This blog was originally published on EdNC and is the third piece in a five-part series of perspectives from RTI International on competency-based education amid COVID-19. Follow along with the rest of the series here.
The thought of learning any time and anywhere is a great idea in theory, but when forced into an emergency situation of completely remote learning, how do we put it into practice? In March 2020, schools across the country began to realize that the remainder of the spring semester was not going to be like any other. Here in North Carolina, the governor issued an Executive Order to close schools through May 15, which was then followed with the announcement in late April that schools would not open for the remainder of the academic year.
Most school systems had little preparation for what would happen next. How would instruction continue? Do teachers and students have access to what they need for learning to continue outside of the school building? Do we move forward and learn new content or only review? What happens when schools reopen?
Endless questions mounted as “emergency remote learning” became the new norm. However, some schools pivoted quickly. Under circumstances that they could not have predicted, they somehow knew what to do and how to move forward. How? Personalized learning.
Schools already implementing personalized learning practices were positioned to provide teachers, students, and families a smoother transition to a virtual learning environment. Through efforts to personalize learning, these schools were already allowing more flexible options and more personalized paths for students and teachers to know what comes next and how to maintain continuity of learning for all students.
In their recent update on state policies for transforming K-12 education, the Aurora Institute highlighted several policy areas that are needed for planning what education looks like beyond 2020. These policy areas include:
- competency-based education (CBE)
- credit flexibility
- meaningful credentials
- CBE pathways aligned to higher-education and the workforce, and
- balanced systems of assessments.
A common theme among these policy areas is a more personalized learning path for students and a focus on competency-based education (CBE) with more opportunities to learn and demonstrate mastery in order to advance along their education journey.
At Innovation Academy at South Campus, part of Johnston County Public Schools in Smithfield, North Carolina, the building may be empty, but instruction, learning, and connecting with students has not stopped. Founded in 2017, Innovation Academy was built with a focus on personalizing the learning experiences for students and creating a strong culture of relationships and connections between education and students/families. When schools closed due to COVID-19, Innovation Academy jumped into action and has barely “skipped a beat” in moving their instruction online.
The efforts of teachers to meet students where they are, to focus on relationships, and to ground their teaching and learning in a standards-based approach has allowed for this continuation of learning. Feedback is more than just grades, so teachers and students are able to communicate and understand progress through virtual connections and communication. Options are available to help students continue moving toward mastery and accomplishing their next learning targets and goals.
Lead Learner and Principal Kelley Johnson shared the following information about how personalized learning practices supported teachers and students to continue learning in a remote setting and how they plan to build on successes as they think about teaching and learning moving forward.