the map of competency education because so many states  have taken steps forward for state policies to enable and invest in competency-based education. In reflecting upon how competency-based education is developing, we pulled together all the “case studies” we have done based on site visits and interviews in seventeen states. As soon as we can, we want to visit Arkansas, Michigan, Minnesota, and Vermont. We should probably swing back and visit some of the places like Maine and New Hampshire to see what they are up to as well in the leading districts.

For those of you trying to learn more about competency education, we are hearing that some districts are using the case studies as discussion tools. Everyone reads about one school and then talks about what is challenging, how their understanding of the traditional system is changing, and what ideas they think might be valuable. It’s just a warm-up to embracing the values and assumptions that are the roots of competency education. (more…)

Missteps in Implementing Competency Education: Introducing Grading Too Early

September 24, 2018 by

This is the first in a series on problems of practice. (Get started by reading the introduction.) We are interested in hearing from readers about other problems of practice they’ve seen or are struggling with in implementation.

1. Insisting on moving to a 1-4 grading scale too early. Many, many districts moved to adopt the 1-4 grading scale almost immediately. This decision initially draws public attention — but it ends up focused on grading not learning. And it fails to help people understand “why” schools need to change. Furthermore, early grading changes have continued to create problems because they are poorly implemented. (See the article about what needs to be in place before you introduce standards-based grading.) The result is that parents are raising concerns about standards-referenced grading as a form of communicating how their children are doing in school.

On top of poor implementation problems, although higher education has been supportive many scholarships across New England still ask for and require letter grades (and these are far too numerous to get at all of them), and the NCAA, while entirely supportive, requires A-F reporting. At the end of the day, it is a large draw down on a district or schools political capital to make this shift and only a small philosophical victory. FYI, in those states advancing comepetency education through state policies changes in grading are not required.

Getting Implementation Right: There are three lessons from higher quality competency-based schools across the country: (more…)

Idaho Site Visit: Mastery Education in Idaho

September 19, 2018 by

What Not To Do: Six Problematic Practices in the Transition to Competency Education

September 17, 2018 by

Implementation mistakes cause harm in both the short run and the long run. In the short run, students may be receiving mixed messages that can impact learning, engagement, and motivation or result in inadequate support. In the long run, it harms the competency education movement.

There are always going to be concerns raised by those who oppose competency education based on an ideological or political standpoint such as anti-standards, a wish to return to covering content, and an enduring fear that communism may rear its head if we hold high expectations for all students. However, the larger threat to advancing competency education is shallow or one-off implementation and failure to not address problems of practice . (Please see David Ruff’s article Six Fixes for Proficiency-Based Learning.)

The risk of poor implementation is that competency-based education becomes defined by the problems in the field rather than a definitional, aspirational, or research-based approach. Can you imagine describing the field of medicine, journalism, or agriculture by the errors, missteps, or bad actors? This is why building a field with an agreed upon working definition, design principles, and quality standards is important. Otherwise we leave ourselves to being defined, as in this case, by poor practice.

The Critics Are Our Friends

The fact of the matter is when our critics comment on problems of practice they are often right to do so. We need to take these types of critiques seriously and correct them. These practices are likely to be problematic unless a highly developed model is in place. (more…)

Learner-Centered Tip of the Week: How New is a New School Year?

September 14, 2018 by

This post originally appeared at the Learner Centered Practices Blog on September 11, 2018. Belolan is the instructional coach for RSU2 in Maine.

The new year is underway. New classes, new teachers, new supplies, new buildings (for some). But how new should the new year be in a learner centered proficiency based environment? Is it really a clean slate, a fresh start, a brand new year of learning? Maybe the start of a new school year should be thought of more as a resuming of the learning rather than a new start of learning. (more…)

The Power of Connections

September 12, 2018 by

This is the third article in the series Conversations with Authors About Competency-Based Education.

It’s always fascinating when you read several books in a row that you might not have thought were at all related but when read together forge an overarching set of ideas. It happened last week when I read Who You Know by Julia Freeland Fisher and Daniel Fisher, Better Together by Tom Vander Ark and Lydia Dobyns, and The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone by Steven Sloman and Philip Fernbach, one right after the other. My breakthrough thinking was that we understand ourselves and assess ourselves as individuals – individual people, individual teachers, individual schools. And certainly there is always a story to be told through this singular lens. However, there is another analysis that tells quite a different story. Who are we, what do we know, and what do we accomplish through our relationships, connections, and collaborations? (more…)

Getting Ahead of the Curve: Time for a Mid-Course Correction

September 10, 2018 by

I recently played chess with an eleven-year-old niece who is a much better player than I am. She thinks ahead whereas I am definitely still a novice, a step-by-step player constantly surprised when the next pawn, rook, or knight is bumped off the board.

When I read an op-ed titled Proficiency is a flawed model for education regarding proficiency-based education in Maine, I realized that as a field we are operating as novices with the risk of getting bumped off the board and bumped out of the educational agenda. (more…)

The Sharp Ones: A Few Takeaways from Idaho

September 5, 2018 by

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This is the tenth article in the series on Mastery Education in Idaho. Links to the other articles can be found below.

Oh, there is so much to learn in Idaho. Where to start?

1) Learning from others and making it your own.

Too often we recreate the wheel. It’s fun to be so creative and to think it through. It’s also a lot of work to investigate what others have done and try to make sense of it. However, the cost is huge to start from scratch. You’ll make mistakes. The designs will most likely only represent the limits of your own knowledge and imagination at that point in time. Usually, we can only design around a few strands or concepts – it’s hard to create robust models straight out of the gate. Reiteration takes time, and there is a risk that there will be pushback on the big idea if early models are too limited or shallow.

Idaho seems to have mastered being “a sharp one” in the language of the “pencil metaphor.” In other words, they saw what early adopters had done, grabbed the best of it, and learned from the mistakes of others to do the best they can for their students. At every stop, people would refer to other schools and resources, describing which parts they were using and which parts they have modified. In Kuna Middle School, the teachers at Synergy had taken the Summit platform and pillars as the foundation for a fully interdisciplinary, project-based approach. At Central Academy, they had drawn from Building 21 and Bronx Arena in terms of approaches and information systems. Columbia High School has been pulling pieces from Marzano Research Lab, Summit, and Buck Institute. The team from reDesign has been a strong partner throughout the development of the Idaho Mastery Education Network. (more…)

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