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Essential Learning Questions and CBE

Essential Learning Questions and CBE

Author: Jody Waltman

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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In this tutorial, we'll connect the five design principles of competency-based education to the five essential learning questions. Let's begin with a review of the design principles of competency-based education. Recall that these design principles were outlined by iNACOL at a 2011 summit.

Principle number one states that students advance upon mastery. Principle two tells us that explicit and measurable learning objectives empower students. Principle three, assessment is meaningful, and a positive learning experience for students. Principal four, students receive rapid, differentiated support. And finally, principle five, learning outcomes emphasized include application and creation of knowledge.

Now let's review the five essential learning questions. We spend a lot of time in education talking about writing essential learning questions for students that relate to the content that we are addressing in a given lesson or unit. However, we need to remember that there are also essential questions that teachers can use as we are designing rigorous and engaging learning experiences for our students. These are the questions that we should ask ourselves as we are designing our instruction, based on the work of the Dufours.

Question one, what do students need to know and be able to do? This is where we would consider the essential questions that we're going to ask students, and where we would identify the standards, the key skills and knowledge, and the individual competencies that we want students to be able to master and demonstrate. Question two, how will I help them get there? What types of instructional activities are you going to use? And what kinds and amounts of support are you going to provide during that instruction?

Question three, how will I know if they are there? What types of assessments will you use in order to determine whether students have mastered the current skills? What will I do if they are not there? What types of varied approaches, differentiation strategies, reteaching or remediation techniques, or other methods might you employ to help students who are not making adequate progress?

And finally, question five, what will I do if they are already there? What will you do to accommodate the students who have already mastered the current skill? How will you make use of your formative and summative assessment data?

So let's connect these essential questions back to the design principles of CBE. Here are the five essential questions. Reworded in terms of CBE, question one might read, "Based on the standards, what does each individual student need to know and be able to do?" Remember, CBE supports a more individualized approach to each student's education and learning path. Question two might read, "Based upon where each student currently is, what will be the learning plan for that student?" question three might read, "How will I meaningfully assess students so that I know they have achieved mastery?"

And question four we might consider, "How will I differentiate and personalize instruction and learning plans to meet individual student needs in meeting their objectives?" And finally, question five, "What level of mastery indicates that a student is ready to move on, and what will they move on to?" Recall that in competency-based education, each student can move through the learning objectives at his or her own pace. A student progresses upon demonstrated mastery of the current skill.

So this requires some planning ahead, as you always need to be ready with the next skill that a student should start working on. In order to support this effort, many districts have found that adaptive learning technology and other online learning platforms are really necessary in order to truly support self-paced, competency-based instruction in the classroom.

In this tutorial, we reviewed the five design principles of competency-based education. We then reviewed the five essential learning questions, and we looked at the connections between the two. So here's a chance for you to stop and reflect. Consider each of the five essential learning questions in turn as you are reflecting on your own instructional practices.

To dive a little deeper and 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 joining me today. Have a great day.

Notes on "Essential Learning Questions and CBE"

(00:00 - 00:08) Introduction

(00:09 - 00:47) 5 Design Principles of CBE

(00:48 - 02:29) 5 Essential Questions

(02:30 - 03:59) Connections

(04:00 - 04:10) Review

(04:11 - 04:39) Stop and Reflect

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.