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Aurora Institute

What Will Students Experience in a Competency-Based School?

CompetencyWorks Blog

Author(s): Chris Sturgis

Issue(s): Issues in Practice, How to Get Started

As you might know, CompetencyWorks has been using virtual collaborative processes, fondly known as a Technical Advisory Groups (TAGs), to build knowledge that draws from local, state, and national leaders. In a TAG that was aimed at creating a way of defining and explaining competency-based education, an unexpected set of ideas was developed: What should students expect to experience in a competency-based school? We hadn’t planned to build this out, but now we have it.

Districts and schools, after adapting for their own approach based on their student outcomes and the mediating factors of who their student population is as well as the local context, should be able to turn this into a rubric or survey to provide feedback on how deep and broad their implementation is. However, I’d like to ask you: How might you change or add to this list of the expected student experience in a personalized, competency-based school?

What will students experience in a competency-based school?

Below are examples of experiences that every student should have in a well-developed personalized, competency-based system.

1. I will be fully supported in developing academic knowledge and skills, the ability to apply what I have learned to solve real-world problems, and the capacities I need to become an independent and lifelong learner.

2. I feel safe and am willing to put forward my best effort to take on challenging knowledge and skills because I have a deep sense of belonging, feel that my culture, the culture of my community and my voice is valued, and see on a daily basis that everyone in the school is committed to my learning.

3. I will have opportunity and support to learn the skills that allow me to take responsibility for my learning and exercise independence.

4. I have access to and full comprehension of learning targets and expectations of what proficiency means.

5. I have opportunity to learn anytime, anyplace, with flexibility to take more time when I need it to fully master or go deeper, and to pursue ways of learning and demonstrating my learning in ways that are relevant to my interest and future.

6. I am able to own my education by learning about things that matter to me in ways that are effective for me with the support that allows me to be successful.

7. I will receive timely feedback, instruction, and support based on where I am on the learner continuum and my social emotional development to make necessary progress on my personalized pathway to graduation.

8. My learning will be measured by progress on learning targets rather than level of participation, effort or time in the classroom.

9. Grades or scoring provide feedback to help me know what I need to do to improve my learning process and reach my learning goals.

10. I can advance to the next level or go deeper into topics that interest me as soon as I submit evidence of learning that demonstrates my proficiency.

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