Educator Courses

CBL: From Grading to Feedback

  • Dates

    October 19 - 23, 2020
  • Cost for members

  • Cost for non-members


    About the Course

    When it comes to competency-based learning, it’s critical to accept a basic premise: You do not need to give grades in order to give feedback. As Grant Wiggins argues in “Seven Keys to Effective Feedback,” feedback is information we use to improve our performance, and it is most effective when it is not tied to evaluation or judgment, but clearly and deeply linked to what the individual needs to deepen understanding of what they need to do next.

    In a learning environment where students work on personalized pathways towards mastery of a diverse set of skills, sweeping all of that varied work into a single number or letter seems not just inaccurate, but unfair. There’s also a number of studies that show grades suppress intrinsic motivation and distract from learning targets, two essential elements of CBL. Grades can be tainted by implicit bias or flawed practice which can create or reinforce inequities. Competition over grades can lead to stress and anxiety. In other words, grading systems that aren’t designed to support targeted learning can actually detract from the learning process.

    Feedback, however, is foundational to CBL: students must receive specific, actionable feedback aligned to competencies and learning outcomes throughout the learning process. In addition, feedback should be delivered “just in time,” meaning students get the feedback they need to keep their learning momentum going. In a competency-based environment, this might mean students are receiving different kinds of feedback at different times, depending on where they are (so, the days of grading a stack of tests or papers at once might be numbered). In this course, we will explore key elements of feedback that drive student learning, including when and how feedback is delivered. How might we shift our practice to suit the kind of feedback competency-based learning requires? If we live in a grades-based system — as many of us do — how do we ensure that our grading practices align with and prioritize good and equitable feedback practices?

    In this course, you will:

    • Read and discuss a report on grading in a competency-based environment.
    • Connect with another person (colleague, student, etc.) to gain perspective on the personal impact of grading and feedback.
    • Write a “Stop-Start-Continue” letter about your own grading/feedback practices. This letter will include a specific plan for how a unit of your course might change according to this letter.
    Images of six badges for GOA's competency-based learning series.

    GOA has articulated five shifts for educators who want to adopt competency-based learning. Our Competency-Based Learning Series covers those five essential shifts and offers badges to certify teachers.

    Earn Digital Badges

    Participants will be awarded a digital badge upon the successful completion of this course. The badge is a digital artifact that demonstrates accomplishment and can be shared in many places – across social media, in an email signature, or even on a web-based resume. More details on GOA badges in competency-based learning will be announced during each course. Completion of all five courses in our series makes participants eligible to receive our Competency-Based Learning series badge.

    About the Competency-Based Learning Series

    For nearly a decade, GOA has been developing high-quality, passion-based online courses. In 2016, we adopted competency-based learning (CBL) because we realized that, when taken together, online learning and CBL add up to something even stronger: a vision for learning that ensures students do cognitively complex work that matters to them, wherever and whenever that learning might happen.

    The purpose of the Competency-Based Learning series is to guide educators in translating the theoretical underpinnings of CBL into sustainable classroom practices. Each course will prepare educators for the shifts that occur in competency-based learning classrooms and schools.

    Although this is designed for educators who may be in schools that have already embraced competency-based learning, the courses in this series are designed to be applicable to any CBL-inspired classrooms and curriculum. You do not need to be an educator in a “CBL school” to join these courses.

    Following a discover, explore, and apply framework, each course is one week long and will have participants learning alongside colleagues from other schools. Participants will leave with practical, tangible work products that can be applied directly to their practice, whether teaching in online, in-person, or in hybrid learning environments this year.

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