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What Is Competency-Based Learning About?

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Nobody can stop progress. And even such a conservative sphere as education has changed a lot since its present, widely-spread class-and-lesson form appeared in the 17th century. Especially quick changes have been taking place since the 1990s with the introduction of computer-based and Internet technologies.

Many, though not all, new approaches are connected with using the Internet. Among dozens of others, there are blended learning, project-based learning, self-directed learning, problem-based learning, and of course, competency-based learning. The last approach is often given some other names like performance-based, mastery-based, proficiency-based, and standards-based learning, education, or instruction. All these terms aren’t full synonyms in certain cases, but often they are used to name the same approach. So, what is competency-based learning about?

Competency-based learning began to develop in the 60s and 70s of the previous century. The main aim was (and is now) to help students while studying at their own pace to acquire skills and to meet certain standards required for a course or even a profession.

Students move forward at individual speed, getting the teacher’s support at every stage. They know what they are to achieve, and their competency is checked when they feel ready. And only if skills at that stage have been acquired students move further. This is the main difference between competency-based learning and a traditional one.

According to professionals from domyessay.com, a paper writing service, competency-based learning has several distinguishing features.

Specific Features of Competency-Based Learning

To distinguish competency-based learning from other educational approaches, it’s necessary to outline its specific features:

  1. Competency-based learning aims to empower students to apply the academic knowledge and practical skills they got while solving real-life problems. Students are given individual support in their progress, and this empowers them to become life-long learners.
  2. While traditional education meets the requirements of the grade, age, or course and just moves forward, inevitably leaving some students behind, competency-based learning starts with the student’s last acquired skill or competence. Students are not required to finish a certain grade. They can move at their pace, having clear knowledge of what they should achieve and how to do this.
  3. Traditional schools praise discipline and high achievement. But learning is a process when making mistakes is normal; they are a part of studying. Competency-based learning praises individual growth. Making mistakes is okay as long as you move ahead.
  4. Grading is also different in competency-based learning. It provides a thorough analysis of progress with recommendations on how to improve. Though the situation may differ, in most institutions providing competency-based learning, there is no traditional letter grading. Instead, students are explained what was wrong and how to proceed forward. Besides, traditional level-grading is replaced in competency-based learning by checking the level of practical competence when a student is ready.
  5. Assessments in competency-based learning are also different. They are aimed not at memorizing and comprehending but rather on applying the knowledge and practicing skills.
  6. Competency-based education provides support to students when and where they need it. This makes a great difference with traditional learning, where students often get only a grade without practical recommendations on how to improve the result.
  7. In competency-based learning, the role of a teacher changes as well. A teacher becomes a mentor who provides individual support to a student, provides them with the knowledge of what competence/skill they should get as well as with the ways on how to achieve the goal. A student is, on the one hand, responsible for their progress. And of course, they can always get a teacher’s support.

Pros and Cons of Competency-Based Learning

Scientists claim that it’s not possible to create a perpetual motion machine. This idea can be applied to education as well. There is no ideal learning approach that can suit all learners. Competency-based learning isn’t an ideal system, though it has a lot of benefits both for students and educators.

Pros

  • The system is flexible. Students are not limited by grade or course requirements. This is very comfortable for adult learners who are studying for a degree simultaneously dealing with work and family life.
  • Students get individual support and evaluation from their teachers.
  • In higher education, this system is excellent to meet the immediate need of businesses in employees having certain skills or expertise.
  • Students get highly competitive at the job market, having acquired skills and competencies provided due to this system’s approach.

Cons

  • This system isn’t good for preparing professionals in quickly developing areas where it’s hard to predict what skills and competencies will be required in a year or two.
  • Not all students will like the approaches competency-based learning provides.
  • This system is highly individualized, while different forms of socialization, especially for younger learners, are extremely important.

To Sum Up

Competency-based learning is provided in many schools in the USA and colleges and universities worldwide. Though it’s not ideal, many students and educators consider that its benefits prevail over its drawbacks. There is one thing for sure: competency-based learning is one of the popular trends of modern education.

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