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Effective Assessment in Competency-Based Education (CBE)

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Effective Assessment in Competency-Based Education (CBE) CACTE Summit | Breckenridge, CO | July, 2018 Brian Tinker | EdD, MFA
Effective Assessment in Competency-Based Education (CBE) CACTE Summit | Breckenridge, CO | July, 2018 Brian Tinker | EdD, MFA
Brian Tinker | EdD, MFA Professor Digital Media | Graphic Design Degree Program Director Isaacson School of Communication, Arts & Media Colorado Mountain College
The Digital Media and Graphic Design degree programs at the Isaacson School are largely based on CBE, as is common in CTE programs nationwide.
The topic of the presenter’s Doctoral dissertation was CBE assessment, and he has been the instructional designer for multiple CBE courses at Colorado Mountain College, The Art Institutes, and American Public University, including design for face-to-face, hybrid, and online courses.
Clarifying the Lexicon Competency-based education (Competency-based learning) refers to systems of instruction, assessment, grading, and academic reporting that are based on students demonstrating that they have learned the knowledge and skills they are expected to learn as they progress through their education.
In most public schools, CBE uses state, district, and individual school learning standards to determine academic expectations and define “competency” or “proficiency” in a given course, subject area, or grade level.
The general goal of CBE is to ensure students are acquiring the knowledge and skills that are deemed to be essential to success in school, higher education, careers, and adult life.
If students fail to meet expected learning standards, they typically receive additional instruction, practice time, and academic support to help them achieve competency or meet the expected standards.
Defining CBE is complicated by the fact that educators not only use a wide variety of terms for the general approach, but the terms may or may not be used synonymously from place to place. A few of the more common synonyms include proficiency-, outcome-, mastery-, performance-, and standards-based, among others.
In practice, CBE can take a wide variety of forms from state to state or school to school — there is no single model or universally used approach. While schools often create their own CBE systems, they may also use systems, models, or strategies created by state education agen- cies or outside educational organizations. CBE is more widely used at the elementary level, although more middle schools and high schools are adopting the approach. As with any educational strategy, some CBE systems may be better designed or more ef- fective than others.
Recently, the term CBE (and related synonyms) has become widely used by:
• Online schools or companies selling online learning programs,
• Colleges and universities, particularly those offering online degree programs.
“CBE” as it is typically designed and implemented in K–12 public schools can differ significantly from the forms of “CBE” being offered and promoted by these other entities.
At the collegiate level, for example, CBE may entail prospective adult students receiving academic credit for knowledge and skills they acquired in their former careers — “credit for prior learning”. When exploring CBE, it is important to determine precisely how the terms are being used in a specific context.
Why CBE? One challenge with traditional grading is that averages mask areas of misunder- standing: Students can receive passing grades but lack skills that will be needed later on in their coursework (or after graduation).
Traditional grading also produces high levels of variability in what it means to be proficient.
Within schools, there is variability between teachers, who each use their own system of grading, weighting how well students did on assignments and tests and good behavior in their own unique way. Within districts and across states, some schools have much lower expectations, and students learn at much lower achievement levels than others.
The high variability results in credits having questionable meaning; the high school diploma is largely meaningless in terms of indicating what students know and are able to do, and the GPA, considered a predictor for college success, is at best an indicator work habits and ability to navigate the school environment rather than of what students know and can do.
Efficient Delivery of Curriculum vs. Actual Learning Most of us have the shared experience of traditional education: desks in straight rows; quiet when the bell ring;, following the teacher’s instructions; trying to stay focused during 50 minutes of lecture; studying (often pure memorization) for quizzes and tests throughout the semester.
The traditional school has been designed for teachers to efficiently deliver the curriculum and assess students. However, actual learning is often a messy process. Students bring different skills, interests, and life experiences to the classroom. They have misconceptions, they make mistakes, and they can become frustrated or disengage.
Ideally, instruction is designed based on what we know about child development and learning.
Education systems should focused on effectiveness, not efficiency, taking into consideration research on learning, engagement, and motivation.
CBE isn’t a panacea, but it does offer some reasonable opportunities for improved learning effectiveness
CBE Assessment Design in Practice CBE assessment can take a variety of formats:
• Objectively scored assessments (for example: multiple-choice or true-false questions)
• Performance-based assessments (for example: essays; group projects; or simulated environments)
• Observations Regardless of format, the credibility of inferences drawn from assessment results depends on evidence of their validity. This makes careful creation of assessments crucial to CBE success.
Imagine a test developed to measure a student’s knowl- edge of public-health laws, regulations, and policies.
Students with higher scores should exhibit a greater level of knowledge of public-health concepts. Their level of knowledge, as evidenced by their test scores, could be used to determine whether they are awarded competen- cy credits in this area and, by extension, whether they are prepared for future endeavors in public health.
Understanding of test scores may seem intuitive, but scientifically valid inferences from assessment results rely on specific axioms.
For example, can it be demon- strated that knowledge of public-health laws, regulations, and policies — and not some other trait —explains test score variability? Moreover, do higher scores relate to higher levels of subsequent job performance?
Validation is the process of accumulating evidence to answer these fundamental questions.
According to the Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing (2014), validity evidence can come from five sources:
1) Test content 2) Response processes 3) Internal test structure 4) Relations to other variables 5) Test consequences Sources 1–3 generally reflect the test instrument itself, whereas 4 and 5 rely on data external to the assessment.
Although not all sources of validity evidence may be present for every assessment, a stronger validity argument is made by integrating evidence from multiple sources.
For example, while it is important to show that CBE assessment tests the knowledge and skills associated with the specified competency (evidence-based on test content), it is just as important to show that students who score higher on the assessment also do well on other tasks — such as job performance, that require that competency (evidence based on relations to other variables).
Using 5-source validity verification is especially valuable when implmenting initiatives that are controversial, or otherwise likely to attract skepticism.
CBE Assessment Exemplars Objectively scored assessments One misconception is that CBE eschews traditional assessment method of written tests. Many categories of CBE can be effectively assessed using objectively scored assessments, the distinction being avoidance of measuring rote memory.
Answers should demonstrate student understanding of con- cepts, processes, and methods. This does not mean that students aren’t expected to recall factual minutiae. It means that those facts should be crucial to understanding the larger issues.
For example: questions intended to confirm under- standing of the causes of the U.S. Civil War would not require recalling specific dates beyond the very general (say, the fact that it occurred in the mid-19th Century be- tween the Mexican-American and Indian wars). However, questions intended to confirm understanding (including the broader implications) of the Battle of Gettysbug would expect students to know more specific dates.
Performance-based assessments Performance-based assessment (PBA) is very commonplace in CBE. Examples of PBA include portfolios, essays, presentations, and models. Typically, PBA challenges students to use their higher-order thinking skills to create a product or complete a process.
Arguably, the most genuine assessments require students to complete a task that closely mirrors the responsibilities of a professional in practice (artist, engineer, laboratory technician, financial analyst, agriculturalist, etc.).
Although PBA tools vary greatly, the majority of them share six characteristics:
1) Accurately measures one or more specific course standards 2) Complex 3) Authentic 4) Process/product-oriented 5) Open-ended 6) Time-bound
Often, students are presented with an open-ended question that may produce several different correct out- comes (Chun, 2010; McTighe, 2015). In the higher-level tasks, there is a sense of urgency for the product to be devel- oped or the process to be determined, as in most real-world situations.
PBA Example I The backward design process plan (Reader’s Digest® version) for a high school math PBA for a unit on probability:
Step 1. Identify goals of the PBA: • Challenge students to use critical
thinking and problem-solving skills
• Exhibit less codependence and more individuality while completing the assessment
• Completion of each step autonomously without assistance from instructor
Step 2. Select the appropriate course standards: Selection of the Common Core standards to be addressed with this PBA: understanding of conditional probability and rules of probability
Step 3. Review assessments and identify learning gaps: Considered current worksheets students were completing for the unit. Two-way frequency tables were a large component. Identified that plan was missing a relevant real-world application, so created a reality-based PBA requiring students to analyze two-way frequency tables along with other charts and graphs.
Step 4. Design the scenario: Settled on scenario where the students must decide if an inmate should be granted parole or remain in prison. Scenario components:
• Setting • Role • Audience • Time frame • Product
Step 5. Gather or create materials: Depending on the scenario, this step may not be needed. For the scenario to calculate the probability of inmate recidivism, statistics from government agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Prisons and Bureau of Justice Statistics was provided.
6. Develop a learning plan: • Avoid “teach to the test” by
striking a balance between teaching the content (proba- bility given two independent events) and preparing students for the task (interpreting the validity of a media resource)
• Six formative PBA’s
• Summative PBA: Parole Board Hearing Scenario:
“Ashley” is serving three to five years for embez- zlement and assault. After three years, she is up for parole.
Task: You are Ashley’s former probation officer. You have been asked to review documents and present your opinion about a potential early release for Ashley at a Parole Board hearing. You’ve granted three to five minutes. Your presentation must be short, but detailed with strong evidence to support your decision.
Documents for review: • Criminal history report
• Article announcing a new web series on embezzlement
• Blog post about nursuries in prisons
• Letter to the parole board from the inmate’s mother and son
• Newsletter about the incarceration rates in the state
• Press release about a prison-work program
• Research brief on recidivism rates of nonviolent offenders
PBA Example II The backward design process plan for a unit on profiency with the Adobe Photoshop® software application.
Step 1. Identify goals of the PBA: • Confirm proficiency with selective image adjustments • Confirm baseline proficiency with image compositing
Step 2. Select the appropriate course standards: • Entry-level professional standard
Step 3. Review assessments and identify learning gaps: Profiencies can be clearly and simply demonstrated with visual artifacts (Photoshop computer file). No gaps identified.
Step 4. Design the scenario: Student will be provided with three different images: • Seacoast background scene • Figure of a woman holding cell phone • Sailboat Student must combine the three images into a single realistic image portraying the woman in the foreground, and the sailboat in the sea off the coast.
Step 5. Gather or create materials:
6. Develop a learning plan: Five formative PBA’s:
• Navigating the workspace • Non-selective image adjustment • Achieving effective selections • QuickMask mode • Selective color replacement
Summative PBA with rubric
Grade____ Score____ |____| |____| |____| |____| |____|
Grading Rubric: CATEGORY 5 pts 4 pts 3 pts 2 pts 1 pts
Shadows Shadows matched to professional standard. Shadows matched to nearly professional standard.
Shadows matched with obvious, but non-fatal flaws.
Shadows matched with significant flaws and/or largely fails to
approach professional standard.
Layers utilized with obvious, but non-fatal flaws.
Layers utilized with significant flaws and/or largely fails to
approach professional standard.
Layers not utilized.
Impression of Reality Composite image achieves the impression of reality to a professional
Composite image achieves the impression of reality to nearly professional standard.
Composite image achieves the impression of reality with obvious, but non-fatal flaws.
Composite image achieves the impression of reality with significant flaws and/or largely fails to approach professional standard.
Composite image fails to achieve the impression of reality.
Process Statement Statement unequivocally communicates the intended message without grammatical or spelling errors or
missing content
Statement communicates the intended message no more than two (2)
grammatical or spelling errors, and/or no more than one (1) missing content element.
Statement largely communicates the intended message, and contains no more than four (4)
grammatical or spelling errors, and/or no more than two (2) missing content elements.
Statement evidences significant ambiguities and/or more than four (4) grammatical or spelling errors, and or more than two (2)
missing content elements.
Statement largely fails to communicate effectively and/or contains more than six (6) grammatical or
spelling errors, and/or more than Compliance Student followed all project instructions accurately, including size, content,
and inclusion limitations
inclusion limitations, with no more than a single minor infraction.
Student followed many of the project instructions accurately, but failed to comply in more than two
Student largely failed to follow the project instructions accurately. More than three instances.
Student failed to follow the project instructions accurately.
25 pts = 100% 24 pts = 96% 23 pts = 92% 22 pts = 88% 21 pts = 84% 20 pts = 80% 19 pts = 76% 18 pts = 72% 17 pts = 68% 16 pts = 64% 15 pts = 60%
Observations From a Decade in CBE • Employ backwards design. Where you want students to end
up drives everything else
• Use rubrics. This makes it easier to convert results into data, which is necessary to establish validity
• Formative assessments are crucial for student success
• Stress real-world scenarios. Performing well in an academic setting is often a very different challenge than performing well in a professional practice environment. Introducing factors like time, money, and clients will generate relavance
• Employ disruption. “Throwing a grenade” can enable students to shine (and can also reveal unknown deficits)
• Time spent in planning and preparation pays big dividends
• If CBE isn’t working for you, you’re probably not doing it right
References Chun, M. (2010, March). “Taking teaching to (performance) task: Linking pedagogical and assessment practices.” Change: The Magazine of Higher Education.
Darling-Hammond, L. & Adamson, F. (2013). Developing assessments of deeper learning: The costs and benefits of using tests that help students learn.
McTighe, J. (2015, April). “What is a performance task?”
Palm, T. (2008). “Performance assessment and authentic assessment: A conceptual analysis of the literature.” Practical Assessment Research and Evaluation, 13(4).
McClarty & Gaetner (2015). Measuring Mastery: Best Practices for Assessment in Comptency-Based Education. American Enterprise Institute.
Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing (Washington, DC: American Educational Research Association, 2014).