In the previous post, I discussed how keeping track of student mastery of learning targets is both a critical and a non-trivial component of personalized, standards-based, competency-based education, such as within Customized Learning schools.
Online systems can make the task much easier to implement. Already, there are a growing number of options for schools, including PowerSchool, Jump Rope, Project Foundry, and Educate (I have used the last two).
But not all of the available options do the same thing, nor do it the same way. Some simply make it easier to connect standards to courses, some are standards-based grading systems, and some are true learning progress management systems, a frequently updated individual student data system that tracks student progress and attainment of learning standards (not courses), help students select or propose learning activities as they progress through a learning pathway, and help communicate individual student progress to teachers, students, and parents.
So, what do you look for in a learning progress management system?
At it's most basic, a good learning progress management system would do several things:
- It would maintain a database of the curriculum (standards-based measurement topics and the progression of learning targets).
- It would contain assessment information for each level of mastery of each measurement topic and learning target (think rubrics).
- It would maintain a database of each student's level of mastery for each measurement topic and learning target.
- The learning progress management system would be used to set goals, and create and monitor each student's Individualized Learning Plan, or Pathways (a personalized sequence of instructional content and skill development designed to enable the student to achieve his or her individual learning goals), and Individualized Graduation Plan (to ensure he or she can “graduate on time”).
- It would facilitate the creation of individualized, data-driven transcripts and progress reports.
- Teachers, students, and parents could access the learning progress management system readily to monitor where the student is in his or her learning progression 24/7.
A well-designed learning progress management system would also utilize a database of educational resources (including links to digital content and references to common resources, such as texts) and learning activities correlating to each learning target. These resources and activities allow students multiple pathways to demonstrating mastery of the learning target and would facilitate teachers and students selecting activities that appeal to their learning styles and interests, thus motivating students and deepening individual student learning. Further, the system would allow for the uploading of artifacts and evidence of learning correlated to specific learning targets or steps on a learning progression. (These would be the “proof” of mastery for each student.)
A superior learning progress management system would “intelligently” provide students suggestions on what activities he or she might try next, matching both the next learning target in their progression and their learning preferences. Imagine, as a student completes a measurement topic, getting a recommendation from the system of an activity for the next learning target, which is an approach the system thinks the student will like. (Think Amazon book recommendations, but for learning activities.)
Maine Cohort for Customized Learning districts are partnering with Scott Bacon of 3Shapes to create and develop such a learning progress management system: Educate. Through that partnership (including piloting the system in some Cohort districts), Educate already has many of the features described above. Further, Scott Bacon solicits feedback from our schools to keep Educate under continuous development, both to better implement existing features, as well as to add new features we would find helpful. Many of the Maine schools using it report that Educate seems especially well suited for Customized Learning, our version of personalized, performance-based learning.