Kim Carter, the Executive Director of our parent organization, Q.E.D. Foundation, was recently interviewed by the the good folks over at KQED’s Mindshift blog for a piece on competency-based learning.
As a leading expert in the field, she had a number of insights into both the benefits of competency-based learning and critiques of the traditional “batch and queue” model. Among the many valuable ideas embedded in the the article, we found one of particular importance for working with a neuro-diverse student body. The author, Katrina Schwartz, writes,
If a student gets 50 percent in a class in a traditional school, she fails and has to repeat the course or grade level until she scores higher, even if the score means that she understood half the material. Forcing her to repeat everything is inefficient and puts the student at a disadvantage for the rest of her academic career. In competency-based classrooms, students relearn and demonstrate competencies in only the areas that challenge them before moving forward.
“‘Batch and queue’ is horribly inefficient and destroys kids’ concept of self,” Carter said. “It’s like manufacturing, where you put everything through the same system and compare it to standards at the end. If it doesn’t match, put it through again.”
How often do students experience failure not as a stepping stone toward success, but as a road block to progress? Far too often, in our opinion. Too many students find themselves branded and labeled by a system not designed for unique strengths, affinities, and, ultimately, individuals. This lack of personalization, by proxy, communicates to the students that they are of value when they fit into the system, and not necessarily when they do not.
A competency-based model ensures that students are recognized for their growth while encouraging their involvement, contributions, and unique insights. It gives students a platform for employing their strengths toward achieving their goals / the standards.
This sort of empowerment transcends the walls of the school building and prepares the students for achieving success in life beyond graduation.