Competency-Based Education
Training & Consulting Topics


Dr. Robert Marzano
and his CBE team


PD Topics

What do we want to become? When transforming the educational system, a critical foundation is to involve all stakeholders in the strategic direction of their learning community. This work paints a picture of the community's ideal learning environment. It is owned by the community and driven by the School Trustees to ensure the reform effort sustains over time. This document will serve school leadership as an alignment tool to make sure decision making is intentional to realize the community vision.


Learning Outcomes:

  • Articulate the organizational mission.

  • Articulate the Core Values that will govern how we work together to carry out our vision and mission.

  • Articulate the Guiding Principles that drive our system design around teaching, learning, and community.

  • Articulate your vision for the future in distinct areas such as Learning, Curriculum, Instruction, Assessment, Technology, Personnel Leadership, and Community.

  • Articulate a description of the graduate. What will they need to know and do to be successful in an ever-changing world?

Strategic Design for CBE Transformation

How will we achieve our Strategic Design?  Successful change involves (SMART) specific, measureable, attainable, results oriented and timebound measurement of key performance indicators. With decades of change management experience, we can help identify and organize your leading indicators for successful implementation. Included in the planning process is a project management framework for continuous improvement and diagnostic monitoring to ensure efficient and viable change.


Learning Outcomes:

  • Learn implementation best practices of the most celebrated, advanced, and sustained models of CBE Learning in the nation today.

  • Develop a logical progression of change that considers “what you might not know to ask.”

  • Organize system design, stakeholder/professional learning ,and implementation into a seamless project planning tool.

  • Learn how to project manage the change process; measure, check and adjust for Continuous Improvement.

  • Articulate prerequisites and interdependencies using a Gantt schedule.

Strategic Implementation Planning for CBE Transformation


The foundation of a system of competency-based education and personalized learning is a set of measurement topics and proficiency scales. Measurement topics define what will be assessed at each grade level and content area. Proficiency Scales define mastery and allow increased levels of reliability and validity in student assessments, whether common classroom assessments. Empower Learning measurement experts can help you create your own scales or lead you through customizing purchased scales to fit your unique local needs.


Learning Outcomes:

  • Understand the research behind measurement topics and proficiency scales. 

  • Learn what standards-referenced grading is, and why it’s foundational to the transition to competency-based/personalized learning.

  • Understand how proficiency scales contribute to a student-centered system rooted in transparency and equity.

  • Learn how proficiency scales are used to guide instructional decisions, including grouping and regrouping.

  • Create proficiency scales based on prioritized standards.

  • Understand how proficiency scales guide playlist creation and grading practices within Empower’s LMS (for those adopting Empower’s LMS)

Measurement Topics and Proficiency Scales in a CBE System


Assessment in a competency-based system allows for greater teacher flexibility. When student performance is measured against a proficiency scale that articulates progressive levels of what a student should know and be able to do, we are simply building a body of evidence, gathering student data to answer the question, “What does this student know now?” In this training, participants will learn a multitude of assessment types, including non-traditional assessments like probing discussions, demonstrations, observations, student-generated assessments, and the use of personal tracking matrices. Ultimately,  participants will learn to “assess more; test less.”


Learning Outcomes:

  • Understand traditional and non-traditional assessment types, and their appropriateness for different levels of proficiency scales.

  • Learn how to design assessment items aligned to proficiency scales. 

  • Use assessment to determine a student’s “zone of proximal development,” guiding instructional decisions tailored to individual student needs.

  • Understand how to create, deliver, and score assessments directly within the Empower LMS, as well as how to create an ever-growing bank of standards-aligned assessment items.

Assessment in a CBE System


Reporting and grading have deep philosophical grounding among all stakeholders in a system, including parents, students, teachers, administrators, and the community at large. Because of its visibility, it’s an area that requires thoughtful planning and communication. Reporting and grading in a competency-based education system begins with the establishment of content-specific and level-specific measurement topics and proficiency scales. Schools and districts transitioning to competency-based education can approach reporting and grading from two standpoints, depending on the desired end goals and prior planning (i.e. strategic design work, visioning, stakeholder engagement/input, etc.): standards-referenced grading, where student progress is measured against articulated sets of topics and proficiency scales but students are not required to reach mastery by the end of the year, and competency-based education, where students move fluidly through the system as they demonstrate mastery. Training in reporting and grading will address the key decisions a system must make around:

  • Deciding whether to be standards-referenced, competency-based, or thoughtfully transition from one to the other over time.

  • Determining the factors to guide reporting: converting proficiency-scale grades to  letter grades, converting proficiency-scale grades to number grades, applying cut scores to grade determinations, using the conjunctive approach when instruction hasn’t yet been provided at the target level, the use of zeros, accounting for missing grades, application of pacing to apply pressure to achieve, etc.


Learning Outcomes:

  • Understand the characteristics of a standards-referenced system and a competency-based system.

  • Learn how tracking student pace affects pressure to achieve, avoiding the pitfalls inherent when allowing students to move at their own pace. 

  • For Empower LMS platform users, learn how to leverage the platform to calculate standards-referenced scores, determine summative scores for reporting periods, set student pace manually or have Empower auto-calculate pace, etc.

Reporting and Grading in a CBE System


One of the most important outcomes for Learner-Centered reform is of course self-agency. In concrete terms, agency means that students have the belief that they can positively affect their lives and possess the skills to do so. Creating a student- centered culture requires intentional practices aimed at empowering kids both at the school and classroom level. The outcome is a shift from a “Sit and Get” culture to a “Get After It” culture where students are independent and self directed. 


Learning Outcomes:

  • Implement processes that empower student voice & choice in the learning process.

  • Establish systems that support student goal setting.

  • Establish systems for students to monitor their progress and goals.

  • Provide for personal learning plans.

  • Implement processes for students to provide feedback on the learning environment and problem solve/innovate continuous improvement.

Developing Student Agency in a CBE System


When classrooms no longer rely primarily on whole-class instruction, teaching inherently looks different. Dr. Robert Marzano has created the only instructional model that specifically addresses the unique needs of the competency-based classroom. The comprehensive Marzano Academies Instructional Model contains 10 design areas, 49 elements, and hundreds of research-based strategies. Teachers can support their own development by using the reflective scales for each of the 49 elements, while observation and feedback is more streamlined through the use of the 10 design areas, providing a reasonable number of areas that can be observed within a single school year. Adoption of a well-designed instructional framework establishes a common language of instruction in a system, affording teachers, coaches, and administrators the ability to speak the same language when discussing both the art and science of instructional practices. 


Learning Outcomes:

  • Understand the 10 design areas, 49 elements, and hundreds of research-based instructional strategies.

  • Gain research-based instructional strategies in key areas, including grouping and regrouping, employing different assessment types (obtrusive, unobtrusive, student-centered), student efficacy and agency, and using proficiency scales to meet individual students at their zone of proximal development.

  • Establish a common language of instruction to supercharge conversations about classroom practices.

  • Create a well-articulated system for long-term teacher development, supported by a lean approach to teacher observation and feedback.

  • Develop critical research-based instructional capacity across teachers, coaches, and administrators.

Instruction in a CBE System


Perhaps the most critical system to put in place in any change process is professional development aimed at developing the skills needed to realize the desired change. Dr. Marzano has developed a growth model to build capacity via a streamlined observation and feedback system that greatly simplifies the time demand on leadership and provides targeted strategies to achieve the desired student behavior/achievement. In this system, focus is on student behavior and achievement, essentially measuring the quality of teacher practices and classroom systems.  


Learning Outcomes:

  • Learn how to calibrate self assessment and leader assessment within 10 design areas & 49 elements.

  • Learn how peer-to-peer feedback can be a powerful practice within the professional learning community.

  • Learn how to flip the conversation from teacher practice to student behaviors in assessing teaching outcomes.

  • Learn how goal setting can drive growth within 49 elements.

  • Adopt either an automated process of observation/feedback or manual process dependent upon your system needs.

Teacher Observation and Feedback in a CBE System


Through careful and continuous monitoring of key performance indicators, schools can become systematic and systemic, where, according to Dr. Robert Marzano, “Our work is not about building people, but about building systems with such controls that nothing falls through the cracks.” To that end, Dr. Marzano has identified 16 critical, school-level indicators that leaders continually monitor their system’s progress, against articulated scales where scores range from “Not Using” to “Sustaining.” For each of the 16 indicators, specific evidence is provided, providing concrete guidance for school-level and district-level leaders. A system of continuous improvement focused on the processes outlined in this leadership approach allows administrators to focus on the “right work,” avoiding the noise that can often distract from a central purpose.


Learning Outcomes: 

  • Learn the 16 school-level indicators leaders use to monitor the health of a CBE school.

  • Understand the use of performance scales for each school-level indicator in monitoring five levels of school performance: not using, beginning, developing, applying, and sustaining.

  • Understand the role of leading and lagging indicators in monitoring school performance.

  • Review specific evidence for each performance level of each school-level indicator.

Leadership in a CBE System


While teaching and assessment of academic knowledge and skills are clearly important, so too are the teaching and assessment of cognitive and metacognitive skills. Cognitive skills are those that individuals use to process new information and complete tasks. K-12 education, cognitive skills allow students to retrieve and comprehend knowledge, as well as analyze and utilize knowledge in a multitude of situations.Direct instruction in these skills can lead students to greater depth of knowledge and more rigorous thinking. This training will focus on two types of cognitive skills: cognitive analysis skills and knowledge application skills. 


Learning Outcomes:

  • Learn how to design and use proficiency scales for cognitive analysis and knowledge application skills. 

  • Learn seven types of cognitive analysis skills and how to employ these in the classroom.

  • Learn 6 types of knowledge application skills, the impact they can have on student learning, and how to provide direct instruction on their use to students.

  • Understand how to thoughtfully distribute cognitive analysis and knowledge application skills across content and grade levels.

  • Integrate cognitive skills proficiency scales into the Empower LMS to track student progress.

Teaching Cognitive Skills in a CBE System

While teaching and assessment of academic knowledge and skills are clearly important, so too are the teaching and assessment of cognitive and metacognitive skills. Dr. Robert Marzano defines metacognitive skills “broadly as those skills that help a person perform both mental and physical actions effectively and efficiently throughout his or her life” while, in education, these are crucial to critical thinking across content areas and are highly transferable. This training focuses on 10 identified metacognitive skills, how to provide direct instruction on them, and how to create proficiency scales to track student progress in the use of these skills. 


Learning Outcomes:

  • Integrate cognitive skills proficiency scales into the Empower LMS to track student progress.

  • Learn how to design and use proficiency scales for metacognitive skills. 

  • Learn 10 types of metacognitive skills, the impact they can have on student learning, and how to provide direct instruction on their use to students.

  • Understand how to thoughtfully distribute cognitive analysis and knowledge application skills across content and grade levels.

Teaching Metacognitive Skills in a CBE System


In a system where students are held accountable for mastery of the content but provided additional time to learn when needed, a culture of collective responsibility is a necessary component. Collective responsibility encompasses the idea that teachers are responsible, as a group, for each student’s growth and development. This training will focus on four areas of collective responsibility: recording evidence, recording summative scores, transitions, and support for individual students. For users of Empower’s LMS, specific attention will be given to how these four areas are supported within the platform. 


Learning Outcomes:

  • Discover how collective responsibility can be manifest when multiple teachers submit evidence scores for students not specifically in their class.

  • Set up a structure where students can work with a teacher of their choice on specific measurement topics.

  • Learn the advantages and disadvantages of different approaches to recording current summative scores, including ideal frequency of scoring, individual or group responsibility for entering scores, and collaborative team scoring.

  • Employ collaborative teams when determining student transitions to different levels of content (up or down, as appropriate for their “zone of proximal development”), and understand the need for flexible scheduling in student transitions.

  • Explore the use of collaborative teams, Tier-2 RTI interventions, and the use of temporary student groupings based on shared intervention needs in creating interventions for individual students.

  • Understand the role of the Marzano True Score Estimator in informing scoring decisions within the Empower LMS (for Empower LMS clients).

Collective Responsibility in a CBE System


In contrast with simple review, cumulative review involves a systematic and systemic approach to revisiting key concepts with students on a regular interval. Cumulative review is a powerful yet underutilized classroom intervention that allows students to review, revise, and add to their understanding of key concepts, building their knowledge throughout the school year. Schools (or, ideally, districts) identify key concepts for cumulative review, and teachers implement the review sessions weekly or bi-weekly. This training will help systems identify the key concepts for cumulative review, and address specific strategies for to be used in cumulative review sessions:

  • Recording: informal outline; summarizing; pictorial notes and pictographs; combination notes, pictures, and summary.

  • Reviewing: questioning; presenting problems; sample items and released items; give one get one.

  • Revising: sentence stems; quick writes; peer feedback; revising knowledge using five basic processes; revising knowledge using visual symbols.



Learning Outcomes:

  • Create a purposeful, systemic, and systematic approach to review that focuses on the key concepts that students must master.

  • Understand the dependency of a system of cumulative review on as system’s implementation of a guaranteed and viable curriculum with identified measurement topics and proficiency scales.

  • Learn specific activities for each of the three cumulative review purposes: recording, reviewing, and revising.

  • Implement systematic recording of student awarenesses on topics, including age-appropriate note taking strategies.

  • Learn how to create an accessible archive of student notes on the content.

Cumulative Review in a CBE System


In the shift to a competency-based education system, where teachers are meeting students at their proximal point of need, instruction is no longer reliant on a whole-class approach. Instead, blended instruction allows students to engage with instruction and content either via the teacher or virtually. In deciding which mode to utilize, teachers must consider the level of the scale on which a student is working and provide the appropriate delivery method, depending on whether the students are practicing a skill, deepening understanding of information, or applying knowledge in new situations. Teachers can leverage existing resources, free online resources, and collectively create new resources, collating a body of instructional resources that steadily grows over time.


Learning Outcomes:

  • Build a systemic approach to gathering, creating, and curating a body of standards-aligned instructional resources.

  • Understand the role of playlists in the Empower LMS platform in designing and managing standards-aligned activities, quizzes/assessments, and whole units which can be reused year after year, co-created and co-edited, and shared, tapping into the collective wisdom in your system.

  • Learn how leverage Empower’s platform to deliver instruction and gather formative and summative evidence aligned to standards.

Blended Instruction in a CBE System


In planning and preparing in a CBE system, both broad and narrow vantage points are considered. Broadly, a system must plan and prepare for its first year of shift from traditional, time-based system where time is the constant and learning is the variable to a mastery-based system, where learning is the constant and time is the variable. Once a system formally shifts to a competency-based approach, there are 7 focus areas for teachers to consider in the first few weeks. Additionally, this training will address specific considerations for both unit planning and routine weekly planning, while leveraging the Empower LMS to actualize these plans (for those using Empower’s LMS).


Learning Outcomes:

  • Learn the 7 steps to be completed prior to the first year of operation as a competency-based school or system. 

  • Learn the 7 areas that teachers should focus on for the first few weeks of school, once their school has fully adopted a competency-based educational mode.

  • Understand the reflective role that the 10 design areas of the Marzano Academies Instructional Model play in daily lesson planning.

Planning and Preparing in a CBE System


Whether a system uses the term competencies, measurement topics, prioritized standards, power standards, or the like, a well-thought out vertical progression of content is critical to the successful implementation of the Empower LMS. Similarly, ideally a system will have well-articulated proficiency scales (or learning progressions) for each of their identified measurement topics. To ensure that a system’s set of measurement topics and scales will form a strong foundation for the Empower Platform, Empower Learning experts, led by Dr. Robert Marzano, can review a representative sample of a system’s body of work and provide virtual feedback, noting any recommended next steps.


Learning Outcomes:

  • Receive a review of the overall logic of the learning targets or measurement topics for your school or district.

  • Receive a review the overall logic of the learning progressions inherent in your rubrics or proficiency scales.

  • Hear the recommended next steps for your school or district as you move to a standards-referenced or competency-based system.

Measurement Topic and Proficiency Scale Verbal Feedback


Whether your system is moving to standards-referenced grading or moving fully to competency-based education, clearly defining mastery for both teachers and students is necessary. Systems will need measurement topics and proficiency scales, paying close attention to vertical alignment of topics across the K-12 continuum. Empower measurement experts, led by Dr. Marzano, can help systems ensure their measurement topics and proficiency scales are ready for classroom use. To support systems where they are in this process, Empower can provide the following supports:

  • Measurement Topic Review and Alignment to Source Standards

  • Measurement Topic Revision and Alignment to Source Standards

  • Proficiency Scale Review 

  • Proficiency Scale Revision

Measurement Topic and Proficiency Scale Review (Review/Commentary, Revision, Webinar Review of Results)