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The idea of competency-based, or mastery, learning has been around for decades, but it has recently been receiving more global attention.

Competency-based learning is learner‑focused and works naturally with independent study and with the instructor in the role of facilitator. Learners often find different individual skills more difficult than others. This learning method allows a student to learn those individual skills they find challenging at their own pace, practising and refining as much as they like. Then move rapidly to other skills to which they are more adept.

Skills shortages in sectors such as engineering, technology and vocational skills, combined with a rapidly changing job market, have raised the question of whether current teaching methods are the best way to educate and inspire students while equipping them with the knowledge they need to thrive in the modern world.

One-to-Many or One-to-One

One-to-many, knowledge-rich teaching is still the norm for many, however, skills- or competencies-based approach has been advocated as a more effective option by some, encouraging students to develop transferable skills while reducing inefficiencies in teaching by enabling teachers to move away from traditional subject silos and instead implement cross-curriculum learning.

In this approach, desired learning outcomes are agreed and students are encouraged to work at their own pace to achieve these outcomes. Technology plays a key role, whether enabling collaboration between groups or ensuring students have access to all the content they need to support their learning (1).

Active Learning

Active learning involves substantive changes in the ways students and teachers work together, shifting the focus of classroom instruction from teaching to learning. In such classrooms, students are engaged in learning activities such as gathering data, defining issues, stating problems, generating and testing hypotheses, drawing conclusions, and reporting and defending their work. Active learning can enhance students motivation to learn by reinforcing the relationship of the material to real life. Examples of active learning instructional strategies include evaluating case studies, class discussions, project-based learning, problem-based learning, problematization, simulation (role-playing, simulated patient, and virtual patient), time-based learning, game-based learning, and building concept maps.

Individual Learning Outcome

While most other learning methods use summative testing, competency-based learning requires mastery of every individual learning outcome, making it very well suited to learning credentials in which safety is an issue. With summative testing, a student who got 80% in the evaluation may have an 80% mastery of all learning outcomes or may have no mastery what-so-ever of 20% of the learning outcomes. Further, this student may be permitted to move on to higher learning and still be missing some abilities that are crucial to that higher learning. For example, a student who knows most traffic laws and has mostly mastered controlling a vehicle could be treated equally with a student who has mastered vehicle control but no understanding of traffic laws, but only one of these students will be permitted to drive (1).

What it means to have mastered a competency depends on the learning domain (subject matter). In a subject matter that could affect safety, it would be usual to expect complete learning that can be repeated every time. In abstract learning, such as algebra, the learner may only have to demonstrate that they can identify an appropriate formula, for example, 4 of 5 times since when using that skill in the next competency, resolving a formula, will usually allow an opportunity for the learner to discover and correct his/her mistakes.

Competency-Based Learning or skills-based learning

It is important to understand that this learning methodology is common in many kinetic and/or skills-based learning and is also sometimes applied to abstract and/or academic learning for students who find themselves out-of-step with their grade, course or program of study. Increasingly, educational institutions are evaluating ways to include competency-based learning methodologies in many different types of programs in order to make learning success a constant while students’ pace can vary.


Lucubrate Magazine August 2019

The photo on the top by sittinan

Teacher with students in mechanics

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Lucubrate Magazine
Lucubrate Magazine

Lucubrate Magazine highlights trends in education and development. Development in this context can be technological, educational, individual, social or global, and everything related to education.
Lucubrate Magazine is a global based on the web magazine with the main office in Norway.

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