What does mastery really mean?

Graphic novels, competency based education, and personalizing learning. 5 resources to start your week of teaching.

By Team XQ

PHOTO | GettingSmart

Issue 21: Greetings, readers, and welcome to the 21st installment of Give Me Five! This time around, we’re exploring how educators can deepen their connection with students by crafting graphic novels and shadowing students as they go about their day in school. We’re also asking what “mastery” in competency-based education really means, providing strategies for the successful onboarding of teachers into innovative school models, and exploring what personalized learning looks like for students and teachers.

1. Create: The powerful benefits of student-created graphic novels

By definition, a graphic novel is “a story that is presented in comic-strip format and published as a book.” In practice, it has the power to open a window into the minds of students, capable of transcending the rudiments of close reading skills. When Shveta Miller introduced the graphic novel to her classroom, her students used the format to “express hard truths about themselves and their experiences in a way that is different from what they can do with pure prose.” Further, her students’ graphic novels alerted her to the fact that there was pain in her classroom, and motivated her to change her teaching in profound ways. Listen to her conversation with Jennifer Gonzalez on the Cult of Pedagogy.

2. Measure: A competency-based definition of “mastery”

For years, the quantification of learning has been overly reliant on artificial proxies — courses taken, years completed, progress measured by seat-time rather than through the demonstration of mastery. In “Does Mastery Mean Mastered?,” published by Getting Smart, the authors explore concrete methods to both standardize and assess student progress in competency-based education. Through a firm understanding of mastery, defined as “the level of achievement of a particular standard or how well a student needs to know something in order to apply that skill,” schools can confidently build learner agency.

3. Walk: Going beyond student observation

Being a school leader often means spending less time in the classroom and more time dealing with school operations: teacher evaluations, professional development, meetings that take up so much of the workweek — you get the picture. The Shadow a Student Challenge encourages school leaders to go beyond simply observing their students and fully participate in a student’s entire day at school. By doing so, they may gain important insights into students’ motivations — how they perceive themselves as individuals, what they hope to achieve — while gaining the opportunity to reflect on whether student placement should rely on more than just test scores. Try it out, the results might just surprise you, as they did for the team at IowaBIG.

4. Support: Strategies for successfully onboarding teachers to innovative school models

When it comes to onboarding teachers to new and innovative learning models, education leaders across the country have found the transition to be consistently challenging. Sometimes teachers say they feel stranded with a new car and no keys to start it. In response, The Learning Accelerator has created a new Problem of Practice series to support the successful onboarding of teachers into innovative school models. Each of the three new guides includes real-world examples from schools across the country that can help readers build an onboarding design for any school, district, or network.

5. Define: What does personalized learning mean? For students? For teachers?

In the latest issue of The Learning Professional, personalized learning takes center stage: what does personalized learning mean? What is its potential? Check out articles on schools that are letting students determine their own projects and learning goals, the personalization journeys of teachers, and how personalization plays a role in equity, among other topics. XQ Senior Advisor Monica Martinez’s piece, “Personalization turns learning into a journey,” explores the importance of moving away from the one-size-fits-all approach to teacher professional development. And don’t forget to check out the introductory quote by XQ CEO and Co-Founder Russlynn Ali!

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