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Essential Learning Questions and CBE

Essential Learning Questions and CBE

Author: Kathleen Johnson

In this lesson, you will learn how the five design principles of competency-based education fit together with the essential learning questions that teachers must ask themselves as they plan instruction.

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Source: Digital Access Key Image; Morgue File;

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Hello, ladies and gentlemen. I hope you're having a wonderful day today. Today, we're going to be looking at essential learning questions and their application within competency-based education. For today's lesson, I've chosen a quote by Soren Kierkegaard, which states, "Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards." A good quote remember as we work our way through CBE.

Now, by the end of the lesson today, you will be able to review the five CBE design principles. You'll be able to review the five essential learning questions. And you'll be able to connect the CBE design principles to those essential learning questions.

Now, as we go through those five design principles, the major components of competency-based education, it's important to remember that although much attention is given to some of those essential learning questions for students as it comes to the content that's being addressed in a given unit or lesson, it's really important to remember that there are also essential questions for teachers, questions that really help teachers design those rigorous, engaging, interesting lessons and learning experiences for those students. And when we can connect those essential questions to the instructional design and the five principles of competency-based education, that's when we're able to really create those strong lessons.

So let's work towards that as we go through the lesson today. First and foremost, let's review those five components of CBE. The first and foremost is that students must demonstrate that mastery. They should not move on in their learning before they've been able to demonstrate it. Now, when we're talking about that learning, we're really looking at competency is there. And if students are unable to demonstrate that mastery, then they need to be able to have various interventions or additional support that students can see in order to really move forward, so that timely, useful support.

Also, teachers are really to provide those clear expectations and learning targets. Those competencies need to be explicit. They need to be measurable, and we really need to focus on that idea of transferable learning so that students are really feeling empowered by the learning that's happening in the classroom.

The assessments, both common assessments and that standards-based proficiency measures that are used to assess mastery, need to be meaningful. Assessments should provide a positive learning experience for students and be meaningful to the teachers to help us assess where that student needs to move next. And finally, the learning expectations need to be standard, but also personalized for each individual learning student and their learning needs.

So when we look at those outcomes, we really want to make sure that we're focusing within those expectations on the application of that knowledge and the creation of knowledge, along with the development of those skills that students are college and career ready. Now let's go ahead and review those five essential questions. These are the questions that every teacher should ask themselves as they begin to design instruction.

So the first essential question the teacher should ask themselves is, what do students need to know and be able to do? This is where we really focused in on those standards and the essential questions that we're going to give our students, the key knowledge and skills that we want them to be able to demonstrate by the end of a particular unit.

The second question is, how will I help get them there? That really relates to what you're going to do within the specific lesson or your instructional plan and the amount or the ways in which you're going to offer that differentiated support to your students. The third major question is, how will I know if they are there? What are the various assessments that I'm going to put in place to ensure that students can demonstrate that mastery and that I can clearly tell that that mastery is being demonstrated?

Question number four, what will I do if they're not there? This really looks at consideration to the different ways in which you are going to differentiate that learning and the types of instruction that you're giving and offering students the opportunity to retest themselves and re-demonstrate that mastery once they have acquired that knowledge and the skills. And five, what will I do if they're already there? Again, looking at differentiation. How can I reach those students who are already meeting that material and are ready to move on? So looking at a lot of those formative and summative assessments based on that student's self-pacing.

Finally, what I would like to do is really connect those design principles now to the essential questions. So based on the standards, a core part of competency-based education, I can ask myself, what does each student need to know or be able to do? Based upon where each student is, I can then ask myself, what will be the learning plan specifically for that student?

When I look at how will I meaningfully assess students so that they know that they have really achieved that mastery, that question really focuses in on the idea that I'm looking at that assessment and designing assessment, both formative and summative, that reaches every student and is clear and targeted.

Next, I can ask myself, really combining these two together, how will I differentiate, then, and personalize that instruction so that the learning plan that I develop really meets the needs of each student so that they are able to show me that they can meet their objective? And finally, I can ask myself, what level of mastery really indicates that a student is ready to move on? And when they are ready to move on, what is it that they will move on to?

So the big idea here that we're focusing in on is the idea that so many districts have found that using online learning and adaptive learning platforms can really ensure that you are designing competency-based education curriculum that is rigorous and that has confident, solid answers to all of these questions, allowing for that truly self-paced instruction.

Now that we've reached the end of the lesson, you have been able to review the five competency-based education design principles, and you've been able to review the five essential learning questions. Finally, you have been able to connect CBE design principles and those essential learning questions for strong, rigorous lesson plans.

Now that we've reached the end of the lesson, I'd like you to think for just a moment. What do you think would be the most difficult part of incorporating that combination of essential learning questions and the five design principles into the teaching that you do in your classroom? As you reflect on how this new information could be applied, you might want to explore the Additional Resources section that accompanies this video presentation. This is where you'll find links to the resources chosen to help you deepen your learning and explore ways to apply your newly acquired skill set.

Notes on "Essential Learning Questions and CBE"

(00:00-00:24) Intro

(00:25-00:43) Objectives

(00:44-03:25) 5 Design Principles of CBE

(03:26-05:10) Essential Questions

(05:11-06:56) Connecting Design Principles & Essential Questions

(06:57-07:50) Review & Reflection

Additional Resources

Professional Learning Communities: Four Essential Questions and how we respond

Stevenson Elementary School provides a useful handout on using the PLC essential questions. In addition to the questions, the handout provides suggestions for responding to students based upon where they are on the continuum of the questions.

Solution Tree: Rebecca DuFour, 4 Critical Questions of a PLC

This YouTube video of Rebecca DuFour explaining the PLC essential questions is a useful resource in understanding their application in the classroom. Although Solution Tree uses 4 of the 5 questions noted in this tutorial, the expected outcome is the same.