Competency-based approaches essentially freshen up an older model, author says
- Rose L. Colby, a competency-based learning and assessment specialist and author of "Competency-Based Education," detailed in a conversation with District Administration how time spent in class does not necessarily indicate the level of knowledge a student possesses.
- Colby feels that a system based on demonstrating competency in a subject area does more to prepare students for college and careers in the real world.
- Colby also suggests the new move toward competency-based learning is a revival of the “real-world” learning concept that was gaining steam before the No Child Left Behind era of education intervened, and that it will eventually gain traction among parents and K-12 educators as more colleges move toward that direction.
Though the idea of competency-based education seems to be a fairly new concept, it is actually rooted in the older idea that mastery of material, not time spent in a classroom, should define the student’s ability to apply knowledge in the real-world. For many years, for instance, students studying accounting have had to pass a CPA exam before receiving certification regardless of how much time they spent in a classroom or even what grades they received. And in the United Kingdom, National Vocational Qualifications, or NVQs, have been doing offering competency-based credentials for decades, with degree-equivalent NVQs available since 1997.
In the past, critics of competency-based education had argued that the transition to such a program will over-burden teachers and that it is difficult to implement, particularly at a state-wide level. Critics have also been concerned that the abandonment of letter grades may upset parents and confuse college admission officers.
However, the age of technology and the move to personalized learning, which is closely tied to competency-based education, can help dispel some of these fears. With some online curriculum programs, competency-based assessments are built into the program, making the teacher’s job easier rather than harder. The role of teacher may shift slightly under this model, but the teacher’s purpose is still to guide students to the acquisition of knowledge. The grade issue can be solved as well, if students are required to show mastery of material, for instance, by making a certain grade (usually a C) on a test before they can move forward to new material that builds on that knowledge. In a job market that increasingly depends on universal certifications and microcredentials to assess competence for a task, competency-based education makes increasing sense for many school districts.
- District Administration A fresh look at an old way of teaching in K12