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Essential Terms in Competency Based Curriculum

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In this tutorial, we'll identify the essential terms that we'll be using in our study of competency-based curriculum. We'll define terms that are used to refer to components of instruction, learning goals, competency skills and content, and standards. Let's get started.

Let's begin by talking about some of the terms that are used when referring to instructional design. These terms include lesson, unit, and curriculum map. A lesson is a single instructional activity. One lesson might include multiple components. Lessons are often designed to last just a single instructional period.

A unit is a set of related or connected lessons. These connected lessons are crafted to work together in order to help students achieve an overarching set of learning goals. A unit will usually span a longer period of time than just one instructional period.

And finally, a curriculum map includes all of the units and associated lessons that together make up a whole class or course. It's important to note that lessons, units, and curriculum maps all need to include learning goals and instructional activities for students. Let's look at an example.

A lesson that teaches students to solve the system of linear equations by graphing may be contained in a unit that addresses several topics related to the concept of systems of linear equations. And this unit may be found on an Algebra 1 curriculum map. So the lesson is the most specific of these three terms while the curriculum map is the most broad.

Next, let's explore some of the terms that are used to refer to learning goals. Though in the world of education, there are many different terms that might be used to refer to learning goals, in this course we will be using the following terms-- target, objective, and outcome. A target is the simplest and most specific type of learning goal. A learning target expresses one singular learning goal for students.

An objective is a bit more complex. An objective can contain multiple learning targets. Teachers write both targets and objectives at the lesson level. An outcome is the most complex type of learning goal. An outcome includes multiple objectives, and for that reason, outcomes are usually written at the unit or course level rather than at the lesson level. It's important to realize that various sources are going to define and contextualize these terms differently, so you may wish to jot these terms and definitions down so that you have them handy as we proceed through the course.

So referring back to the Algebra 1 lesson, a learning target identified for students might be graphing two linear equations on the same set of axes. This target would be aligned with the overall objective of solving a system of linear equations by graphing. Graphing two linear equations on the same set of axes is a critical skill in being able to accomplish that objective. Both this target and this objective are aligned with the outcome of solving systems of linear equations using multiple methods.

Next, let's discuss the essential terms related to competency, skills, and content. The learning goals that you write for students may address student capabilities, student knowledge areas, or both of these. The most common terms used in education to refer to capabilities of students are skills and competencies. A learning goal that is written to address these student capabilities will describe exactly what the student will be able to do.

Here's an example of a learning goal that focuses on student capabilities. Students will be able to find the solution to a system of linear equations by graphing. A specific skill is identified in this learning goal. In contrast, other learning goals may focus on student knowledge. Common keywords here include knowledge, topic, and content. In this particular course, we'll most often use the term content. A learning goal that focuses on student knowledge will identify what the student will know. For example, students will understand that the solution to a system of linear equations is found at the intersection point of the graphs of the equations.

Some learning goals may be written so that they address both student capabilities and student knowledge. For example, students will understand that the solution to a system of linear equations is found at the intersection point of the graphs of the equations, and they will be able to find the solution to a system of linear equations by graphing and locating the intersection point. This learning goal addresses both what students will know and what students will be able to do.

Note that we have previously defined a skill as an individual student capability. So if a learning target indicates any type of a student capability, we would also be able to refer to that capability as a skill. Remember, targets indicate singular learning goals. On the other hand, we've defined competencies as concrete student abilities incorporating multiple skills. So if an outcome or a learning objective refers to student capabilities, we would consider that full set of capabilities to be a competency, since both outcomes and objectives incorporate multiple components.

Let's take a look at another example. If a competency that I would like my students to attain is writing a persuasive essay, some of the many skills that would be involved in making progress towards this competency would include being able to write a complete sentence, forming a logical argument, and using software to spell check a document. We can take this one step further by rewriting the competency as a learning objective for the unit, and by rewriting the skills as learning targets that describe exactly what tasks students will complete on their way towards meeting this competency.

So the competency rewritten as a unit objective may read, "Students will be able to write a persuasive essay on a topic of their choice." And the skills rewritten as learning targets might say, "Students will write a complete topic sentence for their essay," "Students will form a logical argument that supports their topic sentence," and "Students will use software to spell check their essays." Note that each of these learning targets will help students make progress towards attaining the unit objective.

Finally, let's take a look at the essential terms that are related to standards. Recall that standards identify what students should know or what students should be able to do. Standards are generally written so that they span multiple levels of mastery or proficiency. They may be aligned to specific grade levels and may focus on individual content areas. These standards that focus on content areas are sometimes called content standards or subject standards.

One of the main purposes of standards is to outline all of the goals or competencies for the identified content area. Some standards are written so that they focus on student capabilities. These types of standards may be referred to as practice standards, performance standards, or application standards. Anytime you're discussing standards, it's important to remember that the word "standards" can refer to the entire set of standards as a whole, or when used in the singular, the word standard can refer to an individual standard from the overall set.

Also remember that different sets of standards are written in different styles. Some standards may be written more like learning targets, while others may look like objectives or outcomes. And here are some examples. A standard that is written in the style a learning target might read, "Students will be able to graph two linear equations on the same set of axes." An objective-style standard may read, "Students will be able to solve a system of linear equations by graphing." An outcome-style standard might say, "Students will be able to solve systems of linear equations using multiple methods." No matter how the standards for your grade level, subject area, or state are written, it's important to become familiar with the vocabulary that particular set of standards uses.

In this tutorial, we identified many essential terms that will be used in our study of competency-based based curriculum. We divided these terms into four categories-- instruction, learning goals, competency skills and content, and standards. So here's a chance for you to stop and reflect. Did the definitions for the terms lesson, unit, and curriculum map align with your current understanding of these terms? Can you identify the differences among outcomes, objectives, and learning targets?

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.

(00:00 - 00:19) Introduction

(00:20 - 01:37) Instruction

(01:38 - 03:12) Learning Goals

(03:13 - 06:24) Competency, Skills, andÂ Content

(06:25 - 08:12) Standards

(08:13 - 08:29) Review

(08:30 - 09:02) Stop and Reflect