OPS’ Next Steps with Personalized Competency-Based Education – January 2019

By Mr. Kraig Steinhoff, Superintendent

The District Design team met this month at West Fargo for the second statewide convening.  We collaborated with our cohort schools of West Fargo Public Schools, New Rockford-Sheyenne Public School District, Northern Cass Public School District, and the Youth Correctional Center.  The Oakes District Design team includes: Karen Harris, John Bakke, Tracey Zaun, Jennifer Glasheen, Greg Stemen, Nolen Peterson, Kalyn Haafke, Shari Christenson, Greg Dobitz, Alicia Bata, Tara Steiner, Randal Brockman, Sonia Meehl, Maureen Wentworth, Marion Askegaard, Dr. Nathan Wood, Brandon Bata, Anna Sell and me.

The focus of our district for 2019 and 2020 will be threefold.  The three focal points will be 1) Portrait of a Graduate, 2) family engagement, and 3) learner agency.

EdLeader 21 is guiding the Portrait of a Graduate.  Anna Sell has taken the local lead with this initiative and will be developing our Portrait of a Graduate through collaboration with staff, students, and community stakeholders.  The Portrait of a Graduate will serve as our North Star of system transformation and provide strategic direction for the overall educational experience for students. EdLeader 21 states that school leaders need to ask:

  • What are the hopes, aspirations, and dreams that our community has for our young people?
  • What are the skills and habits of mind that our children need for success in this rapidly changing and complex world?
  • What are the implications for the design of the learning experiences-and equitable access to those experiences-we provide in our school systems?

Family Engagement is more than family communication.  OPS provides a wide variety of communication through Facebook, newspaper, newsletter, Twitter, school app, and our Website.  These are helpful ways to get information out; however, they do very little to engage our families.  The focus on engagement means that we need to offer more ways for our families to be involved.  As we look and plan for ways to engage our families, I encourage you to consider ways that you can become more engaged with us to impact student learning outcomes.

The third focus will be learner agency.  Lindgren & McDaniel (2012) stated

“The notion of agency as contributing to cognitive processes involved in learning comes primarily from the Piagetian notion of constructivism where knowledge is seen as “constructed” through a process of taking actions in one’s environment and making adjustments to existing knowledge structures based on the outcome of those actions. The implication is that the most transformative learning experiences will be those that are directed by the learner’s own endeavors and curiosities.” (Lindgren & McDaniel 2012)

Another way to describe learner agency is when learners have the power to act.  This means that learners learn through activity and initiative and not just from the teacher, curriculum and resources.  Stevens (2018) identified the concept as personalization and learner-centric or learner-centered education.  Stevens (2018) found that the focus needs to include

  • Placing students at the center of their own learning requires their collaboration. They need a voice in why, what, and how learning experiences take shape.
  • Letting student interests drive the content that teaches skills and concepts.
  • Offering a variety of product options based on what you know about your students.
  • Having faith in students’ ability to lead. Give students the chance to take charge of activities, even when they may not quite have all the content skills. (Stevens 2018)

As we continue through our transition to personalized competency-based education, I ask that you engage with us at Oakes Public Schools.   Together we can provide our students with the knowledge they need to prepare them for their future when they leave our doors and start the next chapter of their lives.

Lindgren, R., & McDaniel, R. (2012). Transforming Online Learning through Narrative and
Student Agency.
Educational Technology & Society, 15 (4), 344–355.

Stevens, J. (2018). Learner Agency: Pushing the Boundaries of Educational Possibilities
in the Digital Age.  Friday Institute. Retrieved from