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Aurora Institute

Competency-Based Education Quality Principle #12: Maximize Transparency

CompetencyWorks Blog

Author(s): Chris Sturgis

Issue(s): Issues in Practice, Evaluate Quality

This is the thirteenth article in a series based on the book Quality Principles for Competency-Based Education. You can find the section on Principle #12 Maximize Transparency on page 81. The links to the other articles can be found at the bottom of this page and will be updated as they are posted.

Transparency is by far one of the most powerful principles that drives personalized, competency-based education.

  • Transparent learning objectives enable teachers to moderate their understanding of what it means to be proficient or to ‘master’ the learning objective. Moderated understanding of proficiency leads to greater equity as teachers are certifying learning consistently across classrooms, schools, and districts. Transparency also leads to improved instruction as teachers can fully align instruction to the depth of knowledge required by the standard.
  • Transparency is an important ingredient to empowering students to be able to make decisions about and own their learning. The more students understand what they are supposed to be learning, what success looks like, where they can access support, and what their next step is, they more they can begin to make decisions about their learning. When people have some control over their environment and have some choice, they are more motivated and have a stronger sense of agency. As students make decisions about their learning, this provides opportunities for teachers to coach students in the building blocks of learning (growth mindset, self-regulation, metacognition, and perseverance) and habits of success (time management, reaching standards of excellence).
  • Transparency in shared guiding principles and decision-making can generate trust as staff and understand why decisions are being made. It can also enable distributed leadership as teams are able to take on responsibility for some decisions as long as they do so within the shared guiding principles or decision criteria.

Lara Evangelista, principal of Flushing International High School in New York City, explains the impact of transparency on the school. “We started along the path toward mastery-based learning when we began to ask ourselves: Why do we assess? Why do we grade? We realized that every teacher did it differently. The transparency and intentionality of mastery-based learning makes a huge difference for our teachers and our students. Our teachers are much more intentional about what they want to achieve in their classrooms. It has also opened up the door to rich conversations about what is important for students to learn, pedagogy, and the instructional strategies we are using. For students, transparency is empowering and motivating. They are more engaged in taking responsibility for their own education than ever before.”

One of the most challenging aspects of transparency is to be honest with students and parents about where students are on the learner continuum. It’s not fair to give Bs to students for effort in sixth grade if they are still struggling to read at a fourth grade level. When we send false signals to students, we are taking away their opportunity to work harder, get more help, or even find another school that can provide more intensive instruction to them. When we send false signals, we are showing disrespect that generates mistrust. When we send false signals, we are investing in inequity.

Read the Entire Series:

  1. Quality Principles for Competency-Based Education
  2. Purpose-Driven
  3. Commit to Equity
  4. Nurture a Culture of Learning and Inclusivity
  5. Foster the Development of a Growth Mindset
  6. Cultivate Empowering and Distributed Leadership
  7. Base School Design and Pedagogy on Learning Sciences
  8. Activate Student Agency and Ownership
  9. Design for the Development of Rigorous Higher-Level Skills
  10. Ensure Responsiveness
  11. Seek Intentionality and Alignment
  12. Establish Mechanisms to Ensure Consistency and Reliability
  13. Maximize Transparency
  14. Invest in Educators as Learners
  15. Increase Organizational Flexibility
  16. Develop Processes for Ongoing Continuous Improvement and Organizational Learning
  17. Advance Upon Demonstrated Mastery