Note: This is a blog about a competency-based learning side project I worked on this past summer. I describe the project and my thoughts about leveraging it in an educational environment. It is not currently used (except for my personal use), so please consider this a minimum viable product. However, I thought I would share my progress, and any feedback you have is welcome!
The past year has been productive, and the highlight of my professional development during this time has been discovering competency-based learning rubrics and effective feedback. We have been working with The Global Online Academy to help us develop more effective feedback systems in our classrooms and coaching assignments.
Competency-Based Learning Rubric Management
The app I wanted to create combined a couple of ideas. First, as mentioned, I have recently learned about Competency-Based Learning. If you are unfamiliar with CBL and rubrics based on this methodology, please read this article and return to this one. This post will make more sense after you know more about creating feedback environments with CBL rubrics.
I also learned from Mark Barnes at a Learning and the Brain Conference a few years ago. One of his Hack Learning tricks was the idea of Pineapple Charts. This Pineapple Chart was for teachers to announce times available for informal visits from other educators to their classrooms. The concept made sense because it was a relatively inexpensive way for the faculty to grow and develop by learning from each other. Experience tells me that when our faculty team gets together, there is always a synergy present, and I always learn new things from colleagues working in the same branch and across branches.
As a result, my thought process was to create something that would marry these two concepts together and also create a system that would allow for the communication of competencies across grades. The marriage of these ideas would add to the benefit of looking at the student learning experience to make it more coherent over the Pre-K through 12th-grade years.
A Database Of Competencies and Skills
Therefore, my thinking was to create a database of competency-based learning rubrics by developing software that could help create and manage my rubrics. I typically build a rubric in Word or Google Sheets. However, I always found it a bit finicky when formatting and printing the rubrics. Additionally, there was no clear way to make the rubric content indexable or searchable.
The first part of my project was to develop a web-based app that allowed for the creation of a competency-based rubric. As a result of a few days of programming, I created a part of the app to create a rubric from scratch or copy and paste an existing rubric.
A rubric is typically a significant competency broken down into core skills that collectively come together under the blanket heading of the competency.
The interface I built allows for creating a competency-based learning rubric and provides complete editing. It is also possible to re-order the skills in the rubric as necessary. Print functionality also quickly creates a PDF of the rubric, so it is formatted and easily printable.
Custom Competency-Based Learning Rubrics
As a result of the CBL Rubric being stored in a database, the next stage of the app development was to create a custom rubric builder. The idea was to create a CBL rubric that could draw skills from different competency rubrics to create a new rubric that synthesizes different sub-skills or thinking across competencies.
The advantage of this functionality is an educator could create a rubric very quickly for a student and therefore individualize the rubric depending on the student’s choice of modality in their project-based learning.
For example, consider three different students creating the following projects.
- A blog post demonstrating competencies in digital curation, graphic design, web development, and search engine optimization.
- An augmented reality project demonstrating competencies in 3D modeling and 3D printing.
- An Arduino robotics project demonstrating competencies in circuitry, Sketch programming, and C++ or Python programming.
Selecting Different Skills From Multiple Competencies To Build A Rubric For A Project
As you can see from the list above, there are many directions that a tech project could go. However, there may be elements of human-centered design that is common to all of them. So a rubric could contain design-thinking competencies and competencies specific to blogging or 3D printing, or Arduino.
The advantage of the custom rubric builder is that it can build a rubric efficiently from parts of pre-existing rubrics, thus creating an assessment protocol where student individualized learning can occur.
In the picture below, I show a screenshot of some of the skills I have been working on developing. You also might notice that some skills are the ISTE student standards. I am building “I can” statements for these skill sets over the next few months.
I want to go in this direction because it answers the question that is always in my mind “but how do I grade this kind of freedom, and is easy enough and not time intensive to create an assessment rubric?”
I have been fortunate that I was lucky to receive professional development from the Global Online Academy to help me learn and understand how competency-based learning and rubrics work.
However, the challenge in any culture shift in a school is transferring this knowledge to other faculty members.
I think it would be helpful for others to view competed for rubrics so that they can reverse engineer existing rubrics into their disciplines. At least, it is part of a solution that could help.
As a result, I thought it would be helpful to search through rubrics by keyword. Therefore, search functionality is helpful here to view rubrics that have been set to “public” status for viewing by others.
Other faculty members could use skills as a starting point for their rubrics and then edit from there (I’ve not built this yet, but it is an idea!).
The final piece of this app (at this stage) is for teachers to publish the dates and times that they are effectively “opening the door” for informal drop-ins from other faculty. We are now back at the idea of Pineapple Charts.
There is a calendar to schedule these informal “open house” times. Additionally, a teacher could attach a competency rubric to the lesson so that other teachers can view the rubric used in the classroom environment before, during, and after they visit the class.
Keeping The Data Up to Date
Changing a classroom environment to a competency-based environment has, in my experience, been an organic process of observing student processes and products and then deconstructing them into skills and “I can” statements. If projects don’t quite hit the mark, you learn from experience, revise the standards and try again. Ultimately, we need to model this cycle for our students because we regularly as them to do just that. Competency rubrics are not static. They grow and evolve to maintain a classroom environment that is flexible and adaptive to student needs.
Therefore, the app allows you to change your rubrics over time and keeps the data current so that other faculty can benefit. Although the database is a centralized location for the data, curriculum development becomes decentralized because the curriculum is driven by faculty or departments rather than top-down administrative directives.
That said, the administration could have an efficient mechanism to index trends over the entire Pre-K-12 experience. Teacher data is organic and can involve as time progresses and pedagogy evolves.
The app is unfinished and will probably be under construction for a while, but it should be considered an idea that generates food for thought.
Feedback welcome! Until next time!