Report: Competency-based education

9 Jun

One of the concepts floating around education is competency-based education. Kathleen Santopietro Weddel of the Northern Colorado Literacy Resource Center defines competency-based education in Competency Based Education and Content Standards Definitions Components Characteristics Integrating Competencies and Content Standards Mapping Competencies Resources:

Definitions of Competency Based Education

􀂙 Competency Based Education focuses on outcomes of learning. CBE addresses what the learners are expected to do rather than on what they are expected to learn about. CBE emerged in the United States in the 1970s and refers to an educational movement that advocates defining educational goals in terms of precise measurable descriptions of knowledge, skills, and behaviors students should possess at the end of a course of study. Richards and Rodgers

􀂙 Competency Based Education is outcome based instruction and is adaptive to the changing needs of students, teachers, and the community. Competencies describe the student’s ability to apply basic and other skills in situations that are commonly encountered in everyday life. Thus CBE is based on a set of outcomes that are derived from an analysis of tasks typically required of students in life role situations.                                       Schenck

􀂙 Competency Based Education is a functional approach to education that emphasizes life skills and evaluates mastery of those skills according to actual leaner performance. It was defined by the U.S. Office of Education as a “performance-based process leading to demonstrated mastery of basic and life skills necessary for the individual to function proficiently in society”(U.S. Office of Education, 1978).     Savage

􀂙 Competencies consist of a description of the essential skills, knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors required for effective performance of a real-world task or activity. These activities may be related to any domain of life, though have typically been linked to the field of work and to social survival in a new environment. Mrowicki

􀂙 Competencies are essential skills that adults need to be successful members of families, the community, and the workplace.    CASAS                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

As college and higher education becomes more expensive, the question is asked, about what do students really learn?

Inside Higher Ed has a fascinating article written by Paul Fain. In The Next Big Thing, Almost, Fain writes about competency-based education:

Competency-based higher education’s time may have arrived, but no college has gone all-in with a degree program that qualifies for federal aid and is based on competency rather than time in class.

Colleges blame regulatory barriers for the hold-up. The U.S. Education Department and accreditors point fingers at each other for allegedly stymieing progress. But they also say the door is open for colleges to walk through, and note that traditional academics are often skeptical about competency-based degrees.

All sides of this debate were on display at a Thursday event hosted by the Center for American Progress, which also released a white paper on competency-based education as a potentially disruptive innovation. Panelists noted that even the much-heralded model of Western Governors University maps its competency-based degrees back to credit hours, although university officials typically prefer the term “competency units.”

A federal law Congress passed in 2005 cleared a path for WGU to pursue “direct assessment” of student learning, allowing the university and other institutions to participate in federal aid programs without tracking credit hours. But WGU opted not to use direct assessment, in part because of worries about whether employers and accreditors would accept competency-based degrees, according to the panel.

No other institution has given direct assessment a whirl, or tried to follow WGU’s lead in tying competency to credit hours.

“Who goes first?” asked Eduardo Ochoa, assistant secretary for postsecondary education at the Department of Education.

The federal government isn’t standing in the way, he insisted. Regulations pose some “hurdles,” Ochoa acknowledged. But he said the Obama administration supports quality competency-based approaches, which can expand student access while trimming college costs and the amount of time it takes to earn a degree. “The department is looking to see competency-based education develop and flourish”

Ochoa said colleges should first work with their accreditors to smooth out any kinks, by demonstrating to their peers that competency-based programs are “academically viable.” And he said administrators and faculty members on accreditation site-visit teams are often hard to win over on competency.

Federal regulations, however, will not stop colleges from going the competency route, he said. They have several options, including the exemption created for WGU.

Louis Soares writes in the Center for American Progress report, A ‘Disruptive’ Look at Competency-Based Education How the Innovative Use of Technology Will Transform the College Experience about the potential impact of competency-based education.

Here are the conclusions of Soares’ report:

Conclusion and recommendations

Our analysis clearly demonstrates that competency-based education does have the potential to be a disruptive innovation in postsecondary education. Our four-element analytical lens shows that the technologies, organizational experimentation, and standards are coalescing in ways that make  competency-based education a potential game changer in the delivery and affordability of postsecondary education. It is clear from our examples that postsecondary institutions, policymakers, employers, and philanthropies are trying to build the infrastructure necessary for competency based education to take off.

We offer the following recommendations to further catalyze this process and urge federal policymakers to:

1. Encourage experimentation in competency-based education that leverages the four elements of disruptive innovation. The impending reauthorization of the Higher Education Act provides an opportunity to modify the statute to encourage demonstration projects and experimental sites. We could use a clinical-trials model similar to the Food and Drug Administration, in which students would be informed that they were involved in an experimental educational offering and would thus get discounted tuition to participate.

2. Survey state-level legislation and initiatives, in particular in K-12 online initiatives, to catalogue what policy and regulatory approaches to technology-enabled, competency-based learning may be applicable to postsecondary education. One area to look at would be how are the pilot states in the Shared Learning

Collaborative aligning state purchasing requirements to allow for cooperative purchasing? And how is this process being used in postsecondary education, in particular with gateway college courses? A clearinghouse of this type of information could be made available through one of the initiatives named above.

3. Hold a convening of business and postsecondary education leaders to discuss the value of competency-based education to all stakeholders to promote leadership and build consensus on how to move the work forward. Competency-based education could be the key to providing quality, postsecondary education to millions of Americans at a lower cost. But this transition will require policymakers, institution leaders, and other stakeholders to manage innovation in the sector in ways that respect the strengths of traditional colleges and universities yet help build the business models and value networks necessary for scaled change.

What Will They Learn has FAQs about their learning project.

What Will They Learn They use the following criteria:

What Will They Learn?SM rates each college on whether the institution (or, in many cases, the Arts & Sciences or Liberal Arts divisions) requires seven core subjects: Composition, Literature, Foreign Language, U.S. Government or History, Economics, Mathematics, or Natural or Physical Science. The grade is based on a detailed review of the latest publicly-available online course catalogs.

The fact that a college has requirements called Literature or Mathematics does not necessarily mean that students will actually study those subjects. “Distribution requirements” on most campuses  permit students to pick from a wide range of courses that often are narrow or even outside the stated field altogether. To determine whether institutions have a solid core curriculum, we defined success in each of the seven subject areas outlined as follows:

Composition. A college writing class focusing on grammar, style, clarity, and argument. These courses should be taught by instructors trained to evaluate and teach writing. “Across-the-curriculum” and “writing intensive” courses taught in disciplines other than English do not count if they constitute the only component of the writing requirement. Credit is not given for remedial classes, or if students may test out of the requirement via SAT or ACT scores or departmental tests.Literature. A literature survey course. Narrow, single-author, or esoteric courses do not count for this requirement, but introductions to broad subfields (such as British or Latin American literature) do.Foreign Language. Competency at the intermediate level, defined as at least three semesters of college-level study in any foreign language, three years of high school work or an appropriate examination score.U.S. Government or History. A course in either U.S. history or government with enough breadth to give a broad sweep of American history and institutions. Narrow, niche courses do not count for the requirement, nor do courses that only focus on a particular state or region.Economics. A course covering basic economic principles, preferably an introductory micro- or macroeconomics course taught by faculty from the economics or business departments.Mathematics. A college-level course in mathematics. Specific topics may vary, but must involve study beyond the level of intermediate algebra. Logic classes may count if they are focused on abstract logic. Computer science courses count if they involve programming or advanced study. Credit is not given for remedial classes, or if students may test out of the requirement via SAT or ACT scores.Natural or Physical Science. A course in biology, geology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, or environmental science, preferably with a laboratory component. Overly narrow courses and courses with weak scientific content are not counted.

With these criteria in mind, we assign grades based on how many of these seven subjects students are required to complete. If a core course were an option among other courses that do not meet the What Will They Learn?SM criteria for a certain subject, the institution did not receive credit for that subject. Credit is given only for what an institution requires of its students, not what it merely recommends. The grading system is as follows:

A:  6-7 core subjects required
B:  4-5 core subjects required
C:  3 core subjects required
D:  2 core subjects required
F:  0-1 core subjects required

This one set of criteria, remember the decision to attend college is an individual choice based upon individual needs.

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

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