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Approaches to CBE

Approaches to CBE

Author: Jody Waltman

In this lesson students will examine approaches to CBE: iNacol's Framework for CBE, Adaptive Learning, Project Based Learning and Deeper Learning.

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In this tutorial, we'll look at three different approaches to competency-based education-- iNACOL's approach, the Buck Institute's Project Based Learning approach, and the Deeper Learning approach. CBE can be addressed both in the classroom and in an online environment through a variety of methods. A deeper learning or mastery based approach might be better suited to a classroom environment, whereas an online CBE environment might benefit from the use of adaptive learning technology. The adaptive learning software can assist in the implementation of a mastery learning approach, because it begins by administering a pre-assessment, and then follows that with activities that are specifically designed for each student, at an appropriate difficulty level and using an appropriate pacing based on that student's demonstrated mastery of competencies.

So let's look at the finer points of each of these three approaches, so that you can make an informed decision about which method might be the best fit for your classroom. First, let's look at iNACOL's approach to competency-based education. In iNACOL's approach, students are working towards demonstrating proficiency or mastery of the competencies or the learning objectives. This approach will typically use authentic assessments to measure student mastery of those competencies.

And there's an emphasis in iNACOL's five principles on providing timely, differentiated feedback and support to students as necessary. This helps students to make adjustments to their learning in order to meet their learning targets. And also in iNACOL's framework, the outcomes that are emphasized should include both the creation and the application of knowledge. And we should be focusing on helping students to develop skills and dispositions.

As we're implementing the iNACOL framework, we need to be asking ourselves how students are going to be progressing from grade to grade. This is something that your curriculum development team may wish to discuss. What does the progression of the standards look like from grade level to grade level? The Common Core State Standards actually do have some progression documents that you can look at, in order to get ideas of what this might look like.

You may also want to consider using some interdisciplinary standards in order to encourage deeper learning of new information. For example, I can tie some English language arts standards into my French curriculum as students research some elements of French culture and then present their findings in English. Also as you're implementing iNACOL's framework for competency-based education, you need to be thinking about what specific evidence will be collected from students in order to track their mastery of standards and determine whether they have met the pre-defined level of proficiency.

Finally, you need to make specific plans for your instruction. Exactly how are you going to teach each new standard and competency? How much time are you going to spend on each new concept, and how many opportunities will students have to practice these new skills? What supports and extensions are you going to provide for students throughout the lesson or unit?

Next, let's look at the Buck Institute's Project Based Learning approach to CBE. This approach emphasizes 21st century skills and competencies. We want to support the development and the reinforcement of these skills by using authentic, real world situations. In this approach, we want to focus on the four C's-- creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and communication. These skills and competencies are all part of those 21st century elements.

In this framework, students work in the context of the school environment on their projects, but then they also need to be presenting their projects or their findings to a truly authentic audience. The idea here is that these experiences help students to develop the skills that they're going to need to apply, both in their future educational experiences and in their careers.

Let's look at one more approach to CBE, the Deeper Learning approach. In deeper learning theory, we want students to master the core content and competencies, while simultaneously practicing real world or authentic skills, with a focus on collaboration, communication, self-efficacy, and confidence. Students are able to transfer their new knowledge and competencies to more authentic problems in real world situations. This brings the focus of education outside of the classroom walls, and allows students to demonstrate their knowledge and their skills, based on that foundation of the core content and competencies that started in the classroom.

In this tutorial, we examined three different approaches to CBE-- iNACOL's approach, the Buck Institute's Project Based Learning approach, and the Deeper Learning approach. Here's a chance for you to stop and reflect. Do you feel that one of these three approaches might be a better fit for your classroom environment than the others?

For more information on how to apply what you learned in this video, please view the additional resources section that accompanies this video presentation. The additional resources section includes hyperlinks, useful for applications of the course material, including a brief description of each resource. Thanks for watching. Have a great day.

Notes on "Approaches to CBE"

(00:00 - 01:01) Introduction

(01:02 - 03:05) iNACOL Approach

(03:06 - 03:57) Buck Institute's Project-Based Learning Approach

(03:58 - 04:36) Deeper Learning Approach

(04:37 - 04:47) Review

(04:48 - 05:15) Stop and Reflect

Additional Resources

How Does Deeper Learning Prepare Students? 

This is a great post by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation that clearly identifies the transfer of knowledge and competencies that occurs beyond the classroom in Deeper Learning.

Top 10 Reasons Why Teaching Key Competencies with PBL is a Good Idea

This is a helpful resource from the Buck Institute that connects competency based education to project based learning.