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CBE, Pacing, Differentiation, Personalization

CBE, Pacing, Differentiation, Personalization

Author: Jody Waltman

In this lesson learners will examine the roles of pacing, differenciation and personalization in CBE.

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In this tutorial, we'll discuss what pacing, differentiation, and personalization look like in a competency-based environment. Let's begin with just a brief recap of competency-based education. Recall that Competency-Based Education, or CBE, is an approach in which students advance upon demonstrated mastery of the current competency or skill.

This helps us to create individualized learning paths for students through the thoughtful use of technology and through a modified role of the teacher. This helps us to utilize teacher skills and teacher interests in a different fashion than in a more traditional learning environment.

The learning opportunities in CBE can extend outside of school hours and outside of the school walls. And we can use targeted interventions in CBE in order to meet students' specific learning needs. So not only can CBE increase both the efficiency and the effectiveness of our teaching and learning, but it also can, overall, even end up creating multiple pathways to graduation for students, as it really provides a very personal approach to students meeting those competencies and their learning goals that we have set for them.

CBE can be implemented in a wide variety of ways, including online or blended learning opportunities, dual enrollment options, early college high schools, project-based environments, or community-based learning, and even some credit recovery options, among a plethora of others.

No matter what your school set-up looks like and no matter what your classroom environment looks like, you may find that CBE can be implemented into your environment to help meet the needs of all of your students.

So what does pacing look like, then, in competency-based education? Well, really the idea is that students in a CBE environment are mastering skills at their own pace. So in fact, some schools find that competency-based learning systems can help them to save time and money as students are working on these individualized learning pathways.

So students can work as quickly or as slowly as they need to in order to meet their learning goals. And this can result in improved learning outcomes for students because each student has their own customized learning path with its own customized pace.

In CBE, really what we want is to support all of our students as they each learn in the ways that they learn best, and as they each work towards demonstrating mastery or proficiency in the competencies or the learning goals that we've helped them to identify.

So if you're incorporating personalization, that actually allows students to make a number of choices about how they learn best. For example, students might gravitate towards individual options, or towards group options, or maybe playing a particular role within a group. This approach helps students to become more aware of their own learning preferences and to exercise their voice in making choices about their learning experiences.

Differentiation is just a little bit different of an approach that allows the teacher to make the decisions about varying student pathways based on those student preferences and needs. Really, in all three of these approaches, just CBE in general and then in applying both personalization and differentiation techniques, student choice is a key element.

In CBE in general, students are able to make choices in how they demonstrate their mastery and proficiency of the various concepts and skills and also perhaps in the particular learning activities that they're engaging in. Differentiation allows the teacher to make more decisions about those particular activities and how students' needs are going to be met. Whereas personalization puts the focus a little more on the student making those choices instead of the teacher.

But in all three of the approaches, students are playing a more active role in their own learning pathways than in a traditional learning environment. This is true both in terms of pacing and in just the general approach to the learning.

So let's say right now you've got a pretty traditional classroom environment, where you spend some time lecturing to students, and then you provide some guided practise, and the class period ends with students doing independent practice on the day's concept or skill. Let's think of a few ways that you could enhance this environment with just some small elements of personalization, differentiation, or CBE.

Let's look first at a personalization technique you could use. While you could still provide your traditional lecture, you could also provide students with the opportunity to maybe watch an online tutorial instead or to take advantage of a hands-on work center that would teach them the same skills that are going to be covered in your lesson. Or maybe you could have students work in small groups through an activity that, again, would address the same skills that you are going to address in your lecture.

Some students definitely will still choose the lecture. But others might choose other options that would help them to approach the material in a way that is more comfortable for them based on their own learning needs and preferences.

A differentiation technique that you might use is to offer tiered assignments in that individual work time. So you can explain to students that if they are feeling really confident in their level of skills, they can choose the most difficult level of assignment. But if they're not feeling as confident, they can choose a lower tier of the assignment.

In a tiered assignment, students don't lose any credit or lose any points for choosing a different level of difficulty. Instead, the idea is that students practice at their own competency level in order to help them build their skills.

And finally, for a neat way to incorporate a competency-based approach here, you could allow the students to demonstrate their mastery of the current competency to you at any time. There may be students who do just one or two practice problems and already feel confident in their mastery of the skill.

You might allow them to take a quiz, for example, right away to demonstrate to you that they have mastered the skill, which might allow them then to move on to the next skill on the learning pathway without having to wait for the rest of their classmates to gain mastery of that same skill.

So here's a chance for you to stop and reflect. If you currently are teaching in a very traditional classroom environment, can you think of some small ways to incorporate elements of CBE, differentiation, or personalization?

To dive a little deeper and to learn how to apply this information, be sure to check out the Additional Resources section associated with this video. This is where you'll find links targeted toward helping you discover more ways to apply this course material. Thanks for watching. Have a great day.

Notes on "CBE, Pacing, Differentiation, Personalization"

(00:00 - 00:09) Introduction

(00:10 - 01:41) CBE

(01:42 - 02:19) Pacing in CBE

(02:20 - 06:23) Differentiation and Personalization in CBE

(06:24 - 06:53) Stop and Reflect

Additional Resources

Education Matters: Personalization in Education

Katarina Stevens explores different approaches to meeting the needs of all learners, including CBE, differentiation, and Universal Design for Learning. Stevens emphasizes the importance of the relationship between the teacher and the students.

Blending toward competency 

The Christensen Institute explores findings on CBE in New Hampshire based on their blending learning program.