It's Not a Matter of Time

Chris Sturgis blogs for YTFG, where you can read this blog and many more.

iNACOL has released two new papers on competency-based learning (disclaimer: I’m a co-author). It’s Not a Matter of Time captures the highlights of the Competency-Based Summit held in March. The other,Cracking the Code, was prepared for state policy leaders involved in CCSSO’s Partnership for Next Generation Learning.Both papers are available here. In addition, iNACOL has developed a wiki if you want to go deeper on competency-based learning.
Usually I wouldn’t highlight something that I was involved in on this blog — feels too much like self-promotion.  But competency-based learning holds too much promise for our young people and  there just isn’t very much written about it. iNACOL has been trying to correct that situation.  Honestly, we have searched and searched for other organizations that are really focusing on the re-engineering of the education system around students successfully learning instead of successfully being sorted. Most of the focus of next generation learning is on the products and services, exploring how we can use digital learning. There is little on what all this means to trying to change the thousands and thousand (million?) of rules that shape the daily lives of students and teachers.  There are a few initiatives out there but they aren’t sharing their learning publicly. There are two exceptions — the Oregon Proficiency Project and New Hampshire’s High School Redesign.
It looks to me that the theory of change many funders are using assumes that by supporting the development of digital products and services, you will fill the market enough that the system will just naturally change.  That’s what the theories of disruptive innovationsuggest.  But those theories are based on products and services in a private market where there is no thought about equity or equitable results. If we are going to transform the system, we need to be much more thoughtful about the implications of disruptive innovation for public goods in which there is underlying market failure. We need to understand how institutional “isms” work so that we can address them before they undermine our work. We need to explore the potential unintended consequences. We need to ensure quality upfront. We need to create the information systems that make sure students are getting the help they need when they need it.
So I’ll keep writing about competency-based learning. It’s just too important to our young people — in foster care, in disciplinary schools or detention, with early onset of adulthood who have to work or take care of family, or navigating high school or the labor market with elementary level literacy skills.  It’s just too important.

Chris Sturgis

Chris Sturgis was the co-founder of CompetencyWorks, the go-to source about competency education. Her knowledge of modern education models have developed by visiting over 100 schools that are leading the way in the U.S. and New Zealand. In 2018, she was awarded Outstanding Individual Contribution to Personalized Learning Award by iNACOL (now Aurora Institute). You can find more articles about personalized, mastery learning approaches at LearningEdge.

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