Monday, October 20, 2014
CBE has shown promise in small programs; its next challenge will be to perform at scale. I don’t know if it will succeed, but it strikes me as one of the most promising avenues we have. If the caliber of discussion can remain this high, and this thoughtful, I like our chances. Well done, NEBHE.
This doesn't quite work when there is no internal point of comparison at one of these CBE-only programs, but there must be a way to cross institutional boundaries to do that. We already effectively do that when a private university decides that our physics or calculus class meets their standards for transfer.
BTW, my own data show that the highest performing class format is a compressed semester like we use in summer. The learning may not last beyond a few weeks, but the in-semester assessment results are spectacular.
In those humanities classes, the competencies/skills demonstrated are weighing ideas and considering different perspectives. It's important not to conflate "demonstrating competencies" with "remembering facts to take a standardized test". Students develop important academic competencies in humanities classes, as you emphasize; I think people are just getting hung up on the buzzwords ("competency based education") here.
Also, CCPhysicist, are lab and research skills that develop over time in the sciences an analog to that kind of process that Anonymous describes?
I once filled in as a long-term sub at an alternative school that flirted with a "proficiency based" model, and a big issue that I ran into is that the person I was subbing for was perfectly happy to have a kid come in after school, show them how to do exactly one skill they'd missed (say, factor a quadratic of the form x^2 + bx + c with nice integer factors) and then immediately let them take a "proficiency test" on that exact thing. This pretty much tested if they had short term memory skills and a basic ability to follow directions, and was much less successful at seeing whether or not they had any ownership of math skills.
As a math teacher, I'm much less interested in whether or not someone can repeat the specific thing I just taught than if they can tell which of several methods they should use to solve a non-obvious problem and then remember how to use that method even if it's been a while. I'm worried that if we go to just measuring specific skills on-demand it'll make math education even more of a mess than it is already.
My other thought is that a student might show those white-hot insights because of prior learning or experience. You don't need to be in a classroom to read history (or physics), and you might use blogging to get your ideas attacked and vetted. The plus of the time-based system is that both prof and student benefit from extended engagement that moves well past that class to the next. But then why take the next one?
As for the time involved, a graduate program in the sciences is basically CBE. Those who get it quickly (or got it before they arrived) and can also write quickly are done and gone. I think the minimum number of "reserach hours" is really just a way to make sure the best students are around long enough to make up for the slowpokes. ;-)
As for standardization, in another comment, there are test designs where remembering facts will do you little good. The existence of bad tests is not a reason to write them yourself.
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