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Using iNacol's 5 CBE Design Principles in Curriculum Development and Implementation

Using iNacol's 5 CBE Design Principles in Curriculum Development and Implementation

Author: Jody Waltman

Students will analyze the 5 design principles of CBE in depth.

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In this tutorial, we'll analyze a sample unit of instruction, basing our analysis on the 5 Principles of Competency Based Education that were identified by iNACOL, at their 2011 summit. This process of analyzing the unit in terms of these 5 CBE Principles, is an important element of curriculum review in a CBE environment.

For reference, here is the plan for the unit of instruction, which has been developed using a template that is based on Understanding by Design. Here we can see the common core math standards with which the unit is aligned. The understandings and the essential questions are identified. Along with a list of key vocabulary that will be covered throughout the unit. And a list of the specific skills that students will gain throughout the unit.

On the second page of the plan is a list of the evidence. The assessments that will be used throughout the unit, both a performance task and formative and summative assessments. And finally, an outline of the learning plan for the six lessons that will be incorporated in the unit.

So as we now begin the process of analyzing this unit plan based on these 5 Principles of CBE, let's first keep in mind that competency-based education may also be referred to as proficiency-based, performance-based, standards-based, or mastery-based education. So if you are implementing any strategies or templates that use these keywords, you may also find it very relevant to analyze your own plans for instruction based on these 5 CBE Principles.

Second, we need to keep in mind that in a competency-based classroom, students are receiving personalized educational experiences that are tailored to students' own levels of readiness. And these students are being provided with any interventions or differentiation techniques as is appropriate or needed, based again on each student's individual needs.

So let's begin our analysis of the sample unit plan by thinking about Design Principle 1, Students Advance Upon Demonstrated Mastery. So advancement is not based on just the completion of the work in a unit, or spending a certain amount of seat time in the classroom, or reaching a certain age level or grade level in school. Expectations that we have for students in a CBE environment are appropriately challenging for individual students, and students will be evaluated based on their performance. There may be some flexibility available in the pacing in a CBE environment. And teachers act as facilitators in a competency-based environment.

So looking back at my unit plan, it's clear that though I did a good job of designing this unit plan using the principles of Understanding by Design, I was not taking into consideration the pacing needs called for by competency-based education. This unit is organized in individual lessons, and there is no indication in this unit plan that students can move through these lessons at their own pace. So to better align this unit plan with the Principles of CBE, I might consider building in some options for students to move through the various lessons, at their own pace. When a student demonstrates that they have mastered the skill or competency in one lesson, they might be then allowed to move on to the content from the next lesson, as soon as they are ready.

Design Principle 2 in competency-based education states that Explicit and Measurable Learning Objectives Empower Students. It's important in CBE, that learning targets are clearly communicated to students. Students need to be aware of what target they're currently working towards, and how they're going to be assessed on their progress towards that learning target. Again, the teacher is acting as a facilitator or a coach in this environment. And the clearly defined learning targets help to define the unit of learning for students. And finally in CBE, we should try to provide opportunities that extend learning beyond the classroom.

So back in my sample unit, we can see Design Principle number 2 demonstrated in the list of understandings, and the list of essential questions that will guide the instruction for the unit. In fact, if we want to do an even better job of making these learning targets clear to students, we can rewrite these key understandings and skills as "I can" statements that are written in student-friendly language, and really help students to get a clear understanding of what they're working towards.

If you look at my performance task for this unit, you can see that I could maybe do a little bit better job of extending the learning beyond the classroom walls. Right now, the performance task asks students to create a video or a slide show in which they're playing the role of a geometry tutor. To take this one step further and really extend the learning beyond the classroom walls, I could have students post these videos on YouTube, or have students share them in our Google classroom.

Design Principle 3 in competency-based education states that Assessment is Meaningful and a Positive Learning Experience for Students. In CBE, formative assessments are used frequently, and students are provided with immediate feedback that helps them to take ownership of their own learning and their own data. And it also helps them to know what exactly they need to do in order to make adjustments to their learning, in order to facilitate their own success.

Though there is a clear emphasis in CBE on the use of formative assessment, we actually want to employ a wide variety of assessment types. We want to use multiple contexts and multiple formats in order to assess students' mastery of concepts and skills. Teachers who are implementing CBE should collaborate in order to help determine students' proficiency levels. And the emphasis here is on learning, not on assigning letter grades.

Summative assessments are used in CBE, but they're given at the appropriate time, and they are adapted to students' individual learning needs. Furthermore, retakes are available for students who do not demonstrate mastery successfully on the first try.

Let's take a closer look at the assessment options that are included in this sample unit plan. I've built in several formative assessments, including an exit question and an investigation using Patty Paper, a common tool used in geometry classes, in lesson 3. Furthermore, students will be completing a worksheet in lesson 4. And I'll be doing a progress check, seeing how they're progressing towards the completion of their performance task, as part of lesson 5.

So formative assessment is definitely playing a major role here, in the sample unit. The performance task is filling the role of the summative assessment at the end of the unit, and students do have some options that they can choose from in the completion of the performance task. And there are a wide variety of assessment types and contacts being used throughout the unit.

Next, Design Principle 4 states that Students Should Receive Rapid, Differentiated Support. Differentiation and personalization techniques, including the use of flexible pacing, can help our students in a CBE environment to reach their individual learning targets. These various interventions may come from teachers, or from specialists. And adaptive learning technology may be used to help us in this endeavor. Remember adaptive learning technology responds directly to student mastery of concepts, and so this can really help with the flexible pacing element, and just with moving students on to the next objective or competency on their learning path, as soon as they are ready to move on.

Unfortunately, my unit plan really does not address any differentiation techniques or personalization techniques that are going to be used. Furthermore, it doesn't specify any interventions that I'll use throughout the unit, either. Now of course, since this unit template was designed using the framework for Understanding by Design, I included the elements that were asked for. But now as I'm going through the process of also incorporating CBE design elements into the unit plan, I might, at this point, want to add into this plan, the specific details about the interventions and differentiation techniques that I would plan to employ throughout the various lessons in the unit.

Finally, CBE Design Principle 5 states that Learning Outcomes that are Emphasized Should Include the Application and the Creation of Knowledge. The competencies that students are working towards in CBE, should include both skills and academic standards. And we want the mastery of these learning objectives to involve the application of skills and knowledge, both in and out of the classroom. So we want to employ real world settings whenever possible.

We also want to use rubrics to assess students' progress towards these learning objectives. And students should have access, when possible, to samples of exemplary work. 21st century skills are emphasized here, as students are taking advantage of these opportunities to apply their learning outside of the classroom.

While the outcomes that are outlined here in stage 1 of my unit plan don't really emphasize any applications outside of the classroom, the good news here is that in the performance task, students actually will be applying their learning in a somewhat real-world situation. And as we discussed earlier, if I have my students post these videos on YouTube or in our Google classroom, that brings one other element of that real world application into the performance assessment. Furthermore, if I use a rubric to evaluate students' performance on this task, that brings in one more element of Design Principle 5.

So here's a chance for you to stop and reflect. Select one of your existing unit plans and try your hand at evaluating that unit, through the lens of iNACOL's 5 Design Principles for CBE.

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 "Using iNacol's 5 CBE Design Principles in Curriculum Development and Implementation"

(00:00 - 01:56) Introduction and Overview of Sample Plan

(01:57 - 03:17) Design Principle #1

(03:18 - 04:51) Design Principle #2

(04:52 - 06:50) Design Principle #3

(06:51 - 08:06) Design Principle #4

(08:07 - 09:29) Design Principle #5

(09:30 - 09:59) Stop and Reflect

Additional Resources

Setting up a Competency-Based System: The Authoring Process

In this article, high school Social Studies teacher Justin Ballou provides four strategies to follow when a school is ready to transition to a competency based system. In addition, he provides three examples of competencies that he uses in his classroom.

Designing Your Competency-Based School 

This wiki provides great resources and tools for teachers who are interested in implementing competency based instruction. Scroll down to "Voice, Choice and Personalization" for strategies to design your learning environment.