I believe that we need to keep in mind that we are attempting to "personalize" a students education by allowing for flexible pace in the learning environment , in addition to creating flexible pathways to learn new material and develop new skills. Proficiency based education should really be thought of as Personalized learning. Proficiencies are the tools that allow us to be flexible in the classroom. In order for students to move at a pace that best matches their learning, they need to have access to new content without direct teacher instruction. To do this, the educator needs to be very specific as to what concepts need to be explored and provide unique tools and projects for the student to explore this material- hence the need for proficiencies/content/skills. The instructor develops lessons that can be explored at any time and in any place. Ideally, these lessons will be experienced with the teacher present in the room. Students that do learn at similar paces can work together and still collaborate in this model. Proficiency based education does indicate a shift to the concept that student should achieve a degree of mastery before moving forward. While much of this is semantics, we create proficiencies to personalize learning for students. Proficiencies are the tool.
Why do the words matter? There are many misconceptions of Proficiency based education floating about in our institution. When one thinks of restructuring educational practice I feel that it is better to focus on the needs of the student rather than the tool that will be used. Howard Gardener identified years ago the many multiple intelligences that are present in the human condition. We all have strengths in different areas and have the right to learn in the most effective manner possible. One size fits all served former generations. With technology access we can rethink how, where and when students learn new material. We can personalize and customize for the individual.