The Conversation about Competency-Based Education I

One starting point for thinking about the thinking about “competency-based education” is the executive summary of a 2002 report from the “National Post-Secondary Educational Cooperative” (associated with National Center for Educational Statistics which is connected with the Institute of Education Sciences  which is a part of the Department of Education).  It lays out some of the issues in the ongoing conversation about “competency-based” education.  The motivations sound plausible, but are not as strong arguments as they could be:
  1. Assessment  is based on competencies. So think in terms of competencies so assessment can happen.
  2. Competencies help faculty, students, employers, policymakers have common understanding about skills and knowledge students should have as result of education.
  3. Articulating competencies facilitates design of curriculum and teaching and evaluation methods.
But it is part of a bigger picture.  One piece of this is the argument that “other stakeholders” should have more of a say in what faculty are teaching students.  These would be employers and governments.
Another piece is concern that certification for competence should be “transportable.” For some this means from school to school. In Europe it means between national higher education systems.  The “political” rub comes when it means between schools and other entities that can offer certification – in other words, it is a tool meant to break the monopoly that colleges and universities have on being the place where society can spend its education dollars.
Yet another issue raised is reliability and validity (of the means of certifying competence).  Reliability means different evaluators evaluate the same person the same way.  Validity means that the outcome of an evaluation is an evaluation of what we think it is.