Why Competency-Based Education?

February 1, 2019 Dr. Caroline Kill

why competency based education

In order to prepare graduates for college and beyond, schools must lay the foundation for students to develop the skills they need to thrive in the future. It is no longer enough for schools to require students to simply memorize specific facts and figures. Instead, employers need employees who can problem-solve, analyze, effectively communicate, and demonstrate technological literacy.  

As a result, traditional systems of education that focus on graduation credits earned rather than mastery of skills are no longer adequate. In this dynamic world, students must be provided with opportunities to develop needed proficiencies and competencies. Competency-based education (CBE) offers students the opportunity to effectively cultivate these skills.

Competency-based education offers a meaningful, inquiry-based, and growth-minded approach to education that promotes problem-solving skills and abilities in an individualized, differentiated, and connected way. CBE enables collaboration amongst educators to provide students with meaningful learning experiences that effectively prepare them to thrive both in the workplace as well as in their daily lives.

In order to develop an effective competency-based course of study for students:

  1. Educators are encouraged to work together in small groups. These groups include professional learning communities (PLCs), departments, or grade-level teams to identify the appropriate skills and abilities needed by students in order to progress to the next level.
  2. It is necessary to examine current teaching and learning practices, and to brainstorm how some of the identified competencies can be integrated into instruction and class activities.
  3. Appropriate formative and summative assessments should be interwoven throughout the curriculum in order to accurately assess a student’s progress toward mastery of a given competency.  
  4. Schools should re-examine their systems of organization to consider ways of more effectively implementing CBE, such as through integrating teacher/student support time into daily schedules and by providing professional development and collaboration time to faculty and staff.  

Competency-based education offers an exciting opportunity for schools to modernize educational practices to better meet the needs of students in the twenty-first century. Similar to the cultural and economic impact that was experienced at the time of the Industrial Revolution in the later nineteenth century in this country, the American educational system is currently experiencing change as we more deeply enter the digital age and devise appropriate ways to integrate this technology into learning and teaching practices.

In light of the ever-changing skills needed both at the postsecondary level and in the workplace, schools and educators must provide students with opportunities and guidance to help them develop the skills they need to succeed, adapt, and thrive in our evolving world.

To learn more about CBE, download the free eBook, Individualizing Student Learning with Competency-Based Education by Dr. Caroline Kill. 

About the Author

Dr. Caroline Kill

Dr. Caroline Elton Kill is the director of curriculum and pedagogy at The Barstow School in Kansas City, Missouri, where she also serves as the chair of the Science Department and teaches AP Biology, Anatomy, and Environmental Science. A member of Phi Beta Kappa, Dr. Kill is a graduate of the University of Kansas, where she received her bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees, the latter in Educational Leadership. In 2015, she was awarded the Wolfe Family Teaching Award by the University of Kansas School of Education. She lives with her husband and three children in Leawood, Kansas.

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