Competencies vs. Skills

Eric Sheninger writes one of my favorite blogs to follow.  I could probably share his post weekly!  This is post on “Competencies vs. Skills” was great because it is a widely discussed topic.  There are always posts about the skills students need to be successful in the 21st Century.  The challenge is that “skills” are great but they do not often lead to mastery.

Eric defines competencies and skills as such in his post,  “Competencies outline “how” the goals and objectives will be accomplished. They are more detailed and define the requirements for success in broader, more inclusive terms than skills do. There is also an increased level of depth that takes into account skills, knowledge and abilities. To succeed in the new world of work, students will need to demonstrate the right mix of skills, knowledge, and on-the-job ability. A skill is a practical or cognitive demonstration of what a student can do. Competency is the proven use of skills, knowledge, and abilities to illustrate mastery of learning by solving problems.”

The number one thing that I loved about the post is that Eric does a great job defining them but then stresses that while skills are great, we need to get beyond them!

What are your thoughts?

Featured imageLos borrowed from:



10 Exciting Formative Assessments

Hillary Hill published a great list of formative assessments that allow you to engage and check for understanding on Edutopia.  As the year approaches check them out and decide which ones you could use!

I am a big fan of number 2!  How many of your kids are on Twitter!?  I am willing to bet more than 75% of them access it daily.  As an English teacher you could assign them to read X number of chapters or pages and then summarize them and post it with a hashtag.

(For example: If we are reading To Kill a Mockingbird that hashtag could be #mckeanTKMBpd4.  This would make it easy for you to see and check who has posted, while also providing accountability.  Students will know who did not participate!)

What is your favorite and how would you use it in class?!?

ESSA Committee Agrees on Testing Issues

Alyson Klein publishes an article that summarizes what it means for testing as the ESSA committee finally agreed on how to move forward.  Check out her article to see what the plans are!

Also, if you are interested in additional reading to how this process has progressed please select the hyperlink on her name and you can follow her articles throughout this process!

New SAT: Good but not Great

Take the time to read this article, “The New SAT Won’t Close the Achievement Gap”, written by Garrett Neiman, co-founder and CEO of CollegeSpring that offers SAT prep courses and other services to low-income students in Los Angeles, New York City, and San Fancisco Bay Areas.

Mr. Neiman says, “Mitigating the SAT achievement gap is not impossible, but it does require that we recognize that the most-disadvantaged students experience the SAT very differently from their most-advantaged peers.”

He has 1st hand knowledge of how the new SAT is written and while most of us will agree that a new verision of the exam was needed, there are some concerns that were not met, and may even be out of their control…


Tips for Teachers in TESTING season!

It is TESTING season and it is one stressful time for educators!  I remember those rough sleeping nights as you question yourself about if your students are prepared to shine on their tests.

Here are 15 Tips for Teachers as they enter this season and how to deal with the stress and anxiety that these exams bring teachers and students.  All of these tips are great but I cannot stress the importance of #1 and #2.


Explain to them the purpose of the exams and what they measure.  I always told my kids how I was a terrible test taker, and I was, until I went to a tutor just to teach me how to take tests.  I used to get anxiety and the two things that helped reduce my stress was preparation and confidence in myself.  I would then tell my kids that we are prepared because we have been working our tails off all year long just to demonstrate to ourselves, and not the state, that we are hard workers who know math!  The second one is hard to teach but comes with time, practice, and encouragement from strong individuals like yourself.  It is our jobs as administrators, teachers, and parents to model and mentor your students and to demonstrate daily what it means to be a hard working individual who is successful.

Good Luck to all of you who will tackling these high-stakes exams over the upcoming weeks and months!  

What is our BEST Taxonomy?

Peter DeWitt, Ed. D published a great article “What’s Our Best Taxonomy? Bloom’s or SOLO?”.  He does a great job at explaining both Taxonomies while providing you insights as to how each can be and is used.

This article address a topic that I was first taught in college at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania: Bloom’s Taxonomy.

The 6 stages of Bloom’s Taxonomy are:


  1. Knowledge
  2. Comprehension
  3. Application
  4. Analysis
  5. Synthesis
  6. Evaluation

The idea of Bloom’s is to make sure that you are hitting all the levels of cognitive thought and if you are then you truly testing for mastery vs. memorization.  However, once I started to teach, I learned how difficult it is to assess students at a high level and then also judge where they fell in their understanding based on the taxonomy.  I found myself looking to other methods to assess my students level of understanding of the content.

According to Mr. DeWitt, “The criticism with Bloom’s is that it seems to focus on regurgitating information, and that anything goes. A student can provide a surface-level answer to a difficult question, or a deep answer to a surface-level question.”

Let us now turn our attention to the SOLO Taxonomy that was created and developed by John Biggs and Kevin Collis in the 1980’s.  Biggs describes their taxonomy as, “SOLO, which stands for the Structure of the Observed Learning Outcome, is a means of classifying learning outcomes in terms of their complexity, enabling us to assess students’ work in terms of its quality not of how many bits of this and of that they got right.”

The 5 Stages of the SOLO Taxonomy are:


  1. Prestructual
  2. Unistructual
  3. Multistructual
  4. Relational
  5. Extended Abstract

So the purpose of the SOLO Taxonomy is to reach even past assessing and judging the value of materials that are learned to developing theories and applying their knowledge to explore new ideas.

The most powerful piece of the article, for someone who was brought up on Bloom’s Taxonomy, was this quote from Mr. DeWitt “Through reading blogs and research, one of the positives sides to SOLO is that it makes it easier for teachers to identify the levels, and therefore help guide students through the learning process.”

I always found myself just looking at the verbs of Bloom’s and incorporating them into my assessments to reach all the levels of the Taxonomy but found it so hard to make judgments on how my students were progressing.  With the SOLO Taxonomy you could consider reducing it to a much simpler scale of I statements…

  • I do not understand what just happened – Clueless
  • I sort of understand what you are saying – Somewhat understands
  • I am on the same page but not connecting the pieces – Moderately understands
  • I am on the same page and explain it to my neighbor – Fully understands
  • I understand and feel that this concept applies to another idea I had in mind – An extension to what I have learned.

So after reading the article and my thoughts on what I have experienced during my teaching career, which side to you stand on?  Bloom’s or SOLO?

Images are from the Centre for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning.  



Educate Yourself on ESSA

The Every Student Succeeds Act has finally arrived provided educators some pleasure as we do not worry about the door hitting the No Child Left Behind Act on the way out.

ESSA will be in full effect for the 2017-2018 school year with an estimated 15 million dollars in grant money available.  That amount will raise slightly each year before breaking 16 million in 2020.  The National Conference of State Legislatures provides a great summary of the act, funding, goals, and purpose.

Click here to navigate to Education Week as they share with their subscribers inside scoop to how states, and districts will share more power under the ESSA Act and how your school can prepare to meet the new goals that have been set to receive maximum funding!

Additional resource!  Added on March 4, 2016.