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Competency-based Learning Is Making Waves in Education

Fotolia_30965267_XSOne of my favourite online tools is Google Alerts, which automatically notifies a user when new web content matching the user’s preselected search terms has been posted.  I have been receiving Google Alerts for the search terms “competency-based training” and “competency-based learning” for several years now.

Through my use of Google Alerts, I have noticed a growing trend in North America where competency-based learning is being promoted as a way to reform the education system in the United States.  I was intrigued.  At first I noticed the trend in the American K-12 system; and, more recently, I am receiving numerous Google Alerts about the immergence of competency-based learning in American universities.

I would like to share with you some examples of competency-based learning resources that were brought to my attention through Google Alerts:

1. The Competency-Based Pathways Wiki Site

The Competency-Based Pathways site provides resources, policy frameworks, and innovative examples of competency-based learning.  The site’s working definition of competency-based learning approaches is based on 5 key principles:

    • Students advance upon mastery
    • Explicit and measurable learning objectives empower students
    • Assessment is meaningful and a positive learning experience for students
    • Students receive rapid, differentiated support
    • Learning outcomes emphasize include application and creation of knowledge 

2. The International Association for K-12 Online Learning 

This site hosts Competency Works, which is an online resource that provides information about competency education.  Competency Works claims that “there are a growing number of education leaders who understand that the traditional time-based ways of organizing learning contribute to the re-construction of inequity of our public school system. Advancements in online learning, customized or individualized learning and competency-based learning in which students progress based on demonstrated mastery of skills and knowledge are opening doors to understanding the future of education”

3. Off the Clock: Moving Education from Time to Competency by Frederick J. Bramante and Rose L. Colby.

4. Education Week’s article on July 23, 2012: “N.H Schools Embrace Competency-based Learning”

5. Northern Arizona University’s press release on July 13, 2012: “NAU becoming a national leader in a new approach to learning”

This press release announced the introduction of NAU Personalized Learning.  They say this approach clears the way to a college degree by crediting knowledge that students already posses and providing online tools that target each individual’academic needs. They say this new approach “promises sweeping changes in course delivery and established views of how credits are earned”.

Using a competency-based learning approach ensures that every student has a personalized learning experience that is completely relevant and meaningful to them and will develop the skills the student needs to succeed.

Wait – there’s more!  The features and benefits of competency-based learning in academic systems can also be applied when designing learning experiences for the workplace.  Effective workplace learning focuses on the development of skills and knowledge; allows for flexible delivery methods, giving credit for existing skills; and tailors learning to the specific needs of the employee.  Synchronizing academic and workplace competency-based learning will result in a highly skilled workforce.

As a long time supporter of the benefits of a competency-based approach in the workplace, I am delighted to see the competency-based approach being adopted more widely within the traditional educational system.  I’ve seen the benefits of this approach time and time again and look forward to seeing its results in the school system!

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Tags: competency-based learning, educational trends, skills development, training