School & District Management Opinion

Best Practices in Alternative & Competency-Based Learning

By Tom Vander Ark — August 02, 2013 1 min read
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As noted Wednesday on EdWeek, I recently visited GPS Education Partners, a high school manufacturing apprenticeship-based program serving students in Southern
Wisconsin. We invited the folks from Edvisions Schools and Jobs for the Future to
join a conversation about alternative and competency-based learning. The experts listed eight key strategies:

1. Set up a personalized learning plan focused on interests. Use open questions to find out interests. Get students to take ownership of learning by
engaging them in creating their own pathway and learning plan.

2. Personalize learning using projects in areas of interests. Projects should be presented to a panel of at least two adults. This works particularly well
with special needs students.

3. Make goals transparent: clearly explain what students need to know and how they will demonstrate learning. Align competencies with state standards and
skills companies are looking for.

4. Promote confidence, persistence and hope by supporting goal setting process and progress tracking. Track growth in competency as well as habits of
success and key dispositions. Make sure there is rigor everywhere.

5. Incorporate the Edvisions school design essentials: small learning communities,
self-directed project-based learning, authentic assessment, teacher ownership and democratic governance.

6. Provide counseling to careers; make clear what kind of education and experiences specific job clusters require.

7. Create a work environment that students can personalize.

8. Grow leaders from within; lead the school with a team.

In short, Edvisions wants to change the school day to change the learning life. They transition from spoon feeding (traditional public education) to
showing students they’re able to start feeding themselves with choice about their education based on their interest.

Jobs for the Future’s Students at the Center initiative summarizes
what they’ve learned in this category in nine reports. Also supported by the Nellie Mae Education Foundation is CompetencyWorks, an iNACOL supported resource for competency-based learning.

Tom is a director at iNACOL.

The opinions expressed in Vander Ark on Innovation are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.