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Aurora Institute

Need Your Help On FAQ: Non-academic Competencies?

CompetencyWorks Blog

Authors: Chris Sturgis

Issues: Issues in Practice, How to Get Started

Screen Shot 2013-05-13 at 3.10.28 PMI am receiving an increasing number of emails from people that have questions about competency-, proficiency-, mastery-, and performance-based education, and I’m sure many of you do as well. Given the increased attention to competency education, we need to make it easier for people to get an answer —  a really solid good answer — that offers the spirit of competency education and considers issues of equity so that we are as effective as possible in early implementation.

So we’ve started a FAQ page(s) on the wiki.  And when I add a new one I am going to put a blog as well because we need your help —

  • How might you revise the answer to be more helpful?
  • Do you have examples or resources that you can point us to that can help newbies better understand the nuances of the issues?
  • Have you done any training on the issue? Could you share with us how you do the training so that we can build up our capacity as a field to teach others what we are learning?

Just use the comments section…and dump as much information as you can into it. We’ll organize the information on the wiki to make it more accessible. When we have enough solid information, we’ll prepare another post.

Feel free to share your answers to other questions as well.

Question: I am concerned that competency education is focused too heavily on cognitive/academic competencies and does not give enough thought to the need for personal effectiveness competencies if, ultimately, what we really seek are thriving, healthy engaged citizens (well-being). Do you see any examples where competency-based education is not solely about course competencies and academic mastery, but includes the other competencies and attributes that are vital to well-being?

Answer: All of the early innovators of competency education interviewed in 2010 for When Success is the Only Option: Designing Competency-based Pathways for Next Generation Learning emphasized that you need to have academic competencies and habits of mind or lifelong learning competencies (see page 9 of The Art and Science of Designing Competencies).  However only progress on the academic competencies should be included in “grading” or reporting on progress in learning.

The lifelong learning competencies can be used in several ways — to reinforce culture of the school, to engage students about why they might not have been progressing in their learning, and to shape the application of knowledge and skills deeper learning/project-based learning/community-based learning.

Challenges in using lifelong learning competencies include:

1) Teachers rarely have training in using rubrics in lifelong learning competencies. So build in support for teachers.

2) We have to be vigilant about bias, stereotypes, and the dynamics of institutional racism when using lifelong learning competencies. Start with an orientation towards cultural diversity and use them as a tool for discussion not as a way to penalize or judge students.

3) There are a lot of different types of lifelong learning competencies. So think about what will be meaningful for your students, the culture of your school, and what students will need to succeed now and in their future.

See the Resources for the Art and Science of Designing Competencies for links to three examples of habits/lifelong learning competencies including New Hampshire’s “dispositions” that are explicitly stating the non-academic skills students must have to succeed.