ASCD presentation

How do we provide clarity for our students on the goals we are targeting?

This session provides practical advice on the design and implementation of competencies. Participants will leave understanding what competencies are and the guidelines for identifying a good one. They will also learn how to apply those guidelines to review illustrative examples from U.S. schools, including a school dedicated to personalized mastery learning, and how to draft competencies based on state, provincial, or national standards.

What is a competency? 

  • Definition 1: The ability to do something successfully
  • Definition 2: A cluster of related abilities, commitments, knowledge, and skills that enable a person to act effectively in a job or situation.
  • Definition 3: In public schools, competency-based systems use state learning standards to determine academic expectations and define “competency” or “proficiency” in a given course, subject area, or grade level. The general goal of competency-based learning is to ensure that students are acquiring the knowledge and skills that are deemed to be essential to success in school, higher education, careers, and adult life.

Why does it matter now? (national, state shift in policy, opening up to school, system innovation)

How do I know a good one when I see it? — Design Criteria

  • Student-facing language (student friendly/accessible)
  • Crisp language- measurable, observable cognitive skills (do not use “understand” or “know”)
  • General enough so that students can personalize based on need or interest but concrete enough to inspire action (instruction, feedback, resources)
  • Aligned with rich understanding of the standard and/ or the child

How do I use them?

  • Design of task and performance opportunities
  • Instruction and feedback loop (conferencing 1:1; rubric; real-time & ongoing feedback)
  • Grading

Session Materials

Slides: ASCD_Competencies_July_8_2016

Todays Meet Transcript: ASCDCompetency – Transcript – TodaysMeet

Illustrative Examples


Westminster, Colorado:

Chugach, Alaska:

Public school competencies, West-Windsor Plainsboro, New Jersey:


New Hampshire State competencies:

Maine proficiency model:

Maine’s guiding principles:


British Columbia’s core competencies:

New Zealand competencies:


Related articles and videos

Steps to help schools transition to competency-based learning:

The art and science of designing competencies:

Grade levels could be a thing of the past in schools focused on competencies:

No grades, no problem: how one high school is transforming learning: