Over-Tested and Under-Prepared : Using Competency Based Learning to Transform Our Schools book cover
1st Edition

Over-Tested and Under-Prepared
Using Competency Based Learning to Transform Our Schools

ISBN 9781138956810
Published December 10, 2015 by Routledge
206 Pages 5 B/W Illustrations

SAVE $5.99
was $29.95
USD $23.96

Prices & shipping based on shipping country


Book Description

The curriculum-driven instructional model has been the standard method of teaching for more than a century, but it is consistently failing to produce well-educated citizens and lifelong learners. Pressured by standardized testing and rigid pacing guidelines, teachers are forced to cover too much content too quickly, without being able to meet the needs of individual students. In this powerful new book from acclaimed author and speaker Bob Sornson, you’ll learn how shifting from curriculum-based instruction to competency based learning can help students become more successful, confident, and engaged learners. Topics include:

  • Understanding the curriculum-driven model and the problems with "cover and sort" methodology;
  • Making the transition from curriculum-driven to competency based learning;
  • Identifying crucial learning outcomes and giving students all the time and instruction needed to fully master these outcomes;
  • Building a positive teaching and learning environment;
  • And more!

Each chapter is short and easy to digest, and provides compelling research, strategies, and anecdotes to inspire conversation and action. Teachers, administrators, and community leaders will all find helpful resources and arguments for re-working our current educational system into a new, dynamic model of teaching and learning.

Table of Contents

About the Author


Reader’s Guide


1. Looking Back, A Parent’s Remembrance

2. Informed Instruction Leads to Competency, Part One

3. The Curriculum Driven Model

4. Standardized Delivery of Instruction

5. Failing to Meet Society’s Learning Needs

6. Making the Case for Change

7. Giving up Unproductive Mental Models

8. When Coverage is Enough

9. Personalized Learning and Competency

10. Principles of Instruction Leading to Competency

11. Teaching Differently

12. Identifying Crucial Outcomes

13. Planning Instruction to Meet Students’ Needs

14. Self-regulation and Intrinsic Motivation

15. Building a Positive Environment for Learning

16. Creating a Learning Organizational Culture

17. Learning for Understanding and Application

18. Masters of the Trade: Game Designers

19. State Competency Based Learning Initiatives

20. Competency Based Learning in Post-secondary Education

21. Competency Based Learning in Secondary Schools

22. Competency Based Learning in Elementary and Pre-schools

23. Teacher Education: Building Pathways to Skills That Matter

24. Distracted by the Debate Over What to Cover

25. Defending Curriculum Driven Instruction

26. Transitioning from Curriculum Driven to Competency Based Learning

27. Informed Instruction Leads to Competency, Part Two

28. Conclusion: The Spirit of Transformation

Appendix 1: Organizational Self-Assessment for Readiness to Implement Competency Based Learning

Appendix 2: Resources for the Further Study of Competency Based Learning

Study Guide




View More



Bob Sornson is the founder of the Early Learning Foundation and is a former classroom teacher and school administrator. He works with schools and education organizations across the country, focusing primarily on developing comprehensive programs that support early learning success.


"I would recommend this book to any teacher who wants to do the right thing for his or her students. It is chock full of common-sense advice from which we all could learn: meet students where they are; slow down if need be and don't frustrate them; ensure basic essential skills are learned before moving on; keep monitoring progress; analyze the evidence you have of student learning; adjust instruction to meet the needs of the student; and cover fewer concepts, but cover them more deeply. It makes sense--as Dr. Sornson states--that this will, in turn, instill a love of learning that will last a lifetime. What better gift could you give a child?" --Anne Blankenhorn, K-12 Education Policy Advisor, Senate Majority Policy Office, Michigan Senate

"Sornson walks the reader through the history and ramifications of our current factory-based model of education and shows how today's systems and classrooms prevent many students from reaching their learning potential. This book provides not only a convincing case for moving toward competency based learning, but also a base of knowledge around what that would mean for teachers, students, and schools."--Michael B. Horn, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Education Program, Clayton Christensen Institute

"This book is the best reference for educators interested in a competency based learning system. It provides a clear framework for assessment and instructional practices which would help many more of our students become competent learners for life." --Precharn Dechsri, Ph.D., Vice President, The Institute for the Promotion of Teaching Science and Technology (IPST), Bangkok, Thailand

"In Over-Tested and Under-Prepared, Bob Sornson accurately diagnoses weaknesses in current approaches to education which rely too much on top-down, coverage-based, one-size-fits-all models which were successful in the last century but do not address current challenges. Bob Sornson offers practical advice and detailed guidance for how we can reform and depoliticize our approach to education while better preparing the leaders of tomorrow using competency based tools." --Thomas Gentile, President and COO of G E Capital

"This beautiful book describes a path to genuine school reform. It offers a new model for learning, in which students can develop crucial skills anytime, anyplace, and at any pace. If you are ready to embrace change and move toward learning systems which give all students a chance to succeed, this book is for you. For our collective future, we must do a better job of educating our children." --Tom Watkins, Superintendent of Schools, Michigan, 2001-2005.

"Over-Tested and Under-Prepared provides educators and leaders with a thoughtful synthesis of competency based education today. Moving from traditional teaching and learning to new approaches challenges the way we have structured schools and expected students to do their work. This book introduces compelling reasons to move past the old and into a new way of thinking about deep learning that is inquiry-based and an instructional model that supports student learning." --Rose L. Colby, Co-author of Off the Clock: Moving Education from Time to Competency

"This is a book about learning, not just school learning, but lifelong learning as well. It is a goldmine of ideas and information for every person interested in competency based learning. The conversational style of the author makes it difficult to put down." --James A. Tucker, Ph.D., McKee Chair of Excellence in Learning, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.