Sunday, February 28, 2016

CBE and it's Possibilities

Anthony Cody doesn't like the Competency Based Education ideas of Tom Vander Ark and Clayton Christensen, and neither do I. But, Competency Based Education doesn't need to be done the way Vander Ark is proposing. It can be done in a way that Cody supports; although, he doesn't really say much about what he does support in his recent blog post which was reprinted by Valerie Strauss in the Washington Post.  I don't think Anthony Cody is fully informed, yet, about the possibilities of CBE and its various other names - standards based grading, student learning outcome reporting, and others.

Cody likes authentic work, driven by the teachers, not by some external body; so do I. I've been pushing for that for many years. I was an Open School teacher for the sixteen years I taught in the Minneapolis Public Schools. Where I differ from Cody is in the use of technology. I don't see technology as the bad guy. I see technology as a way for teachers to connect with more kids in more ways. And, I see technology as a way to record learning activities and report about those learning activities. Public school teachers need to report - to the kids, to the parents, to the principal, to the district, to the state. Using current technology makes that a whole lot easier than using the technology of paper and copiers and chalk and mimeographs. Using current technology makes it possible for teachers to report about the learning activities of the students according to a set of defined competencies, or not. Those competencies can be defined any way by anybody. Getting agreement on what needs to be learned by when is a discussion that has been happening for a very long time and will be continuing for a very long time. I wrote about how I think CBE could be done using Moodle's new feature set in my previous post. 

I've written several blog posts supporting portfolios, and challenging Vander Ark and Christensen.  Go to the little search box (on my screen it's in the upper left corner) and type in - 'portfolio' or 'Vander Ark' or 'Christensen' to see the many posts I've written previously that mention them.

Let's not make technology or reporting on learning activities the bad guy.  I'm not even sure that Vander Ark and Christensen are bad guys.  They're definitely businessmen, though, and not teachers. There's a difference between a teacher's perspective and a businessman's, and when one is not fully informed about the possibilities one can end up looking like something other than a good guy.

Friday, February 5, 2016

CBE and Student Learning Outcomes in Moodle

Moodle.org announced today that the prototypes for the Competency Based Education feature targeted for Moodle 3.1 are available now. The Competency Based Education feature includes the ability to report on specific student learning outcomes. Here's what that means for K12  (I'll write about what I think that means for Higher Ed in another post to come.)

A teacher in a 3rd grade science classroom can create a learning activity for her class and align that learning activity with a specific state standard. In fact, all student learning activities could be aligned by the teacher in the classroom with a state standard. Teachers, of course, would still be free to teach things that can't be aligned to a state standard, but that list won't be very long for most teachers.  

Now, here's what that means in the broader picture. If all teachers in a district are aligning the learning activities of their students with state standards and an assessment of those learning activities appears in their Moodle learning management system, then how the students are doing relative to standards is a report that's available whenever anyone wants to run the report. That assessment can be a quiz, a score on a submitted assignment, or the teacher's more subjective evaluation of a performance of some kind by the student. When teachers record their assessments of a student's work or performance that record becomes available to all who have permission to access those records. So, a principal could run a report and see how all 3rd graders were doing on science standards, or math standards. The report would be based on learning activities created by the teacher, or that the teacher had chosen for or with the student. The report would be in real time, up to date as of the time the principal runs the report, or the teacher runs the report, or someone from the district office runs the report.  Students, also, will be able to run reports on how well they're doing on the state standards, or IB requirements, or whatever set of standards or competencies they and their teachers choose to track.

This will profoundly alter assessment of learning. Now learning will be assessed at the level of teacher and student. If a district wants all of its teachers to assess a set of specific standards on a set of activities or questions, they can do it as often as they want to do it. Outside testing agencies won't be necessary, but schools could choose to use 'standardized' tests if they want. The learning activities will be assessed against the standards. The student could even choose the learning activity and propose it as fulfilling their mastery of the standard. The choice could be left up to the teacher and the student to decide. If the principal, or someone at the district, or someone at the state wants to check to see if that activity meets the standards, the artifact of the student learning and the teachers comments and assessment will be available. This is real student choice and voice in learning. This changes lots.