I’ve tried 3 units (2 with 6th and 1 with 8th) based around the idea of competency-based learning. It’s going well! I’m going to be starting another one with the 8th graders after state testing.
It works like this: I first break down the standards in each unit. Then, I break down those standards into specific skills and see if any of those skills can be grouped together. Each group (or skill that can’t be grouped) becomes a playlist.
For each playlist, I then develop learning activities for background knowledge, formative assessments/activities, a competency-based summative assessment, and extension activities. Then I push the playlist out to students.
For example, when we were learning about nonfiction this last week in 6th grade, one group of skills was about argument structure and evidence in autobiographies/biographies/memoirs. The playlist was centered around a few videos (I had to make one), them picking one formative assessment to do, a 10-question self-grading google form quiz, and a couple of games that helped them learn more about argument. You can check out the playlist here.
The key to these playlists is two-fold: choice and mastery. The more choice the better. For mastery, if they don’t get it the first time on the quiz, they go back, do another activity, and take the quiz again.
This playlist isn’t one of the best ones I’ve made. I spent way more time making playlists for my unit I did this with for 8th graders. For those playlists they had so much choice! Check one out here. Choice on how to learn the background knowledge, choice on what formative activities to do (individual, partner, whole class), and more choice on extension activities. This takes a lot of preparation time, however. When making that unit, I think I counted that I created around 50 activities and 10 quizzes.
Here are the positives that I’ve found:
- Students get to choose what to do
- Students can pick how they want to learn
- Students, if they don’t get mastery the first time, have an opportunity to go back, learn what they didn’t at first, and then prove mastery.
- I can work one-on-one or in small groups with students much more often and in a more targeted manner to teach very specific standards/skills
Here are the negatives that I’ve found:
- It takes a TON of time and creativity from the teacher side to create a good playlist with lots of choice
- There are still the same “predictable” disengaged students, although I’ve found that there are fewer with playlists than with traditional teaching
- It is quite a bit of paperwork/keeping track of scores