Competencies Are About Strengths; They Are Not Incompetencies

At what point can you say you have learned something?

Is it when you can do it or when you can do something?

Is it when you can explain it or when you are able to share it?

Our new BC Ed Plan is creating a paradigm shift in how we assess our learners. Learner Self-assessment is the cornerstone to this paradigm shift. Teachers now have to teach learners how to self assess and create a classroom environment that supports each learner as they navigate through this change. Leaners need to be engaged in the process of self-assessment continuously all year long. It cannot just happen at the end of the year as an add-on.

Kelli Vlogstad (KV), in her blog, “Teaching and Learning with Heart”, outlines three keys for teachers that will set learners up for success in this new reality of learner self-assessment.

“If students are to talk about their learning in honest and authentic ways they first have to feel safe, trusted and respected. Healthy attachments that are nurtured are important foundations to help students begin to do the difficult work of reflecting on their learning and to provide evidence that support their assessments.”KV

Our Teachers do this by making sure learners feel prized and cared for and that learners have a sense of belonging in an inclusive learning environment. Our Teachers help students build caring relationships with each other and with the teacher.


“If students are to reflect on, and assess their growth in the core competencies, the competencies need to be part of my classroom’s daily rhythms, routines, and curriculum activities. If students are quietly sitting in their desks, listening to teacher talk, and completing one word answer worksheets, self-assessing their growth in the core competencies may not be an easy, nor meaningful process. Students need to take ownership of their own learning; they need to direct their own behaviour, making decisions, solving problems, working with others, communicating their ideas, and thinking creatively and critically about things that matter. In other words, students need to be living and doing the core competencies so when they are asked to assess their competencies, they can!”KV

Our teachers do this by providing opportunities for children to direct their own learning through play, inquiry, exploration, and discovery. Our Teachers engage students in the process of understanding the competencies and connecting them to their lived experiences in ways that are authentic, personal, and meaningful to them. Our Teachers are bringing the core competencies to life, helping students talk about and connect their understanding, their experiences, and their learning activities to these competencies.


“The classroom must be a place where conversations about the process and products of learning are woven in and around the life of the classroom. If students are going to self-assess both their strengths and growth in the core competencies, students and teachers must be engaged in diverse and individualized daily interactions about learning. The language of reflection needs to be a natural and embedded part of the learning process. Research suggests that self-reflection and assessment are the most powerful instructional strategies that lead to new learning. When students are able to use their own words to describe and explain their thinking and feelings behind their learning, they become motivated and confident learners.”KV

Our Teachers do this by modeling learning and demonstrating competence from their own experiences. Our Teachers take time to notice, name, and connect the core competencies to the activities, experience, and learning that take place around them. They engage students in on going self-reflections, and inviting students to reflect on and share what they think and feel about their learning.

When the conditions are right, all learners can move to honest, thoughtful, and meaningful self-assessments. It really isn’t about the activity or form, and definitely not the checklist; it is instead about learners taking ownership and making meaning of the process, connecting what they do, what they know, and what they feel and understand about the core competencies and how they see themselves inside these competencies.

I love this quote from Sharon Jeroski; “A student is not a collection of competencies. A student is a person who has competencies that vary from one context to another. Competencies are all about strengths; they are not incompetencies.

Sharon Jeroski, Supporting Self Assessment of the Core Competencies

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