Competency Based Education

Posted by: Old Dad

Competency Based Education - 06/20/15 08:32 PM

The state of Iowa is moving toward CBE (Competency Based Education) over the next ten years. I'm just interested to hear from other forum members their experiences with CBE and figured it an interesting discussion topic. Your thoughts and experiences?
Posted by: puffin

Re: Competency Based Education - 06/20/15 09:39 PM

it sounds like another name for the system where you either pass or fail but there is not much incentive to do more than the minimum required and the assessment is very rigid. We have it here and you literally have to repeat the words the teacher or text used because if the words they are looking for aren't there you have to repeat the assessment.
Posted by: Platypus101

Re: Competency Based Education - 06/21/15 04:43 AM

Yikes puffin - that sounds awful!

The little I know is aiming for something quite different - it's a term that's getting big in med school re-vamping. The idea IIRC seems to be to focus on key skills and how to get them, rather than checking boxes for spending time on each of a long list of topics. Over the last few decades, the list keeps getting longer, and training takes longer, but trainees are not necessarily better for all the extra hours (years).

CBE is trying to go the opposite direction (here's a sample: http://www.royalcollege.ca/portal/page/portal/rc/resources/cbme). In theory, such an approach ought to be glorious for gifties - it's individualized, and if you already know something, you can move on to something you don't. I hear med school directors speaking very positively of the idea, but I don't know if there's much real experience to judge yet.

And unfortunately, as horrible perversions of concepts like discovery or problem-based learning have well demonstrated, a little edu-speak can go a long and distorted way.
Posted by: indigo

Re: Competency Based Education - 06/21/15 07:51 AM

The first thing which comes to mind when I hear competency based education (CBE) is a policy of mastery, specifically a redo policy which is designed to work toward equivalent outcomes, essentially obscuring differences in speed of learning. This may benefit lower performers.

Another thing which comes to mind when I hear CBE is a policy for granting credit for learning experiences outside of the classroom or specific institution, designed to avoid repetition. For example, colleges which grant credit for certain types of work experience, or high schools which accept outside coursework. This may benefit advanced performers.

The link upthread about the Royal College of medicine states, in part: "from residency through to retirement... more emphasis is placed on regular assessment of performance... after certification and throughout a physician's practice" which seems to echo the ACT workforce plan to "Assess your workforce... Validate your workforce... Certify your workforce... Reinvent your workforce", with assessments which evaluate a number of skills, including soft skills such as teamwork, fit, performance, talent. This benefits the testing companies, apparently. It may also provide HR departments (or overseeing governmental bodies and regulatory agencies) with cause for dismissal of an employee who otherwise seems to be contributing in meaningful ways.

The U.S. Department of Education defines Competency Based Learning or Personalized Learning. Wikipedia also discusses competency-based learning.

To gain a clearer picture of what Iowa plans to implement as CBE, I read the 43-page pdf, final version of the task force document found online, which says, in part, "allow students younger than ninth grade to earn credit in any curricular area toward graduation if they complete the requirements for the credit". The document does mention gifted students, specifically gifted students dropping out of high school. Sensitivity to this issue seems like a plus. The document refers to the Iowa Core.

Interestingly, the map of common core adoption by State shows that Iowa has adopted the Common Core, and refers to the Iowa Core... giving the impression that this is part of the implementation of the common core, presented as local control.

From all these things I gather that CBE describes itself as providing more freedom and flexibility (in the short term) while also imposing more assessments and gathering more data, which may impede personal liberty and self-determination (in the long run).
Posted by: puffin

Re: Competency Based Education - 06/21/15 01:09 PM

Originally Posted By: spaghetti
We are headed that way here. Just preliminary now, but the idea we have been sold is that rather than grades that don't really tell anyone what you do and don't know (I love how the "old" system is always presented as useless), you have a list of competencies. So, for example, in high school, if you can get an A in the class without understanding a big chunk, while excelling everywhere else, the competency based system will show weakness as well as strengths, and colleges will have a much better idea how the applicants are doing, especially because the standards are expected to be standardized.

People here that love it, REALLY love it and are pushing it hard as the answer to all that ails the school system.



That is what we have. It is supposed to give employers a better idea but if it took 3 attempts to get an achieved it doesn't record that and it doesn't record failed subjects. It also makes no allowance for hard versus soft subjects. The strict wording issues I have struck have been post secondary.

In theory it is more flexible than our old system but in practice you have to go at the speed of your class. We have a final exam component to help standardise across schools nationally and the exams are only once a year so while in theory you could move quicker the system is not set up to allow it.
Posted by: Old Dad

Re: Competency Based Education - 06/21/15 02:51 PM

Originally Posted By: puffin
In theory it is more flexible than our old system but in practice you have to go at the speed of your class. We have a final exam component to help standardise across schools nationally and the exams are only once a year so while in theory you could move quicker the system is not set up to allow it.


From my understanding of the purpose of CBE, at least in Iowa how they plan to use it, the only reason that you'd have to go at the speed of your class is if the teacher wasn't differentiating. The whole purpose of CBE as I understand it is to BE more flexible.

What I got out of what I've heard read as a summary is what GT educators have known and many practice, that teachers are no longer the keepers of knowledge, rather, they're directors of learning.....which can and should come from many resources with the majority of resources being from how each student learns best.

All of that sounds wonderful, my largest concern though isn't students quite honestly, it's teachers on average. In our experience, the vast majority of teachers haven't mastered teaching well enough to differentiate in their own classroom with the same curriculum, let alone bringing in many other experiences and resources outside of their classroom....and needing to evaluate that outside experience.

I believe the thought pattern on which CBE can happen, however, I think it's going to take more than one generation of teachers and a change in how teachers are taught in college to earn their teaching degree. I simply don't think most teachers can handle CBE how I understand it.
Posted by: indigo

Re: Competency Based Education - 06/21/15 04:51 PM

Prior to the great emphasis on standardization as an educational reform, many teachers did differentiate for their classroom students. But it was not called "differentiation", it was a matter of knowing their students and connecting with them. There were fewer measures and less research to dictate the "science" of teaching... but some may say there was more practice of the "art" of teaching.

Standardization has, in some cases, made classrooms into research labs, with stories from teachers about not being allowed to teach with different materials, curriculum, or pacing.

Some may say, in these circumstances, a type of censorship is occurring.

Local parental control of public school policies is being replaced with school boards influenced by nationalization efforts, in order to maximize receipt of tax dollars.

Like teachers of days gone by, today's involved parents (many without teaching credentials or certification) manage to ferret out meaningful resources for the education of their children, for enrichment, after-schooling, and homeschooling. They do this, in part, by knowing their children. School systems cannot know the children as well and strive to compensate for this with excessive data collection.

Those who value diversity of thought, freedom to learn from an uncensored variety of learning materials and curriculum, at an appropriate pacing for a student... and liberty from the veritable prison of excessive data collection... may wish to stay informed on legislation and strive to keep homeschooling legal and unrestricted.
Posted by: puffin

Re: Competency Based Education - 06/21/15 05:06 PM

I can see it working in med school where you want everyone to a high standard. When it is used in high school though it tends to become a get as many people as possible over a low bar.

it was sold here as giving more information to the employer about what the student can do. It doesn't show how many attempts it took them though or what subjects they didn't achieve a satisfactory level. It also gives the same amount of credits for a base level course as an advanced one.

It should be more flexible but so far here it doesn't seem to be. The most common complaint though is it doesn't reward hard work and high achievement.

The exact word things were post secondary teachers having to grade to an exact rubric.
Posted by: MsFriz

Re: Competency Based Education - 06/22/15 05:19 AM

This sounds a little like the "mastery-based" approach my son's private school takes. All kids are assessed at the beginning of the year and throughout the year with pretesting to determine what they have already mastered in language arts and math. Mastery = 80% or higher. A student that shows mastery can move on, so that my son was able to work 4-5 years ahead in spelling, vocabulary and grammar and 2 years ahead in math. The school is able to make this work by keeping class sizes small (10-12 students). It has worked beautifully for us.
Posted by: Bostonian

Re: Competency Based Education - 06/22/15 06:13 AM

Originally Posted By: indigo
Like teachers of days gone by, today's involved parents (many without teaching credentials or certification) manage to ferret out meaningful resources for the education of their children, for enrichment, after-schooling, and homeschooling. They do this, in part, by knowing their children. School systems cannot know the children as well and strive to compensate for this with excessive data collection.

Those who value diversity of thought, freedom to learn from an uncensored variety of learning materials and curriculum, at an appropriate pacing for a student... and liberty from the veritable prison of excessive data collection... may wish to stay informed on legislation and strive to keep homeschooling legal and unrestricted.

I favor extensive data collection and (with the consent of the student) dissemination. It is my impression that employers of high school graduates never examine transcripts. You are either a high school graduate or a dropout. Therefore gifted students must graduate from colleges, especially those with good reputations, to distinguish themselves. I think school transcripts should be like credit reports, which are transmitted in a standardized way at low cost. The real "prison", if you are using that term, is the inability to get good jobs without going through a 16-year long sentence in school.
Posted by: indigo

Re: Competency Based Education - 06/22/15 11:24 AM

Originally Posted By: Bostonian
I favor extensive data collection
You are in luck, as extensive data collection exists. Here is a high-level list of required data elements.

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... and (with the consent of the student) dissemination.
Unfortunately, students and parents are not in control of the data. Despite FERPA, students and parents may not be able to see the data which has been collected. You (or your children, as "eligible students") may wish to inquire to receive your children's data. Learn what data is made available to you, as compared with the list of collected data elements.

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It is my impression that employers of high school graduates never examine transcripts.
If employers of high school graduates do not examine transcripts, might this make it highly unlikely that they would inspect extensive student records, in order to determine which students were higher performers?

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You are either a high school graduate or a dropout.
Here, are you alluding to CBE and showing mastery regardless of number repetitions or length of time to achieve mastery... making all student accomplishments seem rather similar to one another?

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Therefore gifted students must graduate from colleges, especially those with good reputations, to distinguish themselves.
Not seeing how this follows logically from the statements made above. There are many ways for individuals to distinguish themselves and develop their talents and gifts... while postsecondary education is one path, programs like Davison Fellows and various entrepreneurial efforts such as Thiel Fellowship come to mind. These opportunities do not preclude postsecondary education, rather they illustrate that distinguishing one's self can occur at any age, and do not necessarily need to wait until after postsecondary education. (More possible paths for youth to discover their passion and distinguish themselves in these threads - Carpe Juvenis, It's the Student, Not the College, and Live It!)

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I think school transcripts should be like credit reports, which are transmitted in a standardized way at low cost.
Agreed. However same may say this gives us plebeians too much control over our fate.

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The real "prison", if you are using that term, is the inability to get good jobs without going through a 16-year long sentence in school.
Agreed. Acceleration may be an option?
Posted by: Aufilia

Re: Competency Based Education - 07/09/15 08:13 PM

I have 2 Master's degrees, one earned through a major nationally-ranked research University, and the other through Western Governor's University, which is an online CBE program. My coursework through WGU was equally rigorous, but the format let me concentrate my time where I needed to learn and zip through what I already knew. I felt like I actually learned a lot more in my WGU program than in the traditional one, and I finished in less time (because it was at my own pace and my pace was pretty fast) and at a much lower cost.

I would love to see my kids in a well-designed CBE program. It would be in many ways a more grown-up, structured, idealized version of what I expect from a really good Montessori. Montessoris often bill themselves with "your child can go at her own pace" but that only really sort of happens.