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Aligning Competencies with Your Portrait of a Learner

January 10, 2023

Portrait of a Learner

How many competencies should be included in the system?

According to the latest research in brain science, the brain cannot intentionally focus on a system with too many parts, especially for learners at earlier stages of development. Having a focused set of broad competencies at the top level of the system allows for coherent organization while also clearly articulating what a learning community values most. Current research and practice suggest no more than six competencies at the highest level of the system, though KnowledgeWorks supports learning communities in determining the appropriate number for their local contexts. A fully developed competency system will have more than six components, but these components will all be aligned to the highest level of the system.

A more focused set of competencies supports the implementation of personalized, competency-based learning in several ways. It makes it easier to unpack and contextualize a Portrait of a Learner across local communities, subjects and grade bands, enabling local ownership and increasing momentum for implementation. A more focused set of competencies also ensures that curriculum may continually return (or spiral) back to teach competency over time with increasingly more complex content.

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