As I work with teachers to rethink their classrooms considering proficiency-based instruction, it has become clear that instruction will naturally become more explicit. As people question how a transition to proficiency-based learning might impact students receiving special education services or less self-directed students, I am becoming more confident that because teachers are being so much more deliberate in their instruction, the instruction will become more accessible to all students.
Our faculty has begun to dig into breaking down proficiency indicators into smaller learning targets and then developing instructional materials for those targets. The first step of simply unpacking the indicator can in itself be eye opening. We have eight proficiencies including literacy, mathematics, global citizenship, science, physical education, health, artistic expression. In addition, we have six transferable skills which are skills that cross every domain like collaboration and problem solving. Each of these larger proficiencies has performance indicators that are more specific. We have been breaking down the performance indicators into instructional units and as we do this, it is becoming apparent that the indicators require quite a bit of unpacking.
When I unpacked this mathematical modeling indicator, “Use equations, inequalities and/or functions to model and interpret situations” with the algebra one teacher, her first inclination was to start with the procedures but when I asked her to tell me about the words “modeling” and “interpretation” and what that looked like, we began unpacking the indicator itself and it became clear that she could teach this indicator with any procedure. This confirmed for me that even though this skill had been in the standards for years, we hadn’t been teaching it at all. We have only provided students with practice but not explicitly taught the skill. Once we broke the indicator into learning targets, we developed instructional and formative assessment plans for teaching each of the learning targets. We developed seven learning targets for this indicator and using each one of those targets, we developed and instructional plan.
This transition is sometimes difficult and there are rarely any immediate gratifications. It can be draining for the teachers engaging in this work. I am reminded of this chart that has been reimagined many different times from the original work of Knoster in 1991. When there is a feeling of resistance, whether you are feeling it yourself or seeing it as a leader, it is important to be reminded that the benefits of these changes may not seem immediate and the incentive may not be at the forefront. Experiences like the one I had with the algebra teacher helped me and her see the long range incentives. If you or your faculty are feeling resistance, this process can bring about a renewed sense of purpose. I created a framework for working through the process. Please feel free to make a copy of this template with an example and engage in the process yourself.