Goal-based Learning Progressions (GbLP) focus on developing a competency-based framework for mapping learning sequences or paths to achieve learning outcomes that are not necessarily age or grade specific. Although there are practical, “school-system” benefits to listing academic standards in grade-level bands, this doesn’t present the ideal format for individual learners who may fall below or above that grade level band.  Thus, having the GbLP focus on competency progressions of skills without a specific focus on grade levels enables all learners and their teachers to logically advance within the overall progression of learning.

An important part of the current focus on core competencies is the belief that there is a framework for mapping and illustrating the Zones of Student Development – or from Vygotsky's research, the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD).  These zones set the stage for determining the ways to scaffold learning within a given learning progression.

The learning goal serves as the objective, or learning outcome, while the learning progression focuses on the cognitive, affective, intuitive, sensory, or aesthetic processes to achieve the goals/objectives.  The GbLP provides options for multiple pathways, allowing different learners and groups of learners to leverage their complementary strengths and preferences to achieve the objectives.

Trends in data-driven learning systems are developing the capacity to support GbLP. 

Although the two largest, federally-funded assessment consortia, Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) garner the greatest headlines when it comes to next generation assessment frameworks, there is another consortia that is closely aligned with the concepts of GbLP.  The Dynamic Learning Maps (DLM) project "is designed to map a student’s learning throughout the year. The system will use items and tasks that are embedded in day-to-day instruction. In this way, testing happens as part of instruction, which both informs teaching and benefits students."

The DLM project is funded out of a desire to ensure that all students, especially those with significant cognitive disabilities have the opportunity to maximize their learning progression.  What's exciting to me is that their efforts are mapping learning progressions for ALL learners.  The learning science behind their research combined with the potential of scalable next generation assessment frameworks promises great advances for ALL learners.

As you think about the opportunity for data-driven learning progressions, what do you see as the greatest opportunities and challenges to making this work well for our learners?

Tags: ZPD, assessment, data-driven, goal-based, learning, progressions

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