- Creating a competency-based learning environment requires a new approach to teaching, assessments and student engagement, and it creates new challenges for school leaders and teachers, eSchool News reports.
- Naugatuck Public Schools in Connecticut is making project-based learning a larger part of its curriculum, asking students to take charge of their own learning, with programs like Defined STEM supplementing instruction and progress bars marking student achievement instead of grades.
- In the Kankakee School District in Illinois, administrators focus on exposing students to different career paths using the Defined STEM career wheel and the formation of a College and Career Academy that uses progress levels rather traditional grades, categorizes students by years rather than grade levels, and increases opportunities for dual-enrollment courses and industry exposure.
While competency-based education using project-based learning offers advantages in the development of students who are often better prepared for career options, it also offers disadvantages that administrators need to understand before making the leap. Curriculum options are more limited because the approach is fairly new in modern classrooms, even though it is based in older models. This means that teachers often spend more time preparing lessons and collaborating with other teachers and industry partners — a factor that can lead to burnout. Administrators can help by seeking options, such as Defined STEM, that assist in providing a framework in some areas.
While the model offers exciting new possibilities for real-world learning and student engagement, the grading process is also different and often requires more work on the part of teachers. Schools need to carefully think through that process before transitioning to a competency-based model. While progress bars may work well at the elementary school and middle school level, they may pose challenges for high school students as they apply to colleges. Finding a consistent way to address these challenges while still maintaining a growth mind-set in students is one of the many issues that need to be addressed before making the move.