Competency-Based Education (CBE)

Competency-based education (CBE) is the idea that we should advance students when they have learned, rather than for how much time they have attended. This is not a new idea. At least as far back as 1974 authors have reviewed and shaped the development of this school reform idea and that could change American education in profound ways. New Hampshire has a real stake in this work and is promoting changes to its education law to help schools end regular schooling and change to competency-based education.

So I asked an artificial intelligence bot (ChatGPT) to incorporate the characteristics of CBE—deeper learning, stronger engagement, and the outcome of real learning by every child—and put those ideas into a one-page statement about CBE:

ChatGPT Outlines Competency-Based Education (CBE)

Competency-based education (CBE) is an approach to learning and instruction that focuses on students acquiring specific skills, knowledge, and abilities, known as competencies. Instead of emphasizing traditional measures like seat time or completion of courses, CBE centers on the demonstration of mastery in predefined areas.

In a competency-based education system, learners progress based on their ability to exhibit proficiency in well-defined competencies or learning outcomes. These competencies are typically established through a collaborative process involving educators, subject matter experts, industry representatives, and other stakeholders. The emphasis is on what students can do or understand rather than the time they spend in a classroom.

Here are some key characteristics of competency-based education:

  1. Clear and measurable learning outcomes: Competencies are explicitly defined and measurable, ensuring that learners understand what they need to achieve and how their progress will be assessed.
  2. Personalized learning paths: CBE allows students to progress at their own pace. If a student already possesses certain competencies, they can move quickly through those areas and focus more time on challenging or unfamiliar concepts.
  3. Flexible learning environments: CBE often leverages technology and digital resources to provide learners with access to a variety of learning materials, including online modules, interactive simulations, and multimedia content. This flexibility enables students to learn anytime and anywhere.
  4. Ongoing assessment and feedback: Continuous assessment is a fundamental aspect of CBE. Students receive regular feedback on their performance and can revise or revisit areas where they need improvement until they achieve mastery.
  5. Competency-based credentials: Instead of traditional grades or credits, CBE typically awards credentials that highlight the specific competencies mastered by students. These credentials can be more granular and detailed, providing a comprehensive picture of an individual’s skills and knowledge.
  6. Real-world application: CBE often emphasizes the practical application of knowledge and skills in real-world contexts. It strives to bridge the gap between academic learning and its relevance in professional settings.

Flexible and Individually Configured

Advocates of competency-based education argue that it promotes deeper learning, student engagement, and increased relevance to future careers. It allows for individualized instruction and can accommodate diverse learning styles and needs. However, implementing CBE requires careful planning, clear communication, and robust assessment systems to ensure its effectiveness.

It’s worth noting that competency-based education can vary in its implementation across institutions, school systems, and countries, as there is no standardized approach.

Dr. Robert A. Southworth, Jr.

Dr. Robert A. Southworth, Jr.

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