In practice, proficiency-based learning can take a wide variety of forms–there’s no universal approach! The following principles of proficiency-based learning describe the common features found in the most effective proficiency-based systems, and can therefore help teachers and schools learn how to best understand and utilize this method.
- All learning expectations must be clearly and consistently communicated to students and families. This includes long-term expectations like graduation requirements and standards, short-term expectations like learning objectives for specific lessons, and general expectations like performance levels used for grading.
- Student achievement is evaluated against common learning standards and performance expectations. These are consistently applied to all students, regardless of whether they are enrolled in traditional courses, pursuing alternative learning pathways, or receiving academic support.
- All forms of assessment are standards-based and criterion-referenced, and success is defined by the achievement of expected standards, not relative measures of performance or student-to-student comparisons.
- All assessments must evaluate the learning progress during the instructional process and are not graded. The information gathered from assessments is used to inform instructional adjustments, practices, and support.
- Summative assessments evaluate learning achievement and are graded, and the scores record a student’s level of proficiency at a specific point in time.
- Grades are used to communicate learning progress and achievement to students and families, and must not be used as forms of punishment or control.
- Academic progress and achievement is monitored and reported separately from work habits, character traits, and behaviors such as attendance and class participation.
- Students must be given multiple opportunities to retake assessments or improve their work when they fail to meet expected standards.
- Students are given the opportunity to demonstrate learning progress and achievement in multiple ways through differentiated assessments, personalized learning options, or alternative learning pathways.
- Students are given opportunities and agency to make important decisions about their learning, which includes contributing to the design of learning experiences and personalized learning pathways.
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