Is Proficiency-Based Learning the Answer to Our Education Problems?

Proficiency- or competency-based educational systems are designed to ensure above par student learning standards. Continue reading to find out if this type of instructional method is the answer to our nation's K-12 education problems.

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Changing Traditional Instructional Methods

Throughout his administration, President Obama has advocated education reform, not limited to his Race to the Top campaign. Millions of dollars have been promised to states that can develop and implement 21st century initiatives designed to foster student excellence. This has led educational institutions across the country to look more intently at competency-based learning. Many online schools have started to implement this type of system as well as a few districts and states, including New Hampshire, Michigan and Ohio.

Pros of Proficiency-Based Learning

The 2010 National Education Technology Plan organized by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Education Technology lays out methods for integrating technological changes into the current educational system, addressing issues specific to instruction and assessments. The goal is to personalize education and help students learn key concepts more effectively, ultimately improving pupil performance. As such, many proficiency-based learning models integrate computers and information systems, either as a partial or full experience. With such curricular modules, students can learn at their pace. They don't have to worry about not grasping a theory, formula or idea within the more traditional mass lecture environment. In addition, teachers can more easily see where one student might need more attention.

Cons of Proficiency-Based Learning

Most schools throughout the country still adhere to a traditional seat- or time-based system, which requires students to attend a class for a certain length of time before they can advance. Within this approach, an F is the only grade that can keep a student from proceeding to the next academic level; C's and D's are acceptable. But how much has a student really grasped if this is the best overall grade that he or she is capable of earning? Instead of being pushed through the system, students who excel in a subject will advance. In contrast, those who do not demonstrate content mastery will be provided with the extra time and training needed to build a strong and essential educational foundation.

Read on to see how education and learning is being impacted by online coursework.

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