Supporting Competency-Based Writing


It goes by many names. Proficiency-based education, mastery-based education, standards-based education, and—perhaps the most commonly used appellation these days—competency-based education. Whatever name you know it by, you’ve probably noticed that schools at every level are increasingly making the transition from a seat-time system of grade levels and courses to one that individualizes learning, allowing students to progress by demonstrating mastery of competencies. 

Why now?

Of course, this approach isn’t entirely new. I remember preparing my English students for competency tests decades ago. So what’s driving the renewed interest?

Most likely, it springs from the proliferation of alternative learning programs (online, early college, credit recovery, etc.), in which students from pre-K to adult are looking for the support they need for individualized learning opportunities. We’ve all heard of workers who have lost their jobs and must re-train for another career. With competency-based programs, they can save time and money by getting credit for skills they already have.   

Buried treasures for competency instruction

So this installment of my Buried Treasure series highlights a feature in Writing Reviser, a standards-based resource that supports mastery of writing competencies. The tool targets instruction in over 30 areas. For example, competencies associated with the structural components of an essay include developing a thesis and an introduction, creating paragraphs with topic sentences and supporting details, writing conclusions, and so on.

The tool features writing competencies grouped into six sections, including Essay Structure.

For each of the 30+ revision areas the tool targets, students receive immediate feedback on their writing—through highlights, bar charts, statistics, and other means. This immediate, differentiated support is one hallmark of effective, competency-based instruction.

However, Writing Reviser offers additional, less obvious, support for learning. In the Lesson Guide, you’ll find two documents that encourage competency development:

  1. Students keep track of their progress with a checklist that guides their work through the sections of the tool.
  2. Teachers assess the writing using a scoring guide, which is correlated with the checklist. 

The students’ checklist

For each category, students respond to questions about competencies that they have addressed with the help of the tool. Here’s the section of the checklist for Focus and Essay Structure:

The checklist guides students through all sections of the revision process.

The teachers’ scoring guide

For each category, teachers can select evaluative statements to provide feedback about each of the competencies students have addressed. Here’s the section of the scoring guide for Focus and Essay Structure:

The scoring guide helps teachers provide feedback for all sections of the revision process.

These guides represent just two of the ways that Writing Reviser (along with the 200+ additional writing resources available) helps students develop the writing competencies they need to thrive in a competitive world.


About Author

Terry Hardison

Terry Hardison oversees the development of English language arts resources for Curriculum Pathways. Prior to joining SAS, Terry worked for 21 years as a teacher and as a district-level English language arts supervisor.

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