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Deeper Competency-Based Learning

Deeper Competency-Based Learning
Making Equitable, Student-Centered, Sustainable Shifts

Foreword by Barbara Bray

Additional resources:

May 2020 | 248 pages | Corwin

The roadmap for your school’s CBE journey!  
The one-size-fits-all instructional and assessment practices of the past no longer equitably meet the needs of all students. Competency-based education (CBE) has emerged not only as an innovation in education, but as a true transformation of the approaches to how we traditionally “do” school. 

In Deeper Competency-Based Learning, the authors share best practices from their experiences implementing CBE across states, districts, and schools. Leaving no stone unturned, readers are guided step-by-step through CBE implementation and validation phases, beginning with defining your WHY and collaborative development of the competencies describing deeper learning. The CBE readiness tools and reflections inside will help your team:

  • Build the foundation for organizational shifts by examining policies, leadership, culture, and professional learning
  • Dig in to shifts in teaching and learning structures by addressing rigorous learning goals, competency-based assessment, evidence-based grading, and body of evidence validation
  • Take a deep dive into the shift to student-centered classrooms through personalized instructional strategies that change mindsets regarding teacher-student roles, responsibilities, and classroom culture

Discover how your students can demonstrate deeper learning of academic content and develop personal success skills by maximizing time, place, and pace of learning with this roadmap for your CBE journey. 

List of Figures and Tables
About the Authors
Chapter 1: The WHAT, the WHY, and the HOW of CBE
1.1 A Historical Look at the WHAT and WHY of Competency-Based Education

1.2 Considering the HOW that Connects With Your School’s WHY

1.3 Start by Examining the Traditional Education Framework

1.4 Shifts in Moving From Traditional Education to CBE

1.5 Getting Started on Your CBE Journey

Chapter 2: Making Organizational Shifts
2.1 Organizational Shift 1: Policy

2.2 Organizational Shift 2: Leadership

2.3 Organizational Shift 3: Professional Culture

2.4 Organizational Shift 4: Professional Learning

2.5 Developing CBE Assessment Policies and Practices

Chapter 3: Making Shifts in Teaching and Learning Structures
3.1 Establishing Rigorous Goals for Learning: Competencies

3.2 A Range of Performance Assessment Types

3.3 Evidence-Based Grading in CBE Systems

3.4 Evidence-Based Grading and the Body of Evidence (BOE)

3.5 CBE Development and Validation Tools and Processes

Chapter 4: Making the Shift to Student-Centered Classrooms
4.1 Changing Mindsets: Roles, Responsibilities, and Classroom Culture

4.2 Integrating Personalized Core Instruction With Competencies of Deeper Learning

4.3 Applying Instructional Practices to CBE Learning Cycles

4.4 Promoting Intrinsic Motivation and Engagement Through Assessments and Timely Feedback

Appendix A: CBE Tools 1–12
Appendix B: Hess Cognitive Rigor Matrices #1–#5D
Appendix C: Recommended Resources to Support CBE Implementation
Journal Entries


"The beauty and professional appeal of competency-based education (CBE) is that it emphasizes more than just academic success; it places equal value on the vitally important element of students’ personal success. In Deeper Competency-Based Learning, co-authors Hess, Colby, and Joseph have created a richly detailed CBE roadmap that any school system can confidently follow to significantly transform their classrooms and make a greater impact on student learning. Helping educators make the often-challenging shift from the traditional teacher-centered instructional model to the learner-centered model can become, for readers, an exciting journey. This powerful book, illustrated with chapter-specific tools, resources, and educator examples, is your trusted ‘tour guide’ for making this noble vision of a dynamic, learner-centered school system an ultimate reality."

Larry Ainsworth, Author of "Common Formative Assessments 2.0" and "Rigorous Curriculum Design"

"Deeper Competency-Based Learning takes the current 'caterpillar' state of education, where we are beginning to recognize that individualized, personalized learning is key in student success, and provides the wings—the tools and guidance necessary to transform the caterpillar into the butterfly. This book is not a 'quick fix' for a classroom problem. It is a transformation of education—the transformation that is critical to meeting students where they are, guiding them through the learning challenges of both academic and interpersonal/intrapersonal skills, and then confidently preparing students for what lies ahead."

Miriam A. DeCock, EdS, High School Language Arts Instructor
iForward, WI

"Finally, a primer on competency-based education that understands that every school is unique in the same way that every student will take personalized pathways as he or she learns! The authors provide a comprehensive guide for districts and schools to use in plotting their journey to competency education. One thing that makes this book so valuable and unique is that it is rooted in effective practices identified in John Hattie’s Visible Learning research. This is a book that you can trust to help you chart your course."

Chris Sturgis, Co-Founder

"Hess, Colby, and Joseph’s new book, Deeper Competency-Based Learning, is nothing less than extraordinary, timely, and necessary as the nation questions the validity of traditional educational systems and their impact on student achievement and potential. Business and industry must respond to ever-changing advances in technology and information if they are to remain competitive; however, the nation’s traditional education system has remained stagnant until now. This book reveals a teaching and learning instructional model known as competency-based education (CBE), which predominantly focuses on students mastering competencies through performance-based tasks, projects, and collection of evidence of learning. Students' learning is made visible to them and the power of a CBE system becomes exponential for optimizing student potential. This book is enlightening, proactive, and much-needed for student learners in the 21st century. Kudos to all educators who empower students to learn through competency-based educational systems."

Angelique Hamilton, Project Administrator, Curriculum and Instruction
Illinois State Board of Education

“It is clear to me that this new book will be a major step forward for US educators seeking to transform their systems of teaching and learning to one that provides equitable and practical access for every student. As the authors point out in the introduction, 'the work of transforming to competency-based education is complex, requiring major shifts away from the conventional organizational structures of schools and away from many less-effective teaching and learning structures towards student-centered classrooms.' This approach is just right: Competency-based education requires major changes organizationally, however, these shifts must be grounded in transformed experiences of the learner and also of the teacher in the classroom first, and each additional change must support that experience through new structures and reformed culture."

Paul K. Leather, Director
Interstate Learning Community, NH

"I recommend this book for anyone looking to begin or continue your work around competency-based education in your district. This is an easy to read, comprehensive guide to implementation with resources, examples, and several entry points."

Kelly VanLaeken, Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment
Gananda Central School District, NY

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