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Tag: student agency, voice and choice

Reflections on Competency-Based and Blended Learning

June 6, 2014 by

 

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From edelements.com

Originally posted June 4, 2014 by Education Elements

Last week, Justin DeLeon and I attended the Competency Based Education Convening in Los Angeles, held by CompetencyWorks, an initiative led by iNACOL and MetisNet. The goal of the convening was to bring together technical assistance experts in the field around competency-based education and blended learning to better understand how blended, competency-based programs can facilitate personalized learning (which emphasizes student voice and choice). The technical assistance providers in attendance were comprised of competency-based learning organizations, such as Re-Inventing Schools Coalition (RISC), recent authors of papers on pertinent topics including Liz Glowa and Julia Freeland, in addition to practitioners of competency-based programs like Boston Day and Evening Academy.

 

The group visited USC Hybrid High and further developed practices pitches to superintendents on what ideal steps we would take to achieve a blended, competency-based program to achieve personalization across a set of schools. Over two intense days, we determined a current roadblock to understanding how blended learning could better facilitate competency-based learning was the glaring need to clarify for the field how digital content providers’ pedagogy is designed to personalize. (more…)

Listening to Our Critics: Offering Multiple Assessments on the Path to Proficiency

March 28, 2014 by

listening-thumbsup-downI read an article today about a company that scours through comments and complaints from customers on Amazon to find out what product details consumers are searching for, to then create those products. And it got me to thinking about conversations with students.

During site visits, conversations with students let you know how the school is doing in terms of embracing the spirit of competency education. When students talk about what they are learning, what they need to be successful and want to hear from other, quieter students, you know things are going in the right direction. If students lead off with the grading system and continue on with a string of complaints, you know that some pieces are missing. We need to listen to those concerns because listening to our “consumers” will help us create better schools.

I visited a high school that was experiencing a lot of implementation challenges.  It was the second year of implementation and most students seemed to value competency education. One student’s comment seemed to capture the overall value of competency education: “I value competency education because I like having to pass every piece of the course. I feel more prepared and the teachers act as if they care that I pass.” Students and teachers, however, also were frustrated, sometimes for the same reasons, but not ready to give up at all. Three issues emerged from their critique that I’ve put together in three different posts.

1)  “I don’t like the reassessment policy.  Too many students, especially the honor students, don’t even study any more. They just wing it on the quizzes and then if they don’t pass, they ask for a reassessment. It’s not fair. “

Other students who struggled with some subjects had a different point of view. “Some of the teachers only know how to teach you one way. They don’t seem to really understand the material with any depth. So it’s hard to get the help I need. So I end up just taking the reassessments over and over. “

  • Listening? Teachers complained about reassessments, as well. At this school, competency education had developed a quality of “testing out,” and teachers were spending a lot of time on reassessments rather than helping students to be successful in the learning cycle the first time through. In my discussion with teachers, the focus was more on aligning standards and assessments and much less on instruction.
  • What’s Missing? Three questions were raised for me during this discussion. First, the school was only using the habits of work or lifelong learning competencies in a perfunctory way. Students said they were inconsistently used and inconsistently applied.If they had meaning, those honor students would not want to have “inconsistent demonstration of professionalism” or “emerging proficiency in quality of work” at the top of their report card.  Second, the school did not offer flex time for students to get support during the day. Teachers and students were left scrambling to find time after school or during lunch. No wonder there were a lot of students needing reassessments. Save time and resources by helping kids get it right the first time. Third, there was little in the conversation that suggested that the students had a shared vision of a community of learners where they committed to learning and supporting each other. Although the district is a strong partner in the transition to competency education, turnover in school leadership was having an impact.  I know that many of the districts we would consider successfully implementing competency education invested heavily in the beginning to create a shared vision among teachers, parents, community members, and students. Fairness was about making sure everyone has the support they need to learn, not who gets to take a quiz when. Corrective action: I haven’t talked to anyone who got to this spot and then corrected it. We would love to hear from you.
  • Rethinking the System? Something feels off to me about emphasizing reassessment so heavily. Reassessment is often discussed as if it is a product of student behavior, when in fact I think there are three contributing factors for students needing reassessment.

1)    Students may not have a strong understanding of efficacy (how hard do I need to work to succeed).

2)    Adequate school resources haven’t been dedicated to ensure that supports and interventions are in place. This may be as much as an organizational issue as a resource issue.

3)    Teachers’ may not have adequate knowledge of learning trajectories to allow them to identify where students are likely to trip up. If there isn’t a strong PLC, teachers may not be able to draw from the collective knowledge of their colleagues, so are dependent on their own knowledge base. (I’m still learning about learning trajectories and how they are different than learning progressions.  Learning trajectories are how students learn and the most likely places they will stumble because of misconceptions. Learning progressions are our best guess at how students should learn, for example, Common Core State Standards. And individual learning progressions are how students actually learn.)

I know reassessment becomes a real problem at schools that create grading systems where students who have demonstrated proficiency can request reassessment to get higher points. That is different from a grading system that hopes students will demonstrate learning at Level 3 (analysis) and then return later to demonstrate Level 4 (knowledge utilization). In addition, in personalized systems, students and teachers know when it is time for a student to take summative assessments, as they have already demonstrated proficiency. We need to get stronger at articulating the change in emphasis, otherwise schools like this one will continue to have time-based assessments that then require resources for reassessments.

 

New Year’s Resolution: Student Directed Individualized Learning for All

February 12, 2014 by

This article was originally published in the Reinventing Schools Coalition January newsletter. The RISC newsletter is designed to give you practices and opportunities to move students from compliance into engagement, an essential element for building a personal mastery system.

New Year'sAs stated in the book Delivering on the Promise, “a RISC system is where students themselves are encouraged, taught, and empowered to be accountable for their learning. This is not a back-and-white, step-by step, to-do list through which students become leaders of the learning process overnight. It is an evolutionary process in which students move from being dependent to independent learners…. Once students own the system and they understand the direction they are headed in their education, they become advocates who begin to insist that teachers help them accomplish their goals.”

This type of change requires a shift in the roles of the teacher and the learner. Teachers and students will unpack the standard, determine the rigor of the learning (cognitive and content knowledge), and build a transparent learning progression with clear and timely feedback. The student, when given an unpacked standard and learning progression, will be required not just to understand their own capacity, but to make decisions about the ways in which they will learn and prove mastery. When setting goals and direction, students become engaged leaders of their own learning.

Goal setting and monitoring are essential components of learning. “On average, the practice of having students track their own progress was associated with a 32 percentile gain in their achievement” (Marzano, 2009). (more…)

Whose Classroom Is This? The Importance of Students’ Voice in Creating a Writer’s Workshop

January 9, 2014 by

kphillips

To reach as many students and skills as possible in a given Unit of Study, and to allow kids time to write and practice, Language Arts teachers at MAMS employ a mini-lesson model. By teaching one 10-12 minute mini-lesson each 50-minute block, students are allowed to dedicate much of their block to writing and teachers are able to confer with students individually or in small groups. The topic of the mini-lesson is determined by the needs of the students in the class, and individual work-time helps teachers work with students who may be working on the lesson topic. (more…)

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