The "Competency" Bandwagon: Check Out the Full Itinerary

One of this decade’s fads in higher education is “competency-” or “proficiency-based” education. The discourse around it is littered with phrases and concepts that are seductive to the left-leaning progressive educator. Personalized, flexible, affordable alterna-tive, transcending hours in seats, students gain ownership of their degree, accountability, employable skills, real world, etc.  
This Inside Higher Ed piece raises one alternative take: does competency-based approach to curricula so fully buy into the student as consumer that it will eliminate the “off-rubric” experiences that might not be directly applicable to some skill but that might be the very stuff of growing up, seeing the world in a new way, and the transformation that education is really all about.
Another thing for those ready to jump on the competency bandwagon to think about is who is steering the train where. Ed reformers are skilled at generating strange-bedfellows in the audience for their ideas. I might like competencies as a way of motivating pedagogical innovation, but am I on-board with those who would design college curricula around the needs of corporate employers?


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Author: Dan Ryan

I'm currently an Academic Program Director at I've been a professor at University of Toronto, University of Southern California, and Mills College teaching things like human centered design, computational thinking, modeling for policy sciences, and social theory. I'm driven by the desire to figure out how to teach twice as many twice as well twice as easily.

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