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What is Competency Based Education?

Competency based education allows every student to experience success at their own pace. Rather than struggling to keep up with the class or sitting bored in the back of the room, every student can learn on their ideal level. Whether they are in elementary school or university, all students can benefit from the personalized learning that competency based learning facilitates, as long as they are given the proper tools and supervision.

What is competency based education?

Unlike classic education models, competency based education is a student-centered approach which allows every individual to progress based on mastery of material. This means that as soon as a student shows competency in the target content, they can move on to the next thing, rather than being beholden to the pace of a class. No matter how long it takes for a student to get to the goal, each individual can take as much time as they need. No one is pressured to reach a deadline according to semesters, trimesters or quarters, because this type of learning is not bound by any external schedule.

Who benefits from competency based learning?

Every single student can gain from this approach, but weak students and gifted students have the most to gain. Gifted students who might have been bored in the past as they waited for the rest of the class to catch up can simply move on as soon as they are ready. Weaker students who may have been forced in the past to start new material before the older material was clear to them can take as long as they need without holding the rest of the class back. This is especially helpful for the struggling students who have gaps in knowledge because they can’t move on until the gaps are filled. No matter what level your students are on, they will always be experiencing small successes with competency based learning. This will be a constant motivator to continue. Students who in the past would have to continue on in the wake of failure will never need to do so again. This form of differentiated learning offers as many options as the number of students you have. When each student is working independently, teachers have more time to provide individual attention, and students are motivated to ask when they don’t understand something because they can’t move on before the material is mastered.

What is the role of the teacher in competency based education?

Although the students are doing most of the learning independently, teachers still need to take an active role. Firstly, an educator needs to set up or choose the programs which students need to follow. Rather than leading the learning as it is taking place, the educator guides students and enables them to progress with minimal support. For more hands-on activities, teachers can stop the whole class at certain points and still have everyone do certain things together. For example, some topics might be conducive to a class discussion or experiencing a practical application of the material.

What will students do when they have completed the material?

Once students have mastered one subject area, they can simply move on to the next thing. Most people have a preference when it comes to school subjects, and competency based learning allows students to take more time for the difficult subjects. If some subjects are easier for a particular student and they can be mastered quickly, they can simply move on to the more difficult ones and then have more time to figure them out. Alternatively, students can use the extra time to pursue subjects which interest them, which they might not have had time to explore as part of the regular curriculum in the past.

How can you make a successful competency based learning program?

Structure and organization are critical if you want to have a successful program. All of the materials need to be prepared and set up from the beginning. There also need to be clear and accurate assessment tools to ensure that students have actually absorbed and understood the material. Educators need to make sure that they have all of the material fresh in their minds so they will be able to help students with any part of the curriculum at any time. With competency based learning, everybody wins. Each and every student gets to experience success at their own pace. This allows all children to spend exactly the amount of time they need on each task and subject. Rather than having to label and track students, you can let the progress speak for itself.
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