Steps to Help Schools Transform to CBL

Steps to Help Schools Transform to CBL

Steps to Help Schools Transform to CBL

Competency Based Learning, commonly referred to as CBL, has been a talking point to many in the field of education. Bearing great resemblance to another method called mastery-learning, competency based learning focuses on competencies or proficiences of a student during the course of their curriculum, which can be progressed at their own pace. This helps a child learn more about the subject being taught to them, and helps educators take bold steps in reforming their student's study plan and schedule inorder to see them meet their goals.

Competency Based Learning, insists on mastery of subjects, and provides students the time to learn. They aren't rushed through a course, instead they are made to go through a course thoroughly if faced with some setbacks. Since this is a relatively new concept to a lot of schools and administrations, it is slowly finding its way into the education space, with schools implementing this topic finding increased success rates. 

Competency based learning, or CBL mainly involves 5 core elements:

  • Students advance only on mastering a skill, not on earning or managing to obtain a C or D.

  • Transparency with regard to a student’s prowess in the subject that empowers them and helps teachers modify their tutoring according to the required need.

  • Assessments as a continuous cycle of learning, not an end to a cycle of learning.

  • Teachers offering timely support and material in time of need.

  • Students must demonstrate that they are able to transfer their skills to outside the classroom environment. 

From the ground up

To ensure that this pans out, schools and related educational institutions must undertake big projects that take a systems approach to teaching and learning, gathering input from all the stakeholders, listening carefully, incorporating those ideas in real ways into the plan and developing a strong shared vision and district culture.

Adminstrations and staff should take the time to empower the staff in the district, focusing on retention. To do this, one must work on helping the staff that have a growth mindset about their efforts and empower them with three simple motivators:

  • Engage in complex work with a sense of mastery.

  • Engage with other people.

  • Give them some autonomy over what they do and how and when to do it.

One must also remember that people that tend to push against these changes can become your strongest allies. When they saw that their concerns were listened to and addressed, those vocal opponents who were often charismatic leaders in their school communities, saw their way toward the shared vision.

Build up Infrastructure

Many districts trying to implement a competency education don't spend the necessary time ramping up to this kind of sweeping reform, instead jumping right into designing the infrastructure as though it is a technical problem. But without the buy-in of the community, school board, staff and students, the reform effort is likely to flop. The infrastructure must be built on a strong foundation.

Teachers need to work together to clearly define the scale for how students will achieve mastery and what qualities will be included. Students may also be held accountable for the same high expectations and the same competencies, they will each show their mastery in different ways. Teachers have to be ready for that variance, embrace it, and know what they are looking for to maintain rigorous standards.

Transitioning into Competency Education

There's no "right way" to transition into such a drastically different way of thinking about school because the unique factors of each district and community will play a big role. Asking the community what they want their graduates to look like is a good way to start. Preparing students for what the new system will be like and preparing them to take on more autonomy and agency is also crucial.

It takes several years during this infancy for teachers and administrators to utilize the time period to reflect on. These early adopters are continuously engaged in a process of reflection andfine-tuning to improve the education they are offering. Just as the competency education model acknowledges space to figure out this new style of teaching. While the concept of only moving a student forward when they can clearly demonstrate mastery of content and skills sounds simple, it's a big departure from the traditional model and requires a period of adjustment in a supportive environment.

Related links:

  • Creative Ways for Your Students to advance at their own pace