Proficiency Based Learning Revisited

This week, in the fourth installment of our PLP Pathways Webinar series, we will be reviewing and discussing proficiency based learning.

Three Pillars

As a classroom teacher, it can be a little daunting to wade through the accumulated resources, literature, and professional development related to proficiency-based learning and its implementation.

Proficiency based learning is one of the three pillars of Act 77 along with personalization and flexible pathways. To review some great ideas about the three pillars, check out this Tarrant Institute blog entry.

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Another great overview from PLP Pathways contributor Maura Wieler can be found here.

Understanding proficiency based learning can be made more challenging by differences in language or locally based practices that can lead to confusion or additional questions.

Prior to our web-based conversation happening on Thursday afternoon, here are some definitions, resources and links that might assist your continuing journey with proficiency based learning.

What is proficiency based learning?

According to the Agency of Education’s proficiency based learning website, “Proficiency-based education is a standards-based system of instruction, assessment, and reporting that requires learners to demonstrate competence in targeted knowledge, skills, and/or abilities before moving onto the next level or challenge. Proficiency-based education may also be referred to as mastery or competency-based education.”³

In such a system, it is critical that teachers have clear learning targets, provide a variety of task neutral assessments of those learning targets and give students meaningful feedback on their progress towards proficiency.

This requires, again from the Agency of Education, “...clear expectations for what will be learned; a shared understanding of the depth of learning necessary to demonstrate proficiency; strategies for documenting and reporting learning over time; a transparent method of communicating with learners, parents, and guardians where learners are along a continuum; and opportunities, when necessary, for learners to retake assessments in order to progress towards proficiency.”?

Gets complicated quick, right? Last November, then Secretary of Education Rebecca Holcombe wrote an excellent opinion piece that put proficiency-based learning in layman’s terms. That article can be accessed here.

Additional Resources

In its fifth year of existence, Act 77 continues to unfold across the state of Vermont. To facilitate student growth and learning, it is imperative that educators continue to develop their professional knowledge regarding foundational concepts such as proficiency-based learning.

If you haven’t already, check out the Agency of Education’s Professional Learning Network’s Self Paced Courses on Proficiency Based Learning. You can also check out the Great Schools Partnership information on proficiency based learning here.


  1. The Three Pillars of Personalized Learning - Innovation: Education. (2018). Innovation: Education. Retrieved 11 December 2018, from
  2. Proficiency-Based Learning | Agency of Education. (2018). Retrieved 11 December 2018, from
  3. (2018). Retrieved 11 December 2018, from
  4. Ibid.
  5. (2018). Retrieved 11 December 2018, from