The Role of Learning Progressions in Competency-Based Pathways

A new report seeks to inform educators and policymakers about the latest research around competency-based pathways and learning progressions.

A new report from Achieve, a national organization leading the push for all students to be college and career ready, seeks to inform educators and policymakers about the latest research around competency-based pathways and learning progressions. The Role of Learning Progressions in Competency-Based Pathways highlights the Teach to One: Math skill map, developed by New Classrooms, as a best-in-class example for how visualizing the many pathways students can take to progress through skills and concepts benefits educators, curriculum and assessment designers, and those who establish content standards.

To effectively meet each student where they are, teachers must continually analyze student learning data, identify new student groupings based on those observations, and adapt daily lessons accordingly. The report’s authors note that if a teacher is unable to constantly reassess and adapt their lessons based on data collected on student mastery, many students end up with “swiss cheese” learning gaps, in which students move from grade level to grade level but lack sufficient knowledge to understand and master more challenging concepts.

One strategy to address this challenge is to enable educators to break down or “unpack” grade-level standards and identify where there are gaps leading up to more advanced skills for each student. Many schools now offer teachers professional learning opportunities devoted to “unpacking the standards” in which these smaller steps toward standards mastery are identified. However, the skill maps created from these school-based groups are rarely empirical or research based and often require many hours of duplicated teacher effort rather than being built upon the previous work of other educators.

New Classrooms reimagined our original scope and sequence into a comprehensive, non-linear skill map that visualizes the numerous learning progressions students might take through a middle-school mathematics curriculum. The Teach to One: Math skill map informs our learning progressions strategy for each student, identifying all the prerequisite skills students need before moving on to more advanced material. By identifying all of the skills and concepts a middle school student should know, our skill map enables teachers to easily shift instruction to a new skill or concept once a student demonstrates proficiency or choose a complementary skill to work on when a student continues to struggle.

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