What do we need to know when we plan a task? To what extent do our learning tasks promote competence acquisition? How can this competency-based approach improve the quality of our students’ learning outcomes? How can this outcome be assessed?
My main aim in this article is to provide some food for thought, some ideas which may help you redefine some of your teaching practices and make them more competency based. Links to implemented competency-based learning units are provided at the end of this article.
How can we create competency-based learning in a real classroom?
10 methodological guidelines
Learning units and their final tasks need to be contextualized and not be seen as one-off events. This competency-based approach to learning units implies a number of highly interrelated methodological guidelines that need to be considered in the design of units and tasks for classroom work.
- 1) Promote the use of practical real-life contexts which are relevant to learners. Tasks should be seen as challenging and not only language related.The OLOA project uses real-world, up-to-date news to motivate students to become part of editorial teams working on their own news broadcast. It challenges students to work together to produce a school news bulletin with Audacity that is then posted on a blog.
- 2) Ensure the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values that the students are aiming to develop form the Contents of this learning unit and they directly relate to the learning objectives and the rubrics in assessment. For example, students will be expected to search for, analyse and transfer news information (learning objective) they find on the web to create their own bulletin. They actively engage in handling information (developing digital competence) and are also asked to complete a self-assessment sheet on how well they believe they have transformed the information to create the script in the workshop (rubric: ICT and web resources: I tried to transform the information to create the script in the workshop). So the knowledge, skills and attitudes become a tool to be used rather than an end in themselves.
- 3) Foster autonomous learning by giving an active role to the student and by teaching learning strategies.
- 4) Create learning situations that alternate individual, pair, team and whole group work to enhance interaction.
- 5) Embed tasks in meaningful global contexts which enhance a holistic vision of learning either by involving different subject areas or by involving different competences.
- 6) Promote other teacher’s roles apart from expert: guide, facilitator, mentor.
- 7) Consider cognitive processes for learning and respect the 3 steps of a learning unit: activate previous knowledge and present content, structure knowledge and apply knowledge. We have to challenge learners to think, review and get engaged in higher order skills, complex cognitive processes. Learners construct their own learning from simple to more complex thinking skills.Example of Student’s work from the Game Review project. For more examples, look here
Just Dance is a new Wii game. It is very funny and you can do sport. Just Dance was invented last year (2011) approximately in September. It was inspired by other dance games but this one is different.
The object of the game is to dance very well and win but it is very difficult. A lot of people like this game because a maximum of four people can play this game. The person that has the highest score is the winner. This game has three versions and an extra one and it has modern and old songs. The game is not only for children. Adults can also play this game because it is interesting and funny.
In my opinion this game is very entertaining and funny. I play this game with my friends and my family and we love playing Just Dance!
- 8) Embed digital tools that guide learners and help them improve their final outcome. Design clear learning objectives for each tool you use.
- 9) Use assessment for learning and not just of learning. Consider self/peer-assessment. Make students reflect on their learning process and mistakes as a way to improve on their learning. Use rubrics as an assessment tool.
- 10) Design final tasks that have a single or multiple solution. Provide enough scaffolding to support the learners’ development.
In the following links you can see examples of competency-based learning units implemented in Secondary schools. They have all been designed following the above mentioned guidelines.
Learning unit designed as a webquest. The main aim is to
create a radio news bulletin to post on the school blog. It’s been designed for
ESO students, year 3 or 4. Objectives, contents, assessment criteria and
competences have been clearly interrelated in the Teacher’s Guide.
Learning unit designed for ESO 3 students. In this unit students learn
how to write a newspaper report of an environmental problem that worries
them. They also create a poster to raise awareness among school students.
In this unit ESO 2 students learn how to write a review of their
favourite game. They can write about a board game or a computer game. The
learning activities guide the students in the process of review writing. Take a look here to see some final student productions.
In this unit ESO 2 students learn how to create a presentation about their favourite festival or celebration and they give their own oral presentation. They learn about festivals and analyse a model presentation.