The CBALTM English Language Arts (ELA) Competency Model and Provisional Learning Progressions

The Common Core State Standards offers a general roadmap of goals and sequences for the English language arts (ELA) curriculum. However, the Standards was not intended to be the sole source for guiding instruction, assessment, and professional development. Rather, one would want to elaborate on the Standards with sound, empirically based guidance from some 40 years of learning-sciences research. The goal of the CBALTM ELA Competency Model and Provisional Learning Progressions is to provide such an elaboration, one that we think can offer new insights into how best to design assessment, instruction, and professional development so that they have maximum positive impact.

The CBAL ELA Competency Model and Provisional Learning Progressions offers:
  1. A general framework that classifies literacy skills as reflecting three major modes of cognitive processing and five major modes of cognitive representation.
  2. A taxonomy of skill foci identifying specific groups of skills and related strategies that (a) draw consistently upon a specific type of cognitive skill, and (b) form the basis for particular types of literate activity systems.
  3. A series of learning progressions, coordinated across modes of cognitive processing, that represents hypotheses about how students progress towards high levels of skill from elementary school through college. The learning progressions are organized into families of cognitive strategies.

The CBAL ELA Competency Model and Provisional Learning Progressions is a work-in-progress subject to validation. We hope that it will stimulate discussion, debate, and empirical research about the best ways to bring the learning sciences to bear in assessment reform.

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About the CBALTM Research Initiative

ETS has been conducting a long-term research and development initiative called Cognitively Based Assessment of, for, and as Learning (CBAL). We are engaging in this complex initiative because we believe that existing approaches to K–12 accountability assessment could be markedly improved by incorporating:
  • findings from learning-sciences research about what it means to be proficient in a domain (in addition to the Common Core State Standards)
  • tasks that model effective teaching and learning practice
  • mechanisms for returning information about student performance in a rapid enough fashion to be of use to teachers and students
  • testing on multiple occasions so that highly consequential decisions have a stronger evidential basis

Read more about CBAL