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Explaining Competency-Based Education to Parents

Instructor: Della McGuire

Della has been teaching secondary and adult education for over 20 years. She holds a BS in Sociology, MEd in Reading, and is ABD on the MComm in Storytelling.

In this lesson, we will discuss strategies for explaining competency-based education to parents, to include emphasizing what competency-based education is, its flexibility and other benefits, and how it could change the school experience for them and their child.

Explaining Competency-Based Education

When talking with parents about a shift toward the competency-based education (CBE) model, there are a few basic guidelines. Keep it simple, and tell them that CBE emphasizes mastery of content rather than completion. It is important that you avoid pedagogical lingo that teachers or administrators use when implementing a CBE program. Don't get bogged down in unnecessary details. Rather, emphasize the ways that CBE can improve students' experiences at school. You should also be prepared to answer any questions that parents or students might have about the impact this program will have on schooling. Cater your message to the parents you are talking to, so if their child struggles, explain how they get more time without penalty. If you know their child rushes ahead and gets bored, emphasize the opportunity for advancement.

What Changes?

Let's look at some of the ways CBE differs from traditional schooling and how it can benefit students. These differences are important topics to discuss with parents.

Advancement

CBE differs from traditional education in that it allows students to advance to the next level upon mastery of specific curriculum content. This means that some students may take more time or less time to understand what they are learning. Theoretically, this could warrant students of different ages and abilities being together in the same class. Students who progress quickly through the material with less practice may be working on more advanced concepts with older students who need more practice. This element of CBE is highly motivating for students.

Assignments and Grading

The types of assignments students get may be similar to those assignments in a traditional classroom but will differ in the ways those assignments are used. For example, in traditional schooling, all students typically receive the same homework assignments, and most of those assignments count for a grade. With CBE, there might be several different kinds of homework assignments, and students can choose which of those they want to complete based on their learning preferences and how much practice they think they need. The only assignments used for a grade will be those assessments conducted after a student feels ready to demonstrate mastery and level up.

Because time is no longer a factor impacting students' grades, uncompleted work is labeled with incomplete rather than a zero, and therefore a student's overall percentage grades are not devastated by missing work. Students will have other opportunities to make up work they need to complete, but if they can successfully pass the assessment, then the ungraded practice work is unnecessary. Students become motivated by the idea that they are not engaging in superfluous busywork because they can choose how much or how little practice they may need to pass the test. Since they need to pass the test to move forward, they don't waste time on unnecessary work they already know.

Learning Management Systems

Another major change between traditional schooling and CBE is the introduction of technology. Students are increasingly using technology for educational research and completing assignments, and competency-based instruction is facilitated by using a learning management system, or LMS. The LMS becomes a centralized hub for teachers, students, and parents to access information about assignments, progress, grades, and research materials.

The LMS features and uses may look different for each school or class, but usually include messages, discussions, assignments, file storage, documents, and resource material.
images of screens

The LMS provides an opportunity for parents and teachers to communicate openly with each other to determine which approach is best meeting a student's needs. Parents and students can receive assessment feedback and information about student progress in real time rather than waiting for report cards or midterms. Parents will need login information and be directed to the program's tutorials so they understand how to use all the available features. Teachers can facilitate this new technology by providing explanations and assistance when needed.

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