Friday, December 7, 2012

Could Competency-Based Learning Save the Common Core?

Michael Horn
I read "Could Competency-Based Learning Save the Common Core?" written by Michael Horn (co-author of "Disrupting Class" and advocate of transforming education through digital learning) yesterday and I wanted to provide a brief summary and a few comments.

In the article Horn discusses how nervous educators are concerning Common Core assessments and whether states will stick with the Common Core state standards once the tests become available. He compares the U.S. educational system to Detroit's Big Three auto plants and how this represents America's factory-modeled public educational system against the way Toyota sets up their employee training. To briefly summarize, during "training at the Big Three plants, the time is fixed, but the result of training was variable and predictable. The "exam" came at the end of training. At Toyota, the training was variable, but the assessment was interdependently woven into content delivery and the result was fixed."

Horn believes the Toyota example illustrates how a competency-based educational learning system would work. More specifically, Horn states his thoughts concerning the development of assessments in a competency-based model (below are a few statements that I have selected):
"Of course, if there were instead systems of assessments in a competency-based learning system built for students to take an assessment on-demand when they were ready to demonstrate mastery on specific competencies, we would see a different picture develop with assessments that left no doubt that they were different. Perhaps there could be short assessments to verify basic objective mastery around a particular concept followed by rich capstone-like projects that could measure several competencies and be reviewed on an on-demand basis by an outside party, similar in some respects to how Western Governors University manages its assessments, for example (and yes, Western Governors’ assessments are designed by psychometricians).

The assessments could also presumably be more bite-sized and not interrupt learning in school for several days."...
...The learning objectives and assessments would be far more transparent to students and their parents, and they would understand why they had not passed a certain concept, as they could receive immediate feedback to inform what they would learn next—and understand the importance of true mastery. In many cases, students could move back down to an earlier concept from a previous “grade” that they might not have mastered if that made the most sense for them to move ahead ultimately and realize success, thereby avoiding the “Swiss Cheese” problem that is too prevalent in education today and that competency-based learning, such as that used in Toyota’s training, solves...
...Common Core creates a huge opportunity for innovation and personalization and the implementation of a competency-based learning system. It’s an opportunity we shouldn’t waste.

I hope you will read this article in it's entirety by clicking HERE as there is much more detail to his thoughts than what I am providing. Like I have said before, my problem with many summative assessments is that we do not address the remediation of individual weaknesses and the identification of strengths with each student (The transparency of objectives and results is also of great concern to me).

Career and technical education (CTE) has been long-time proponents of competency-based education which as I mentioned in a previous post leads to student engagement which is paramount to any student's success. CareerTech is frequently looked down upon by many educators outside of CTE, but I have always thought that our competency-based model of education should have been adopted by K-12 a long time ago. Furthermore, any of our assessments, even our summative assessments, uses skills standards that are broken down into a series of duties and tasks that provide remediation for students, instructors, school, and state-wide level (a much more transparent assessment system). I believe that CTE offers a competency-based educational model that should be reviewed by all educators and CTE needs to do a better job of sharing their educational story and take a leadership role in the competency-based educational discussion.

I hope you will read Horn's article and share your thoughts!

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