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Standards, Competencies, Knowledge and Skills

Standards, Competencies, Knowledge and Skills

Author: Kathleen Johnson

In this lesson, students examine standards and competencies and analyze how they connect to knowledge and skills. In addition, students compare and contrast standards and competencies.

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Standards, Competencies, Knowledge, and Skills

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Hello, ladies and gentlemen. I hope you are having a wonderful day today. Today we're going to be looking at standards, competencies, knowledge, and skills. And for today's lesson, I've chosen a quote by Michael Jordan which states, "You have competition every day because you set such high standards for yourself."

Now, by the end of the lesson today, you will be able to define standards and competencies, as well as compare and contrast standards and competencies. So first, let's go ahead and take a look at competency skills and content. What do these words really mean?

So first and foremost, all of these together are learning goals that really look at student capabilities. They could look at student's knowledge, or sometimes they look at both. So first, a student capability centered learning goal might be, I can collaborate with my classmates. A knowledge center learning goal would be, I can identify the theme of a poem. And if we are going to combine them together, we would look at, I can collaborate with my classmates to identify the theme of a poem.

Now, it's really important to note that there are many different terms that refer to all of these areas of student knowledge. But for the purposes of these lessons, we're going to use the term content to refer to what a student should know. It's also important that you know that for the purposes of this lesson, we are going to use the terms skills and competencies really to refer to student capability.

When we're looking at skills, what we're really looking at there is like the individual student knowledge. What does that particular student know? And then when we talk about competency, we're looking at that concrete student ability. What is that student able to do for me in that moment? So when either an outcome or an objective indicates student capabilities, what we're really looking at there is that that set of capabilities would be considered a competency, so all together, since the various outcomes and objectives refer to that.

Now, let's take a look at the elements of competency based education. So when we're looking at competency based education, what we're really focusing on is the idea that students are expected to master a specific skill and then move on. Competency based education is really focused in and driven by student demonstration. What are they showing me that they're able to do? And then after they've reached that level of proficiency, then they are going to move on to the next area of competency.

Competency based education can also be called outcome based, because really everything that is done within the process is connected to those outcomes and those objectives. However, it's important that you know that in a pure competency based system, decisions are solely driven by that demonstration of proficiency. So sometimes you'll see people using elements of competency based education. But if we're talking pure competency based education, it's all driven by student outcomes.

So I want to go ahead and take you through the process of looking at a standard, and then showing the three connected competencies that show progression of that standard, and really all connect into that standard. So if we're looking at the overarching learning goal that we referenced just a moment ago, I can collaborate with my classmates to identify the theme of a poem, we can break that down into a number of different skills that are really related to those competencies.

So I can listen to my classmates. Listen, there, is this particular skill. I can make eye contact during that conversation. So make eye contact is the important part there. And then I can offer ideas in my group-- so really, offering up. All of those are very specific skills that all relate to the overarching idea of collaborating with your classmates. So again, we're breaking it down to show that progression towards that expected proficiency.

Next, let's go ahead and take a look at standards. How are we going to define standards for this course? Well, standards are really basically just what a student should know. This can be known as content knowledge or what they're able to do, also known as those skills, in each individual subject area at each individual grade level. So standards really span a broad range of proficiency and mastery. There are many different level steps that are included as one works toward proficiency with the standard.

Also, the focus is in a specific content area, and it's always aligned to those grade level contents. So you are focusing in on small elements. There are lots of different standards for English, but the ones you want to focus on are the ones that are only in your grade, and the same with all of the other subjects that you're working in. Also, these standards really helped to describe all the targeted learning goals that you have for your students.

Finally, I want to note that it's important that you note that the term standards can refer to either like a set of standards when we talk about it in the plural, or in the singular sense, it can just be one individual standard from that set of standards. Also, standards really focus in on content or subject knowledge standards. When we talk about that, we're going to have the knowledge that a student should know when we talk about a content or a subject standard. However, there are also practice standards that really focus in on what a student is capable of and what they're able to do.

So different standards are often written differently, and that depends on the situation. So an individual standard might resemble or relate to like a target or an objective or an outcome, whereas an overarching standard might relate to sort of the greater ideas of what the student should be able to do within that particular course.

Now, I'd like to go ahead and really compare and contrast those various standards and competencies. So first and foremost, when we look at standards and competencies, they are very closely linked. It's important to know that they are very, very much more similar than they are different.

So standards are really used to outline the skills or the knowledge that a student needs to have possessed by the end of the year. Whereas, competencies really focus and outline what a student should do as they progress towards that end of the year. So one kind of has to do with the finish line, and the other one has to do with the process of getting to the finish line.

Also, when we look at various mastery levels in here, mastery levels help to determine when students can really move on to that next area. So it's important that students are able to show that they meet whatever standard it is to be proficient, so that they can move on to the next competency, the next set of things that they need to do in order to reach the next end goal, with the idea being that by the end of the school year, that student is able to show that they can master all of the outcomes set for that particular course and grade level.

Finally, it's important that you know a couple of things about competencies. When you're writing competencies, you want to make sure that, first and foremost, they're written as skills that the student should be able to demonstrate. You want to make sure that it's clearly demonstratable, so that you know what you're going to address with the student.

Also, they need to be connected to the content. You don't-- you want to make sure that your competencies are connected very closely to those standards and that content, so that students are actually being measured on what you're teaching them.

And finally, they should really indicate how students should show that mastery, so that students are fully aware and that you're fully aware how they're going to show you that they got there. So let's take a look at a couple of example standards, and then explain how we can break those down into a series of competencies that all contribute to those standards.

First, let's take a look at an English Language Arts Literacy Standard. So as we break that and scaffold it into competencies, we look maybe first at the student demonstrating their ability to analyze what the text says explicitly. Second, students can then demonstrate their ability to properly cite specific examples from the text. Building upon that, students will then demonstrate how to draw inferences from a particular text. And finally, students will properly cite specific textual evidence to support their inferences.

Let's take a look at another example, but this time a foreign language standard. So we are going to scaffold that standard into competencies so that we can break it down. So first, students will research and demonstrate a basic understanding of modern-day Mexico. Then, students will demonstrate an understanding of the practices of Mexican culture. Students will demonstrate an understanding of the perspectives of those in Mexico. And then finally, all wrapping it together, students will demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between the particular Mexican practices and the perspectives of Mexicans.

Now that we've reached the end of the lesson, you have been able to define standards and competencies and all of the other vocabulary that goes along with it, as well as compare and contrast those standards and competencies. Now, I'd like you to take just a moment and think about what would be the most difficult part of implementing these elements that you've learned about standards and competencies into your teaching practices.

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

Notes on "Standards, Competencies, Knowledge, and Skills"

(00:00-00:15) Intro

(00:16-00:28) Objectives

(00:29-02:01) Competency, Skills, & Content

(02:02-04:02) Competency Based Education

(04:03-06:06) Standards

(06:07-08:12) Compare & Contrast Standards & Competencies

(08:13-09:17) Standards & Competencies Examples

 (09:18-10:00) Review & Reflection

Additional Resources

The Charlotte Danielson Framework for Effective Teaching  and Standards‐Based Instruction

This resource provides a side by side look at the Danielson framework with questions to consider when applying the component and its indicators to focus on standards based instruction.

Academic Content Standards: Creating Consistency across Oregon 

This resource from the Oregon State Department provides a clear framework explaining the CCSS, the rationale behind adoption and implementation, and shifts that will result in instruction and focus. This is a clear communication tool that educators may consider referencing when developing their own understanding of the shift, or in developing a communication strategy for their organization.