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Tag: voice and choice

Developing a Growth Mindset at Fraser Public Schools

September 2, 2015 by

FraserThe following is a presentation made at Fraser Public Schools on September 2. Fraser has already invested in integrating technology into their classrooms and developing blended approaches to learning. They are now seeking to develop a competency-based infrastructure that will ensure students get the support they need.

This presentation explores what competency education is, examines how districts are developing their models, and takes a deeper dive into the new values and assumptions underlying personalized, competency-based systems and how they shape new practices. For those of you wanting to skip ahead of the definition, the section on districts starts at slide 10 and the section on the new values starts on slide 25.

Slide2

There are many ways to open the door to discussion of competency education. We could talk about why the traditional system doesn’t work or we could start with the classroom and expand into policy. Today, we’ll start with a bird’s-eye view of competency education and then go a bit deeper to visit some of the leading districts to find out what they are learning. We’ll wrap up with a look at the new set of values and assumptions that drive competency education.

Slide 17

Competency education is called different things in different states – ME and OR call it proficiency-based; CT calls it mastery-based; IA and NH call it competency-based. As soon as we update this map, we hear of another state taking a step forward. In June, it was Idaho and Ohio. I just heard that Nevada is starting a study group to learn more about it. It is spreading across the country because educators believe it is the best thing for kids.

I am confident that we are going in the right direction because many districts, without enabling state policy, are converting their schools to competency education. Examples include Lindsay in California, Warren and Springdale in Arkansas, Charleston in South Carolina, Henry and Fulton in Georgia, Freeport in Illinois, and Lake County in Florida.

Competency education has started in smaller districts in rural areas and inner ring suburbs. We think smaller districts are better positioned to make the change because it’s easier to engage community and easier to have more dialogue rather than resorting to memo/email for communication. (more…)

What’s Personalization Got to Do with It? On the Road to College and Career Success

August 26, 2015 by

I am delighted to have the chance to visit the Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative in Hazard, KY and meet with educators in their Next Generation Leadership Academy this week. They are spending time reflecting on the different ways to think about college and career success. Below is my presentation on how we might begin to think about college and career success in a competency-based structure.

The districts that are part of the Next Generation Leadership Academy at the Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative have been investing in many different ways to improve their schools. These include the Appalachian Renaissance Initiative to advance blended learning, efforts to raise student voice and leadership, personalized approaches to educator effectiveness, ways of approaching children wholistically, including early childhood health and trauma-informed services, and STEM.

What’s more even more impressive is that they are building their capacity to use design – enabling districts to begin to weave all these pieces together into the next generation districts and schools.

Slide 2

Designing anything always starts with having a clear idea of what you want to achieve. Sometimes, this is described as a problem you want to solve or something you want to improve, such as less expensive or more cost-effective. Or it may be described as your goal, the change you want to make happen in the world.

The question we have to ask ourselves in thinking about next generation education is what we want for our graduates of high school. We need to describe the change or, if you want to use a business lens, describe the product. However, there is also a big problem we are trying to solve that will shape every step of the design process. We haven’t yet been been able to figure out how to make sure all students become proficient in grade level skills, get a diploma, or are fully prepared for college. We need to think about the elements of a system that will be more reliable.

Today, we will spend sometime thinking about the goal, the system that would reduce inequity, and what it is going to take to get us from here to there. (more…)

Teaching: The Most Intellectual Job in the World

August 24, 2015 by

IntellectualRecently I received the question below. It starts with a concern about choice and agency and then expands to a number of questions about teaching and learning. Although I certainly don’t know the answer to all these questions, I have had several conversations with educators in competency-based schools that might provide some insight. As always, we’d love to have others share their thoughts on these questions.

My concern is that the practical implementation of personalized learning in classrooms can and in many cases, will lead paradoxically and tragically to the diminution of choice and agency for students. An example of this might sound like: Sorry John, but you can’t go on to multiplication until you have demonstrated mastery of two digit addition.

This begs some other questions: Who decides what skills are essential to be granted access to the next series of content/instruction? On what basis (cognitive, research-based) is that determination of sequencing made? Under what circumstances is it helpful for students to have exposure to topics that are beyond their independent or even instructional level? What are the grouping (tracking) implications of the way competency-based learning is, or may be rolled out?

Agency and Choice: Let’s tackle the question about student agency and choice: If we are comparing a personalized classroom to a traditional chalk and talk/pacing guided classroom, I can’t imagine how student agency and choice can be much less. However, I do think as a field we need to be much more clear about what it means to be personalized, the techniques for helping students to build agency, and the different ways to structure learning experiences to enable the three concepts of agency, voice and choice.

Certainly, there are schools that have chosen to use adaptive software programs that provide little personalization other than pace, with students plodding through a pretty boring curriculum, answering questions at the level of recall and comprehension. I’ve seen this most often in credit recovery programs and mediocre alternative schools. However, I’ve also seen it in a school that is touted as an innovative school, described as personalized because of the flexibility in pacing.

However, the example above about John who hasn’t learned two-digit addition isn’t as much about choice (assuming that we don’t consider choosing not to learn something as an option) as it is about teaching and learning. (more…)

Three Factors for Success: Agency, Integrated Identity, and Competencies

July 13, 2015 by

ydThere is growing interest – and I would also argue growing confusion – about all the skills and dispositions that aren’t academic content areas. They are often lumped together under the phrase “non-cognitive.” I fully agree with Andy Calkins that the term “non-cognitive” is problematic. In fact, I would say it is downright silly and makes us sound like we don’t know anything about learning and brain science when we suggest higher order thinking skills are not part of a cognitive process.

However, I don’t think the answer is in finding the right terminology, but in understanding how all these skills and dispositions relate to learning and to the development of young people into what we have called college and career ready. There is significant difference between dispositions such as grit or perseverance and skills related to self-knowledge such as self-control, not to mention skills used in projects and work such as collaboration and communication, and thinking skills such as analysis or evaluation used in almost every academic pursuit. I’m not quite sure where creativity goes at all …perhaps it is a category unto itself.

It’s important to understand these differences and think carefully about how they are nurtured, what they look like developmentally that might be structured as benchmarks, and how they are assessed. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not advocating for formal summative assessments. It doesn’t make sense to me to try to have NAEP monitoring grit at this point in time unless we really understand how all these dispositions and skills fit together. And until we determine which ones, if any,  are important to measure. It’s much more important for us to figure out how schools and teachers, working with community partners, develop and assess as a cycle of learning and development.

The University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research has just released an absolutely groundbreaking developmental framework that could help us on our way of understanding how these concept fit together. The report, Foundations for Young Adult Success: A Developmental Framework, provides a two-tier framework (captured in this infographic). The authors propose that young adults will be successful when three key factors are in place: agency, integrated identity, and competencies. According to the report, “These factors capture how a young adult poised for success interacts with the world (agency), the internal compass that a young adult uses to make decisions consistent with her values, beliefs, and goals (an integrated identity), and how she is able to be effective in different tasks (competencies).” Underlying the key factors are four foundational components: self-regulation, knowledge and skills, mindsets, and values.

The authors define these factors as:

Agency is the ability to make choices about and take an active role in one’s life path, rather than solely being the product of one’s circumstances. Agency requires the intentionality and forethought to derive a course of action and adjust that course as needed to reflect one’s identity, competencies, knowledge and skills, mindsets, and values. (more…)

European Insights into Competency

May 6, 2015 by

European ConferenceI stumbled across a very helpful article Competency-based education: learning at a time of change in Proceedings of “European/national initiatives to foster competency-based teaching and learning” European Conference 2014. Although there are issues to be considered in translating our competencies to the European competences, this article summarizes a number of ideas that I think will be helpful. (See International Study in Competency Education: Postcards from Abroad for more background info.)

I’ve plucked a number of the sections below for you to look at:

  1. Attributes of competency-based learning (for the learner themselves)
  2. Attributes of competency-based teaching
  3. Considerations for writing competency-based objectives

Just keep in mind as you read this that the structure has everything linking back to the outcome — and we know that it in fact we need to keep students at the core.

1. What are the key attributes of competency-based learning?

  • Understand how one learns best (style)
  • Understand exactly what is expected outcome(s) of learning
  • Take responsibility for one’s learning
  • Motivated to learn – goal oriented
  • Ethical person and practitioner
  • Critical thinker
  • Self-assess learning and performance
  • Commitment to ongoing learning

(more…)

Three Perspectives on Personalization

April 22, 2015 by
Matt Riggan

Matt Riggan

Matt Riggan shares his perspective on the NGLC Bay Area convening, which took place in January 2015. This post originally appeared at Next Generation Learning Challenges on February 24, 2015.

Our two-day visit had been all about personalized learning. We’d heard that term in every school we visited and in every session in between. But what does it really mean?

Visiting schools and talking with other NGLC grantees, I heard three distinct visions for personalization.

The first focuses on using technology to locate and support students along a continuum of learning within a given content area. This view prioritizes meeting students where they are in literacy and mathematics. Students work at their own pace, and teachers have the ability to identify small groups for direct support and intervention. What is not necessarily personalized in this view is what kids actually learn. More often than not, that is defined by standards and accountability systems, or other external factors like college entrance requirements. (more…)

Hear Ye, Hear Ye – All Those Who Live in New England

March 24, 2015 by

The Nellie Mae Education Foundation just opened up a request for proposals for their Amplifying Student Voice and Leadership work. Through this RFP, the Foundation will select up to four new youth organizing groups to build public understanding, support, and demand for student-centered learning. These new grantees will be located in Connecticut, Maine, and Vermont, or a combination thereof. Through this work, the Foundation seeks to amplify student voice and leadership across New England.

Below are the links to the materials you will need to apply to this RFP:

Request for Proposals

Nellie Mae Budget Template

Please respond to Delia Arellano-Weddleton, Program Officer, with any questions.

I think this is an incredible opportunity – we need so many more youth organizing groups in our country, no matter if we are designing the purpose or if it is open so that youth organize around the issues that are important to them.

What’s New in K-12 Competency Education?

March 12, 2015 by

Furthering the FieldWhat's New Star logo

Movement in the States

Six Trends at Lindsay Unified School District

March 2, 2015 by
Tom Rooney

Tom Rooney

This is the first post in a series on Lindsay Unified School District. Read the second, third, fourth, and fifth posts here. 

If your district is thinking seriously about converting to competency education, you should definitely bring a team to visit to Lindsay Unified School District. When I was last there, they had forty-plus educators from two districts in California, seven from Colorado, and one from Florida. You can register here for a site visit. (For funders out there – it’s worth considering figuring out how to do a virtual tour, as more people want to visit than Lindsay can accommodate and it’s expensive for districts to send a team. Just think how we could also reduce our carbon footprint if videos were available.)

One of the highlights of the visit was Superintendent Tom Rooney’s opening talk. I’ve known Tom for several years but have never heard him as sharp, urgent, and impassioned. After watching the video Transformational Learning (available in Spanish, as well), Rooney talked about graduation day as a great day for students. “This is a great day for educators, as well. We are saying to the world, ‘We’ve had them for twelve or thirteen years and we’re sending them out into society. They are our product, our contribution to society.’” He then continued, “The reality for many of our graduates is that they soon find out they didn’t get what they needed. Some of the kids fall into deep despair when they realize they have been betrayed. They were told that they are ready, but they’re not.”

Rooney then told a story that occurred when Virgel Hammonds was a new principal at Lindsay Unified High School (Hammonds is now the superintendent at RSU2 in Maine). It was late spring and Hammonds was just getting settled into his office, when in walked a father and his son who had graduated the week before. The father took a newspaper off the desk and gave it to his son, asking him to read it. After a few minutes of silence, the young man looked up with his tears in his eyes. “Dad, you know I don’t know how to read.”

Betrayal indeed. This is a betrayal that occurs all across our country. (more…)

Shifting the Culture in Learner-Centered Environments

February 18, 2015 by

Picture CollageIn 2012, the Maine Legislature passed into law LD1422, An Act to Prepare Maine People for the Future Economy. The key element of this legislation is the transition to a standards-based educational system in which graduation from a Maine high school is based on students demonstrating proficiency.

The policy was set, but what does it mean to a district and school to ensure their students are proficient? What had to change? I’ve worked in one district that has undergone the transformation and I’m currently working in another that has started their transition to a proficiency-based system. Each one began by transforming the culture to a learner-centered approach. In both districts, consultants from the Re-Inventing Schools Coalition, a division of Marzano Research, provided us with training and resources to aid in our implementation of this challenging work.

It starts with fully embracing the fact that students learn differently. As we put our beliefs that learners learn in different ways and in different time frames into practice, we began taking bold steps toward creating a meaningful, personalized learning experience for each child. Early on, we gleaned the importance of including all stakeholders, including community groups, students, staff, and parents, in thinking and talking about a culture of learning. (more…)

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