Tag Archives: Curriculum Organization

What Can Scouting Teach Us About Proficiency-Based Learning

Scouting does pretty good work with curriculum.

I think our Customized Learning work (both for kids and the professional learning for educators) shares many characteristics with theirs: learning is customized; individuals progress at their own pace; they progress by demonstrating proficiency; learners have lots of voice and choice simultaneously with clear guidelines and expectations; learning is chunked into modules, instead of large all-encompassing courses; proficiency requires a mix of knowing and doing and applying/creating; responsibility for the teaching & learning is distributed; etc.

Auburn has a Distributed PD System Design project going on right now. They (we) just posted two activities that might help others think about curriculum organization and managing learning in a proficiency-based system:

 

Capacity Matrices: Examples & Overview

As Quality Learning Australia points out:

A Capacity Matrix is a tool to describe, document and monitor our learning. It allows us to clearly identify what is it we wish to learn, derived from the curriculum and student interests, and then track learning over time. It can be very effectively used with the Plan, Do, Study, Act (PDSA) cycle and supported with a portfolio that provides evidence of our learning. Capacity Matrices are also used for self-assessment as well as peer assessment.

In Auburn, we are starting to use Capacity Matrices in this way. Our teachers are wondering where they can see examples and where they can learn more. Below are a handful of resources to help address that need.

General Information about and Examples of Capacity Matrices:

Multiple Pathways Blog: Top 5 Posts From 2013 and the 5 Most Popular Posts

Top 5 Multiple Pathways posts written in 2013:

#5 – The Series on the New MLTI: Choice, Auburn, and Learning – This year, Maine's 13-year-old learning with “laptop” initiative offered schools a choice of devices. This series describes the change in approach to the state initiative, why Auburn chose iPads, and what we still hope to get from our technology, despite the changes.

#4 – The Phases of Implementing Customized Learning: The SeriesOne lesson our district has learned from working with other districts further along with implementing Customized Learning is “not all at once!”

#3 – Life-Long Habits of Mind: Curriculum for Customized Learning – Districts in the Customized Learning Consortium have expanded their curriculum model beyond simply content knowledge. Life-Long Habits of Mind is the third domain of our curriculum model.

#2 – We Need Keyboards With Our iPads. Not! – While some believe that schools should buy keyboards to make iPads useful, lessons from experienced iPad schools suggest the opposite.

#1 – How Does Auburn Select Apps? – Ever since we started Advantage 2014, our primary grades 1to1 iPads initiative, we’ve had educators and parents ask us what apps we’re using.

 

The 5 Most Popular Multiple Pathways posts in 2013:

#1 – What Makes for Good Learning Experiences?

#2 – 10 Key Components of Customized Learning

#3 – Tone of Voice Matters (In Surprising Ways)

#4 – Motivating Students: Focus on 5 Strategies

#5 – Student Motivation: What Level of Engagement Are Your Students At?

 

Keeping Track of Student Learning in Customized Learning – Part 1

One of the reasons you put so much care into how you organize and articulate the student curriculum in Customized Learning, is because instead of tracking which courses a student has taken, schools track which learning targets and measurement topics students have mastered. The challenge, of course, with tracking courses, instead of mastery of content, is that the same curriculum may or may not be addressed in any two courses with the same name. Further, there is no guarantee that any two students in the same course (perhaps even the same section) have learned the same material. At best, tracking courses tracks what teachers “cover,” not what students learn.

But tracking courses taken and passed is much simpler than tracking student learning! Tracking what all your students have learned (and evidence of that mastery!) for all those learning targets is no trivial endeavor! With students working at different paces and awarding students “credit” based on what they demonstrate they know and can do (rather than by seat time or courses they have completed), educators need an efficient way to monitor and record student progress.

Schools that have been focused on personalized, standards-based, competency-based learning for a decade or longer started with paper-based systems of keeping track of student learning.

The Chugach School District in Alaska, won the Baldridge Award for their continuous improvement and Total Quality Management approach to improving learning in their district. They accomplished this by becoming a standards-based, rather than course-based system. At one point, they used (among other paper-based tools) a Student Assessment Binder (SAB), a tool the student and teacher used to monitor progress, store past assessments, and keep sample work. These were maintained on a weekly basis and were never out of the student's sight. I remember seeing pictures of students carrying around a 5″ binder as their evidence of learning!

The Minnesota New Country School is a public charter school where students earn credit by designing and implementing (with teacher support and guidance) standards-based projects. MNCS was recognized by the US Department of Education in 2006 for their work with parents and the community, and success with students who, in other contexts, tend to fall through the cracks. A 2003 profile of the school included links to some of the forms they used at the time (sorry, some of the links are no longer active), and a video of the work at the school included glimpses of those project proposal and learning tracking forms.

But online tools have made tracking student learning much easier. (I cannot imagine doing this work without a computer-based management system!!) The Chugach schools changed to an online system in 2002. The Minnesota New Country School now uses Project Foundry.

Part 2 of this post will focus what kinds of functions and features educators should look for in a learning progress management system.

 

Life-Long Habits of Mind: Curriculum for Customized Learning

Districts in the Customized Learning Consortium have expanded their curriculum model beyond simply content knowledge. Lesson planning and unit development happens at the intersection of Content Knowledge, Complex Reasoning, and Life-Long Habits of Mind. Life-Long Habits of Mind is the third domain of our curriculum model.

The Life-Long Habits of Mind curriculum is where Customized Learning schools will be addressing the social, emotional, and behavioral needs of students, built around foundational work, such as the Search Institute's 40 Developmental Assets. All students must be guided in developing the “soft skills” that are so often left dormant in our populations (e.g. resilience, self-confidence, mental toughness).

Districts in the Maine Cohort for Customized Learning are working with Bea McGarvey to create a Life-Long Habits of Mind curriculum.

Educators collaborating on this writing effort, will create teacher materials for Life-Long Habits of Mind in a similar format to the Dimensions of Learning: Teacher's Manual, used for the Complex Reasoning curriculum. Also as with the Complex Reasoning curriculum, instruction in the Habits will progress from helping students develop an understanding of the “habit” through examples, to providing students with written guidelines and graphic organizers, and then to lots of modeling. Once the teacher materials are developed, the curriculum may be organized into the Marzano curriculum framework, to facilitate the tracking of students' development of thes skills.

The current draft outline of the Life-Long Habits of Mind curriculum includes the following:

 

Reflective Learner (Understanding Oneself)

  • Understanding One’s Learning Style
  • Cultivating Creativity & Imagination
  • Maintaining a Growth Mindset
  • Responding Appropriately to Feedback

 

Self-Directed Learner (Improving Oneself)

  • Meeting Quality Standards
  • Persevering
  • Setting and Monitoring Goals
  • Managing Impulsivity

 

Collaborative Worker (Working with Others)

  • Working Toward Team Goals
  • Listening With Understanding/Empathy
  • Seeking To Be Understood
  • Seeking to Resolve Conflicts

This approach of looking at the intersection of Content Knowledge, Complex Reasoning, and Life-Long Habits of Mind allows student to not only master critical academic content but to also develop skills and traits important to career and life readiness, such as goal-setting, teamwork, perseverance, critical thinking, communication, creativity, and problem-solving.

 

Complex Reasoning: Curriculum for Customized Learning

The second domain of curriculum for Customized Learning is complex reasoning.

Lesson planning and unit development happens at the intersection of content knowledge, complex reasoning, and life-long habits of mind. We want learners to be – doing these reasoning processes – with this content knowledge – to practice getting better at these life-long learning habits.

Not only is the focus on complex reasoning a key component of Customized Learning, but represents the higher order thinking that is one of the Focus 5 strategies for motivating students.

We are using Marzano's framework for higher order thinking. The Complex reasoning curriculum includes the following:

Complex Reasoning Curriculum

Comprehending Knowledge

  • Symbolizing
  • Integrating

Analyzing Knowledge

  • Comparison
  • Classification
  • Error Analysis
  • Deduction & Induction
  • Perspective Analysis
  • Constructing Support

Using Knowledge

  • Decision Making
  • Problem Solving
  • Experimental Inquiry
  • Investigation
  • Invention

The Maine Cohort for Customized Learning has partnered with Debra Pickering and Bea McGarvey of Marzano Associates and are using the curriculum outlined in the Dimensions of Learning: Teacher's Manual as the foundation for our Complex Reasoning curriculum.

The plan is to organize it into the Marzano curriculum framework of measurement topics, learning targets, scopes, and scales, just as the content knowledge curriculum has been. Teachers will be trained to explicitly teach students the strategies. The instruction in each strategy would happen when students might logically apply the strategy (not in an out-of-context separate class), and includes helping students develop an understanding of the process through examples, providing students with written guidelines and graphic organizers, and modeling, modeling, and modeling.

 

 

Content Knowledge & Curriculum Organization for Customized Learning

The first of the three domains of our Customized Learning curriculum model isn't very sexy, nor interesting, and is what most folks already think of when you say “curriculum”: Content Knowledge. (But there is some interesting stuff a little further down this post!)

Like most states, Maine's education standards are determined by law (we call ours the Maine Learning Results). These standards, as recently updated, identify the knowledge and skills, as the DOE likes to say,essential for college, career, and citizenship in the 21st century.” As you'd expect, Maine has specific sets of standards for each of eight subject areas:

  • Career and Education Development
  • English Language Arts
  • Health Education and Physical Education
  • Mathematics
  • Science and Technology
  • Social Studies
  • Visual and Performing Arts
  • World Languages

Maine has incorporated the Common Core State Standards for math and English language arts into the Learning Results, and Maine is one of 26 states participating in the development of Next Generation Science Standards.

So, where curriculum gets interesting is in how we organize it to support Customized Learning.

The curriculum from these standards needs to be articulated and organized in a way to facilitate proficiency-based learning. What are the measurement topics within each subject area? What are the learning targets and learning progressions within each measurement topic? What are the scoring guides for each learning target that allow a student to assess their progress and teachers to provide formative feedback?

Educators from districts in the Maine Cohort for Customized Learning have collaborated to organize the curriculum into Marzano's curriculum framework. The framework breaks each content area into a group of Measurement Topics. Each Measurement Topic has a scope, that is a progression of learning targets, and represents the learning required for mastery of that topic. Each level in the scope has a scoring guide, called a scale, that clearly identifies the proficiency target for that level.

In the process of revising how the content knowledge standards are organized and written, some changes have been made. In some cases, what has long been thought of as Content Knowledge, such as scientific reasoning and the experimental process, was moved over to the Complex Reasoning domain because of the nature of the knowledge or skill.

We have also pulled all assessment language from the standards (e.g. ”write a report to demonstrate…”) and left just the pieces that were the actual content knowledge in the standard. Part of Customized Learning is the premise that students should be able to demonstrate mastery in what ever way they choose and deem best (multiple pathways to learning and mastery).

Currently all 8 content areas exist in this framework and are being piloted in classrooms across Maine. Feedback from the pilot classrooms will allow the curriculum teams to revise and update the Content Knowledge curriculum framework. These frameworks will be reviewed and revised annually by the educators who are actually using them.

And all of curriculum frameworks are stored in a learning progress monitoring/management system (Educate) that make it infinitely easier for both students and teachers to know where students are in their learning, what they need to learn next, and to identify a diversity of resources and activities to learn it.