Expert point of view
The re-emergence of skills-based education: what it might look like and why it is needed in today’s classrooms
As the pandemic transformed every bedroom, living room, and community center into a classroom, a fundamental shift occurred in what constitutes evidence of learning. No longer able to comfortably walk down aisles, peer over shoulders, or hand out, collect, and mark assignments at their desks, teachers found themselves more willing and interested in students helping find new ways to show what what they know and are able to do.
The pandemic has sewn and fertilized the roots of competency-based education and performance-based assessment. Demonstrating skills and abilities by any means available broke the unique model of bubble sheets, rote memorization and timed exams. Already, the backlash from No Child Left Behind had softened the waters, but figuratively tearing down classroom walls has thrown many educators and students into the depths of these soon-to-be-branded educational cousins. factory of 21st century learning.
The (re)emergence of competence-based education with performance-based assessment
Competency-based education (CBE) awards students credit upon demonstrating mastery of a specific skill or standard. His pace of learning no longer has to be slowed down by that of the group or crushed by its rhythm. Teaching at the average is no longer of any use if each student must demonstrate competence in order to progress.
Many teachers in elective, vocational and technical education see the growing interest in the CBE and ask themselves: “What took you so long? In world language classes, students need to speak, listen and write to show their proficiency. In music, students must play the notes on the page. In art, the use of the medium is vital. A multiple-choice test or essay in one of these classes does little to show a student’s skill acquisition.
Skills become even more critical in vocational and technical training. Industries rely on students who master specific skills to transition into their workforce. Whether it is proficiency in a programming language, the operation of specific machinery, or the application of lifesaving techniques, these skills are best demonstrated, assessed, and validated through performance. Watching a nursing student find a vein and insert the needle to draw blood is a better representation of skill than his ability to identify the steps in chronological order on a written assessment.
Thus, we find that competency-based education and performance-based assessment are often applied in tandem. Moreover, their application is just as significant in the early years of learning as when students are preparing for post-secondary projects. Earning a “B” in second-grade math isn’t nearly as powerful as seeing a student’s work that demonstrates how to add and subtract two-digit numbers. A video clip of a student reading aloud from a book of chapters conveys a higher degree of proficiency than a letter grade given in language arts class.
An example of competency-based education with performance-based assessment
To cater to diverse learning modalities, the CBE is best implemented in environments that allow students to demonstrate their skills in whatever means suits them best. For some, this can still be a multiple-choice test. For others, it may be performances, simulations or demonstrations. This is a performance-based assessment. Here is an example of how they work in tandem:
Stephen struggles mightily with reading the printed word. Every test he takes – regardless of its content – is a reading test for him. Her science teacher, Mrs. Lyons, teaches about the characteristics of molecules. She asks Stephen, “What is the effect of temperature on molecules?”
Stephen stands with his arms outstretched and his fingers flailing. He replies: “When it’s hot, the molecules are like that. And when it’s cold…” Stephen clasps his hands together in a tight ball and says, “…that’s how it is.
Rebecca quickly exclaims, “Ms. Lyons! Look at the ice in your cup. It melts. It’s the same thing Stephen said, just backwards! Ice molecules expand when the temperature increases. This is the font!
Mrs. Lyons asks the class, “What other examples can you think of? See if in the next 20 minutes each of you can find your own example. If you want to work with a partner, that’s fine too. Then you can tell me your example, make a video, take a picture or write it down. It’s yours. Just show your understanding. Ms Lyons continued: “Stephen and Rebecca – I can’t help everyone in the time left. Can you show off your teamwork skills and act as coaches to help your classmates who might be struggling? »
Ms. Lyons will be able to certify students’ competence as they demonstrate learning objective competence when students are ready and in ways that match their ability to communicate what they know.
CBE and demand for post-secondary skills
With the expansion of the CBE comes a change in the general orientation of teaching and learning. With search engines at your fingertips, education is no longer just about memorizing and reciting facts. In a fraction of a second, we can know the capital of Missouri and the variables of the quadratic formula. As pure recall fades, the importance of processes emerges. These processes are now commonly referred to as ‘post-secondary skills’, evolving from earlier terms of ‘soft skills’ or ’employability skills’. Data analysis, collaboration, creativity, problem solving, and many other process-oriented skills are given higher priority in educational dogma.
As educators determine the extent to which these processes can be taught and the means by which they can be assessed, CBE and performance-based assessment emerge as the most functional vehicles to date. It is also interesting to note the increased interest in activities outside traditional classrooms as places for teaching and assessing post-secondary skills. The team captain demonstrates leadership; the eSport athlete demonstrates problem solving and critical thinking skills; the Eagle Scout shows character and service; etc
No solution, just an evolution
There may always be things we learn that require the efficiency of memorization and recitation through traditional means. From sight words to the order of operations, certain concepts remain key elements of learning. At this time, however, we are beginning to explore which concepts can best be facilitated by non-traditional methods of CBE and performance-based assessment. This process, in itself, is a learning activity for educators.