Competency Based Learning: A Beginner's Guide

Competency Based Learning: A Beginner's Guide

Competency Based Learning: A Beginner's Guide

With the education system slowly veering its course of growth towards a student-centered form of learning, new methods and approaches to increase a student's learning capacity and attention have brought drastic changes to the general environment in a classroom. With options to use technology to increase a student's indulgence, find their preferred choice of subjects, and help them map out their careers, this evolution in the education system has finally caught on with the growing needs of employers in the corporate world.

From a one-way discourse to a two-way discussion, teachers have realized the impact of such strategies on their students receptive behavior, and have come up with methods that can greatly benefit the learning environment they are in, and their growing interests. One such method has been found to be Competency Based Learning

What is Competency Based Learning?

Competency based learning is an approach to education that focuses the student's demonstration of desired learning outcomes as central to the learning process. What this means is that as a student progresses through a course or curriculum at their own pace, they are expected to learn as they progress through standards to understand its expectations and the required proficiency. It is similar to mastery-based learning, which focuses on academic skills rather than observable skills, which also becomes a point of difference between the two.

There might be a lot of definitions and therefore disagreements with the true meaning of competency based learning and it's defining traits, how they should be used and what their basic functions are. It is traditionally thought of skills and vocation, but it can be entirely academic as well.

Characteristics of competency based learning

A key characteristic of competency based learning is its focus on mastering skills. Generally, learning models allow students to be exposed to content - whether skills or concepts - over time, ad success is measured on its summation. In this system of learning, students are not allowed to continue until they have demonstrated mastery of the identified competencies (i.e., the desired learning outcomes to be demonstrated). In this way, competency based learning is closely tied to mastery learning.

These "competencies" that are identified beforehand, are used to assess students on their progress in the curriculum frequently. In this way, competency based learning can be though of as a form of outcomes-based learning.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Competency Based Learning

The advantages and disadvantages of competency based learning depend on the environment of the classroom it is being brought into. In a system with deep and diverse support systems, robust assessment forms, and clear and manageable learning outcomes that are accessible to learners, competency-based learning can be an effective model, by helping to potentially reduce inefficiency (including time spent on learning) and increasing teaching precision and student achievement.

Its strength lies in its diverse flexibility, as learners are able to move at their own pace through the courses and curriculum of their choosing. This also supports students with diverse knowledge backgrounds, literacy levels, and other related aptitudes. Its challenges should sound familiar to most teachers. Difficulty in identifying and agreeing upon the most important competencies, how to best assess them, and how to support learners that struggle.

Technology has added a new wrinkle to competency based learning, as it helps identify competencies for students and provides a variety of content for their use. If every student can access the same context the teacher does, there is less need for the class to move together. which throws in a synchronous disadvantage. With the access to said content, a student will also be able to prove their understanding on personal and authentic terms.

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