Susan Patrick Chris Sturgis
Maximizing Competency Education and Blended Learning:Insights from Experts
This report is based on research funded in part by the Carnegie Foundation, the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The findings and conclusions contained within are those of the authors Susan Patrick and Chris Sturgis and do not necessarily reflect positions or policies of the funders.
For more information on competency education, you can visit CompetencyWorks, read previous issue briefs on the topic, or visit the CompetencyWorks Wiki for an in-depth look at the working definition.
Please refer to this paper as Patrick, S. and Sturgis, C., Maximizing Competency Education and Blended Learning: Insights from Experts, International Association for K12 Online Learning, 2015. Content in this report is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.
AcknowledgementsAlthough only two authors are listed, the insights in this paper are an accumulation of the knowledge and creativity of the twenty-three experts who convened in May 2014 to discuss how to accelerate the transformation of districts and schools to personalized, competency-based, blended learning models. Thus, all the following participants should be considered contributing authors. We are tremendously grateful to all of them.
Judy Bauernschmidt, Colorado eLearning Collaborative
Jane Bryson, Education Elements
Kim Carter, QED Foundation
Rose L. Colby, Competency Based Learning Specialist
Justin de Leon, Education Elements
Joe DiMartino, Center for Secondary School Redesign
Kristin Floreno, Matchbook Learning
Julia Freeland, Clayton Christensen Institute
Bruce Friend, Ignite Learning Partners
Liz Glowa, Education Consultant
Anna R. Hall, Springpoint
Alison Hramiec, Boston Day and Evening Academy
Akili Moses Israel, Diploma Plus, Inc.
Samantha Olson, Colorado Legacy Foundation
Linda Pittenger, Center for Innovation in Education
Amanda Poole, The Parthenon Group
Allison Powell, International Association for K12 Online Learning (iNACOL)
David Ruff, Great Schools Partnership
Tom Ryan, eLearn Institute
Rick Schreiber, Re-Inventing Schools Coalition
Bryan Setser, 2 Revolutions
Jeffrey Tsang, Mastery Design Collaborative
Ephraim Weisstein, Schools for the Future
We also want to thank the staff and students at USC Hybrid High for sharing their time and insights so that we might all better understand the journey to personalized education. Finally, we thank Tamara Berry, copywriter extraordinaire. Her guidance and creativity were invaluable.
About CompetencyWorksCompetencyWorks is a collaborative initiative drawing on the knowledge of its partners and advisory board. The International Association for K12 Online Learning (iNACOL) is the lead organization with project management facilitated by MetisNet. We are deeply grateful for the leadership and support from the partner organizations American Youth Policy Forum, Jobs for the Future, and the National Governors Association. Their vision and creative partnership have been instrumental in the development of CompetencyWorks.
Maximizing Competency Education and Blended Learning: Insights from Experts
Ta B l e o f Co n T e n T s
I. Introduction 4
II. Why Do We Need to Transform Our System of Education? 5
III. What Is the Best Way to Approach the Transformation to Personalization? 6
A. Community Engagement and Communication 7
B. Decentralizing Local Education Agencies: School Autonomy and Supports 7
C. District Staff Roles 8
D. Clearly Defining the Bar for Success: Setting Non-Negotiables 8
E. Overall Transition Strategy 9
F. Early Investments in Leadership and Professional Development 10
IV. What Are the Differences and Commonalities between Personalized Learning, Competency Education, and Blended Learning? 11
A. What is Personalized Learning? 11
B. What is Competency Education? 14
C. What is Blended Learning? 17
V. How Do Districts Integrate Competency-Based Structures, Personalized Learning, and Blended Learning? 20
A. Putting It All Together: Pittsfield School District 21
B. Putting It All Together: Chugach School District 23
C. Putting It All Together: Educational Achievement Authority 24
VI. How Can Competency-Based Districts Maximize Learning through Blended Approaches? 26
A. Why Should a Competency-Based School Blend its Learning? 26
B. What Blended Models Work Best in Competency Education? 28
C. What Do You Need to Know about Digital Content? 31
D. What Is Needed to Improve Technology to Support Competency Education Approaches? 33
VII. How Can Blended Districts Integrate a Competency-Based Structure? 36
VIII. What Are the Recommendations for Moving Forward? 41
IX. Concluding Remarks 42
I. IntroductionOur students will face enormous challenges in the coming yearsfrom an economy shaped by ever-advancing technologies to the impact of globalizationand need the strongest foundation of academic, technical, and problem-solving skills we can offer. In an effort to improve their educational experiences, schools across the country are exploring and implementing new approaches, many of which share a common goal: to provide greater personalization1 and ensure that each and every student has the knowledge, skills, and competencies to succeed.
Personalized learning, blended learning, and competency-based learning are becoming of increasing interest to district leaders at the front of transformation efforts. These efforts rely on support and direction from a limited pool of technical assistance providers in the field. Technical assistance providers are individuals or organizations with expertise in their respective fields who are charged with providing implementation assistance such as strategic planning, training, resources, and direct assistance to schools and districts. Each provider has expertise in some areas; few have expertise in all of them. Thus, the implication for districts is that the transformation process is staggered to allow for the implementation of one major strategy and then another, rather than taking on a broad-sweeping comprehensive approach.
In May 2014, CompetencyWorks brought together twenty-three technical assistance providers to examine their catalytic role in implementing next generation learning models, share each others knowledge and expertise about blended learning and competency education, and discuss next steps to move the field forward with a focus on equity and quality. Our strategy maintains that by building the knowledge and networks of technical assistance providers, these groups can play an even more catalytic role in advancing the field. The objective of the convening was to help educate and level set the understanding of competency education and its design elements, as well as to build knowledge about using blended learning modalities within competency-based environments.
This paper attempts to draw together the wide-ranging conversations from the convening to provide background knowledge for educators to understand what it will take to transform from traditional to personalized, competency-based systems that take full advantage of blended learning. Our primary focus here is to address the key considerations that face districts as they move forward. We consider the discussion offered here as a first step in a very steep learning curve that we will be making to fully maximize competency-based structures and blended learning modalities.
M ax I M I z I n g Co M p e T e n C y e d u C aT I o n a n d B l e n d e d l e a r n I n g : I n s I g h T s f r o M e x p e r T s
You can learn more about competency education at CompetencyWorks.org, as well as find links and materials for all the resources mentioned in this paper on the CompetencyWorks wiki.
Maximizing Competency Education and Blended Learning: Insights from Experts
II. Why Do We Need to Transform our System of Education?Every district that begins the process of transformation must identify the multiple reasons that call for educators, students, and parents to become comfortable with new structures for learning. The world has changed immensely since the traditional school system was developed. All students need to graduate from high school and be prepared for some level of post-secondary education if they are going to access family-wage jobs. We live in a world that demands us to challenge inequity in its many formsacross income levels, racial and ethnic groups, by gender, and among students with special educational or language needs. We are driven to increase what our children need to know and be able to do so that they (and our nation) can compete in a global economy, and to strive for deeper learning so that students can tackle complex problems.
We have learned that the traditional education system itself creates hurdles for students and schools. Its no longer viable to rely on one-size-fits-all curriculum or move students on in age-based cohorts regardless of if they need more time or have the prerequisite skills for the next grade. The tradi