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Aurora Institute

Khan’s Big Contribution Will Be Competency-Based Learning

CompetencyWorks Blog

Author(s): Tom Vander Ark

Issue(s): Issues in Practice, Rethink Instruction

Carrie Morgridge kicked off the 4th Sharefair at the University of Denver’s Richie Center with a description of the benefits of blended learning.  The Morgridge Family Foundation has been a big supporter of DU and the adoption of personalized learning technology by Colorado and Florida schools.

Carrie introduced Sal Khan whose videos have been an important contribution to global learning.  His 3100 videos receive about 6 million views every month.  But in the long run, his most important contribution may be his leadership in promoting the shift to personalized competency-based learning.

Sal describes the use of hierarchical learning maps to ensure comprehensive learning.  A logical sequence of instruction is common in music where students progress as they demonstrate mastery.  Karate has a series of belts that signify demonstrated mastery.  It doesn’t matter how old you are, you need to show what you can do to progress.

Khan uses building a house an example of the importance of building a strong foundation—you wouldn’t build a house on a base that is 70% sound.  If you keep adding floors that are structurally unsound but the time you get to the fourth floor you have a building that is dangerous.  The same is true for math, if we keep pushing kids through the system without strong foundational skills, they will fail to grasp higher order concepts.


Reprinted with permission from The original post was published May 5, 2012.

Sydney Schaef, M.BA., M.Ed., is an educator, entrepreneur, and school design consultant. She currently works as a Mastery Learning Designer at reDesign and a design consultant for Building 21. She served at the School District of Philadelphia from 2013-2015 in the Office of New School Models, and prior to that, served as Founder and Executive Director of a 501c3 nonprofit organization that led innovative education and youth development programs in East Africa. Follow Sydney on Twitter at @sydneyschaef.