I have been thinking a lot about competency-based education lately and connections to a standards-based grading philosophy.. Recently, I was talking with Russ about CBE, specifically if it creates a faster or deeper educational experience for students. I'm hoping we'll get a chance to share our thoughts at Co-Creators Camp this Saturday with others who are interested in these ideas. Notes from our brainstorm session follow.
CBE as faster....
Students move through courses at their own pace after demonstrating mastery of the courses competency list. Students may not even need to enroll in the course to demonstrate mastery.
- Frank is gifted in woodworking and demonstrates mastery of Introduction to Woodworking competencies without needing any instruction from Mr. Johnson, the industrial arts teacher, so he receives credit for the course and immediately enrolls in Advanced Woodworking.
- Sally demonstrates mastery of all Geometry competencies after fifth week of being in Mrs. Goerend’s class. She immediately moves to the next math course and begins demonstrating her understanding of those course competencies.
Things that resonate with me:
- Appears to favor content areas such as math and science where pre-requisite knowledge is needed to understand more advanced concepts.
- Students may be motivated to master content so they can move on to the next level. “Hey, I learned this stuff...now I can move on to something else!”
Questions I still have:
- Logistics: How does a single teacher theoretically individualize a class? What does the schedule look like? How does the school handle students who are constantly moving from course to course? What happens if/when a student completes enough courses to graduate at age 15?
- Educational philosophy: I believe that learning can be a very social and cooperative activity. If the incentive for students to learn more quickly, how would the teacher be able to structure cooperative learning activities that include students of multiple abilities? I used heterogeneous groupings quite often as a classroom teacher. Would this still be possible/realistic given the individualized nature of the system?
CBE as deeper...
Students who demonstrate mastery of course competencies at a given time (unit, semester, course) are provided more complex or challenging course competencies.
- Frank is gifted in woodworking and demonstrates mastery of Introduction to Woodworking competencies at some point in time. Rather than moving to the next course, he is provided with more challenging projects.
- Sally demonstrates mastery of all Geometry competencies after fifth week of being in Mrs. Goerend’s class. Rather than moving to the next math course, she investigates many of the same ideas as her peers, but using non-Euclidean axioms.
- Learning may not be viewed as something to “complete,” but instead a deeper understanding of a given topic. It has the potential to spark curiosity of a topic rather than dismiss it as being “done.”
- Appears to favor content areas with gray areas such as social studies. If the class is studying the civil war, a student can easily go deeper into various perspectives on the war through additional research and thought.
Questions I still have:
- I’ve seen this in practice in my own classroom with limited success. Some students may not see the incentive. “You mean if I show you I know this stuff, you’ll give me harder ideas to think about?” This may be a function of my own teaching and/or the system we’re currently in rather than of the ideal.