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Brief Examines What Makes Competencies High Quality

Competency Works, a collaborative initiative led by the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, or iNACOL, on Wednesday released an issue brief exploring how to design quality competency measures for student academic advancement to replace the seat-time requirements currently in place in many states.

A shift to competency measures, in which students demonstrate mastery of subjects and skills and then progress to new levels of study at their own pace, is popular among online learning advocates who say the biggest benefit of virtual education is its inherent flexibility with regards to time and space.

Some states have moved toward competency measures to judge academic achievement, while others stipulate the need for students to spend a set amount of seat time in a course to gain credit for mastering its content.

The brief examines the basic nature of a quality competency, the competency construction process from both a creative and a logistical point of view, how to build revision processes and professional understandings of competencies educators create, and how to allow teachers to personalize their instruction within new competency measures.

The document also stresses that high-quality competencies, while potentially based on standards including those of the common core movement, are not the same as standards themselves. They should represent specific skills more than they represent specific knowledge, and therefore be more transferable across multiple areas of study, the brief says.

The shift to competencies is uneven across states, but has gradually gained momentum. However, this new brief appears to be one of the first public research documents to explore exactly what makes good competencies, and what makes poor ones. If you know of others, let us know.

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