Deepening your learning about competency-based education at this year’s virtual Aurora Institute Symposium requires no airplanes or hotel rooms, and the offerings remain extensive and informed by a wide range of experts. It will be difficult to choose among the simultaneous breakout sessions, but fortunately many will be recorded and archived on our website for future viewing. Even just perusing the agenda can help you learn about important issues, helpful people, and valuable resources in the field.
This post lists some of the breakout sessions that are closely focused on competency-based education, so you can start thinking about what to attend. The plenary sessions are also deeply relevant to competency-based education, so readers of this blog will greatly benefit from attending those too. (They are described in the Symposium agenda.) All times shown below are Eastern Time.
Tuesday, October 26
1:00-2:00pm – Designed to Thrive: Creating Culminating Assessment for Learning Experiences Wherein All Students Can Thrive. Our session asks, “What kind of culminating performance assessment experience would we create to ensure that ALL learners thrive – especially those furthest from opportunity?” Participants will explore an example of a performance assessment, and refine it from the perspective of a vulnerable student in order to ensure that ALL students thrive. (Presenters: Alcine Mumby, Abby Benedetto)
1:00-2:00pm – Advancing Equity in Classrooms, Schools and Districts through Assessment for Learning Practices. Developing assessment practices that lead to equitable opportunities for learning requires shedding certain entrenched ways of doing things. Teachers need to establish classrooms where students feel they belong and create opportunities for students to examine their work for evidence of learning toward a goal. This session features ways teachers, schools, and districts (re-)structured feedback processes to be alert to issues of equity, privilege, and status and support meaningful learning. We will also talk about assessment for learning practices in the time of COVID. (Presenters: Ann Jaquith, Alec Barron, Pam Betten)
2:15-3:30pm – Book Clubs
- Deeper Competency-Based Learning: Making Equitable, Student-Centered, Sustainable Shifts. (Authors: Karin Hess, Rose Colby, Daniel Joseph)
- Putting Students First: A Game Plan for Personalized Learning (Authors: Marsha Jones, Laureen Avery, Joe DiMartino, with Shelly Poage)
- Scheduling for Personalized, Competency-Based Education (Authors: Douglas Finn III, Michelle Finn)
- Pathways to Personalization: A Framework for School Change (Authors: Shawn Rubin, Cathy Sanford)
- The Power of Student Agency: Looking Beyond Grit to Close the Opportunity Gap (Author: Anindya Kundu, with Chris Liang-Vergara)
Wednesday, October 27
Almost all of the 1:30-2:30pm sessions are focused on competency-based education, so you’ll need to choose one and have the option of watching some of the recordings later.
1:30-2:30pm – An Introduction to K-12 Competency-Based Education. Competency-based education is a system designed to ensure equity for all students to develop the knowledge, skills, and dispositions needed for college and career success. This session will introduce the rationale for transforming to competency-based systems and discuss key strategies such as cultural responsiveness, building student agency, advancing based on mastery, varied pacing and pathways, and meaningful assessment. We will also discuss resources and policies that support effective implementation. (Presenters: Eliot Levine, Alexis Chambers)
1:30-2:30pm – Scheduling for Personalized Competency-Based Education. Scheduling students based on their needs is one of the most unrated components to PCBE. This session will focus on what is needed to effectively schedule students and go through examples of how to create a PCBE schedule. Participants will analyze examples and discuss the possible approaches to organizing students based on their needs. Be prepared to be actively involved in the conversation and discuss real situations and realistic solutions. (Presenter: Doug Finn)
1:30-2:30pm – Grading and Reporting for Educational Equity. The abrupt shift to remote learning this year revealed many inequities. A spotlight was shone on grading and reporting – an already contentious and emotionally fraught topic. In this session, we will review the eight central tenets that should guide schools’ efforts to examine their grading and reporting systems. We will explore sample policies and grading guidelines from schools that have used these tenets to successfully re-design their systems for equitable, competency-based learning. (Presenters: Mark Kostin, Kate Gardoqui, Katie Thompson)
1:30-2:30pm – Continuity of Learning in Texas: What We Learned from Blended, Personalized Learning Schools. This panel targets the specific implementation challenge of continuity of learning, within the state of Texas, as schools moved to online-only teaching during the COVID pandemic. The panel invites members from urban and rural school districts, the state agency (TEA), and state-sponsored support groups to discuss both the specific challenges and successes of moving to online-only education as a group of schools that were already committed to and practicing blended and personalized learning methods. (Presenters: Andrew Hodge, Kristen Watkins, Kathy Horner, Kellie Wilks, Lauren Tavarez, Heather Greenhalgh-Spencer)
1:30-2:30pm – Meeting Students Where They Are: Competency-Based Pedagogy that Works for Remote and In-Person Learning. This moment is bringing into sharp focus the need to meet learners where they are, engage them, support them in increasing their core competencies, and create strongly inclusive learning communities that center learners’ lived experiences and prioritize a feeling of connectedness. This session introduces a model for learner-centered communities, and digs into a framework for personalized, competency-based pedagogical practice. Explore the research and two high-leverage pedagogical practices: learner-to-learner discussion and feedback and conferencing. Consider how the core practices can be implemented in your learning settings across diverse roles, whether teacher, instructional coach, or educational leader. (Presenters: Antonia Rudenstine, Laurie Gagnon)
1:30-2:30pm – Inviting in Experts: How to Leverage Authentic Audiences in the Virtual Classroom. Involving authentic audiences in the learning process can imbue projects with purpose and raise the stakes for the quality of student work. While there is value with experts simply sharing knowledge, the impact is magnified when students present to and get feedback from authentic audiences. Two alternative schools from Providence, RI and Holyoke, MA will share how they have created performance tasks that include presentation to authentic audiences in both physical and virtual classrooms. (Presenters: Christy Kingham, Geoffrey Schmidt, Jessica Waters)
Thursday, October 28
11:45am – 12:45pm – How Intentional Equity Serves All Students. Equity in a school building doesn’t just happen, it is purposefully cultivated. Hear from school leaders on their methods to curate opportunities for all their students. In the wake of COVID they will share how the shift to remote learning not only highlighted inequitable truths but also provided a chance to even the playing field. Learn about family engagement tactics, diverse recruiting strategies that mirror local communities, and how students’ needs are met where they are.
11:45am – 12:45pm – Positioning Competency-Based Education as an Equity Strategy: Theory, Practice, and Evidence to Push the Field. Competency-based education (CBE) can ensure high levels of success among traditionally under-served students. This session will explore CBE as an equity strategy that may be used to dismantle tracking regimes and enhance culturally-sustaining pedagogies; how to avoid using CBE in ways that exacerbate inequities; and a research agenda for capturing implementations that produce disproportionately positive impacts among under-served populations. (Presenters: Eric Toshalis, Virgel Hammonds)
11:45am – 12:45pm – Practical Tools to Encourage Self-Direction Among Students for In-Person and Remote Learning. Educators and researchers will share their experiences developing and integrating self-direction instruction and assessment into New Hampshire’s statewide performance assessment for competency-based education (PACE) system and how self-direction was a key learning support for students during COVID-19 school closures. Presenters will share their work translating the research-informed skill of self-direction into practical tools and processes for teachers and students across all grades. (Presenters: Karin Hess, Wendy Surr, Elizabeth Gouzoules-Walton, Jessica Tremblay, Kathleen White, Nicole Woulfe)
1:00-2:00pm – The Skills They Need: Tools and Resources to Accelerate the Development of Skills and Dispositions in Learners. Schools are recognizing the need to build opportunities to meaningfully integrate opportunities for students to practice and develop skills and dispositions, these sometimes overlooked “competencies” that are critical to success. In this session, three New Hampshire educators, who over the past four years have helped to develop an evolved model of integration, will help participants determine their current reality and next steps through self-evaluation, utilizing unique session experiences, tools, and resources. (Presenters: Jonathan Vander Els, Ellen Hume-Howard, Paul Leather)
1:00-2:00pm – How Do You Teach, Assess, and Report the Transferable Social Emotional Skills on your Portrait of a Graduate? A lot of time and energy is spent establishing a portrait of a graduate, inspiring us to develop students with these skills. How does this energy and vision translate into daily teaching and assessment? How do you report student progress on these transferable skills so students seek feedback towards mastering them? Join educators from Iron County School District where they have integrated their “Iron Essential 8” into their practice, culture, and even their student report cards and transcripts. (Presenters: Cory Henwood, Heather Lambert, Cody Christenson)
1:00-2:00pm – Designing an SEL-Focused Advisory as the Foundation for School Transformation (Including in Remote/Hybrid Models). Many secondary schools have implemented or are considering implementing Advisory; but too often, this space is used for administrative tasks or homework. In this design workshop, experienced practitioners will share best practices (and mistakes!) in Advisory design and coach participants in building the foundation for whole-school transformation. The proven practices and co-created designs will focus on unlocking student ownership, accountability, social-emotional skills, and metacognition. (Presenters: Rupa Gupta, James Bailey, Kimberly Collins)
1:00-2:00pm – Advancing Equity through Social Emotional Learning and Competency-Based Education. By design, social emotional learning (SEL) and competency-based education (CBE) support cultures of equity. The pandemic caused a disruption of learning across the country and illuminated the inequities among marginalized students. The response of educators will be critical to ensuring every student’s success. Come and engage in small group discussions to consider how employing SEL/CBE practices can advance equity, and develop actionable steps in supporting students academically and socially. (Presenters: De McKenzie, Laura Knapp)
- What Is Competency-Based Education? An Updated Definition
- Quality Principles for Competency-Based Education
- Competency-Based Education Across America
Eliot Levine is the Aurora Institute’s Research Director and leads CompetencyWorks.