In the front lines of education, the adaptation to Competency Based Education (CBE) is all-encompassing and requires powerful change in how and why we educate students. Moving to competency education is far more than just the removal of the Carnegie Unit that traditionally measured “seat time” and even more than the implementation of evaluative rubrics and a 4 point scale to measure proficiency, but a deeper understanding and utilization of authentic, performance assessments that are reflective of twenty-first century, real-world skills necessary to propel our students into a workforce that deeply values critical thinking, communication, and the ability to problem solve. The growth mindset required for such a shift can be as difficult for educators cemented in a traditional, fixed mindset to harness as it is for students and parents who are quick to point out the failures of public education but slow to release archaic measures of 100-point scales and knowledge acquisition for the sake of the test alone, from their grasp.
CBE is the culmination of best practices that K-12 and higher education have been creating through various education reform in recent years: student voice, flexibility, authenticity, project-based learning, universal design, differentiated instruction, STEM, lifelong learning, and community participation. But when tasked with teaching a class of thirty students, or classes of thirty different students four times a day each semester, the ability to meet the diverse needs of so many students, provide immediate response, monitor progress, and administer remediation or acceleration when required is difficult. Really difficult. Learning Relationship Management (LRM) that is specifically designed to meet the diverse needs of the schools and the students they serve provides a means to master competency. But LRM is not a one-size fits all fix, nor is it the only component necessary to successfully move fully forward to CBE in K-12.
Key to becoming fully and successfully competency based include the following:
- An adaptable LRM that measures student progress toward mastery of competency in real-time, tracks progress, and facilitates communication between all interested parties (teacher, student, parent, guidance counselors, etc).
- School administration that supports and allows for the retooling of some educator positions that will allow for greater flexibility and time and personnel necessary for recovery to successfully take place.
- LOTS AND LOTS AND LOTS of high quality professional development for school administration, teachers, and guidance counselors with access to experts in making an authentic shift to CBE, competency development for courses, and rubric design and alignment, not just repackaged standards and checklists.
- A growth mindset that supports and understands the very real need for change based on the very real needs of our students as they prepare for college and career.
If paint was the vehicle that allowed Picasso to create his masterpieces, Learning Relationship Management is the vehicle that allows educators to create, design, and effectively manage competency-based education. Knowing of Picasso’s eccentricities, it is unsettling to think about what he may have used if he did not have such a powerful medium for his artistic expression. In the same way, LRM is the medium that enables the best ideas from education reform; student-centered, personalized learning for career and college readiness to be accessible to both educators and their students.
The move to CBE, if done holistically with depth and appropriate support, will reassure educators and broader school communities alike that this is not “just another initiative” that will become obsolete after countless work-hours and time spent adapting to competencies. CBE is very much the masterpiece with which we are constructing modern knowledge and developing the next generation of lifelong learners capable of solving problems we have not yet imagined. LRM is the tool to help us solve the challenges that we currently face and provide us with feedback and data necessary to ensure that we create lasting and effective CBE works of art.
Emily Dustin is a veteran New Hampshire educator with an M.Ed. in Educational Leadership. She recently joined Motivis Learning as an Instructional Designer and is a champion of competency education and student success.