Competencies For Competency Education?

May 27, 2013 by

csbouldersmallWith the help of our Advisory Board, Susan Patrick and I have been trying to sketch out a) which competencies are needed to implement competency education and b) what a core set of trainings would look like to support state, district, and school personnel in developing these competencies. We don’t have funding for this, nor do we know of anyone else who has funding – but we think it is important to put these ideas out there as states, districts, and schools charge ahead, and we need to be able to make the best thinking and best resources available.

We have been thinking about creating a set of “badges” based on a framework within which we can capture the essential knowledge and skills. Depending on your role, what you will need to know and be able to do is different.

Our rough draft ideas are below – but we know it’s not quite right.  First the language needs to be inspiring and capture the spirit and joy of learning. Second, the overarching framework doesn’t work quite right. We also have a long way to go to get these key questions right.  We’d love to hear your ideas about how to break this up in a meaningful way for schools and educators. In fact, if you have already started to create a set of competencies  or a badging process for the adults, please tell us about it as we might be able to build off of your efforts.

Initial Draft of Competency Education Badges

Expert (4): I’ve had successful experiences in competency education that produced increased achievement for students and can support my peers.
Experienced (3): I’ve implemented it – it may not be perfect but I’m learning from my mistakes.
Novice (2): I’m working on planning and early implementation right now. Wow I have a lot of questions.
Explorer (1): I’m becoming familiar with the concepts, implications, and design choices.

1.    Engagement and Communication

  • What is competency education?
  • Why is it important?
  • How to engage educators, students, families, and broader communication?
  • How to create an engagement plan?

2.    Designing for Personalization and Proficiency

  • How to create student voice and choice?
  • How can we personalize education so students get what they need?
  • What do we need to do to support the concept that students advance upon mastery?

3.    Creating an Infrastructure for Learning

  •  How do we design competency frameworks and rubrics?
  • What is our system of assessments?
  • How do we calibrate to ensure alignment and rigor?
  • What needs to be in place to support deeper learning and demonstration of competencies?
  • How can we provide feedback on progress that is meaningful to students, parents and higher education?

4.    Delivery and Operations

  • How will you know where students are on their learning progression?
  • How will you ensure that students are able to get instructional support based on their learning progression, especially when there is wide variation of skills across students?
  • How will day, week, courses, semesters, and annual schedules be designed to support students to stay on pace and advance upon mastery?

5.    Anytime/Anywhere Supports and Opportunities

  • How can you structure expanded learning opportunities for students to learn and apply knowledge and skills?
  • What needs to be in place so that students get the supports they need when they encounter material that is too challenging, or when they have gaps that are creating barriers to learning?
  • What role is online and blended learning going to play?
  • What partnerships need to be established?

6.    Continuous Improvement for Districts and Schools

  • What is the essential information that needs to be transparent to students and families?
  • How can resources be deployed to best support personalized, competency-based schools?
  • What are meaningful metrics to support continuous improvement?

7.    Supporting Educators

  • How does classroom management change in a personalized, competency-based classroom?
  • What are the skills and supports teachers need to make the transition?
  • How can we design an effective feedback/evaluation system for educators?
  • What are the changes needed in other parts of the education system to fully prepare and support educators?

8.    Information Technology

  • What is the information that you need to support students and teachers?
  • How will you use this information?
  • What are the systems you will need?

9.     Adaptive Leadership and Change Management

  • How can you create innovative space for others and for yourself?
  • What skills do you need to develop for your own personal mastery given your role?
  • What are techniques for managing change so that key stakeholders can provide feedback and mid-course corrections can be made quickly?

Personally, I like the way the rating scale would work. It really honors the expertise that is developed through implementation. I’d always be a 1 because I analyze and synthesize what is being learned…but I have never applied the knowledge and skills. That’s the way I think it should be.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
share this post:Tweet about this on Twitter
Share on Facebook
Email this to someone


  1. Comment by Jim Goodell 7:02 pm, June 3, 2013


    This a a great start to a framework for meet an important need. One approach to making this work may be to work backward from proven competency-based teaching and learning models and successful implementations of those models. We can discover from each successful implementation the essential roles, what people in those roles know and do, and what ‘habits of practice’ within each role made the implementation work.

    The roles, and competencies required, may differ for different implementation models so the badges may need to be for a specific role within a specific model, or category of models, e.g. “Expert Khan Academy Coach” or “Experienced Flex-Blend Expectations Manager”. Best practices for the work that needs to be done by education professionals will also vary based on the tools chosen, such as online learning experience and assessment applications, dashboards, and analytical tools.

    The competency-based learning process has some common work elements such as mapping individual learning objectives, developing learning activities, delivering learning activities, experiencing learning activities, progress tracking/mapping, assessing progress, make advance-upon-mastery decisions, remedial feedback, recommendations, and exception handling. And there are common supporting processes that have to do with the initial transition to and management of a competency-based learning organization. However, the work done may be distributed differently for different implementations. We can think of distributing the work to brick-and-mortar educators, online educators, learners, information systems, and other people/organizations. Another approach is think about emerging model-specific roles such as “Expectations Manager”.

    Maybe a good place to start is to classify roles according to the work elements of competency-based-learning processes, e.g. “Advance-Upon-Mastery Decision Maker”, rather than traditional job categories. The badges would correspond to the set of competencies needed to do the work within that role, e.g. “What does the Advance-Upon-Mastery Decision Maker need to know, know how, and do effectively?”

    (This kind of organization would support models that assign most of the roles to one teacher for a given learner, and those that distribute the work across a team of specialists supporting each learner.)


  2. Comment by Chris Sturgis 2:36 pm, June 5, 2013

    Thanks Jim — These are really good points. I had totally forgotten about the likelihood of seeing differentiated educator roles in larger schools or across districts (small schools may not be able to do that to the same degree).

    I’ve had several conversations recently about the value of separating out the “validator” — the person that manages the summative assessments to ensure students are proficient. This could also be someone that manages the performance-based assessments.

    At times I think we can guess how new staffing models might look and at other times I think we are at the edge of dramatic decentralization of education — and that things might look very different in five years.

  3. Comment by Chris Sturgis 5:37 pm, June 11, 2013

    HI all — Just found out that Lindsay Unfied School District has already started down this path. They have a Total Leaders Rubric that can be used to invest in leadership development and a shared vision.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

WordPress SEO fine-tune by Meta SEO Pack from Poradnik Webmastera