Moving from Standards-based Learning to Competency-based Learning using Cognitive Measures

Since 1983, the standards movement purported to:

  • provide a common body of knowledge and skills for students
  • provide educators with a comprehensive view of what students need to know and be able to do
  • provide public schools with a common focus
  • provide parents and the community with accountability

The standards movement not only completed its list of deliverables, but it created a culture of importunate testing and reactive ways for addressing achievement gaps. It not only taught educators how to measure teaching and knowledge acquisition, but it shifted the attention of educators from authentic student learning to contrived instructional techniques for isolated content-based knowledge and skills.

Most educators argue that “alignment of instruction to appropriate standards remains enormously important” (Rickabaugh, 2016). I, however, argue that the standards movement will impede educators from being global and systemic in their efforts with implementing personalized learning. In fact, I argue that educators should go higher on the grain floret and move to competency-based learning.  Schaef (2016) submitted, “the most important difference of all between standards-based learning and competency-based learning is the commitment to the student” (para. 8).

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Prior to the standards-based movement of 1983, there was the competency-based education (CBE) movement that was already underway in institutions of higher education. Markedly, CBE was not a popular approach because it “lack[ed] conformity around standards and a theoretical backing thus making it difficult to clearly define and implement consistently across programs” (Gervais, 2016). As a result, the standards movement gained in popularity over CBE, and it is has been implemented at a large scale.

Still, in light of the current web-enhanced educational practices, educators should re-examine CBE using the lens of instructional technology. This student-centered learning approach especially meshes well with personalized learning because competencies “emphasize the application of skills, knowledge, and dispositions rather than content knowledge” (Schaef, 2016, para. 15). CBE has the potential to shift our current commitment from the standards-based movement towards a new commitment to student skill sets, knowledge, aptitudes, and/or capacities.

References:

Gervais, J. (2016). The operational definition of competency-based education. The Journal of Competency-Based Education, 1(2), 98106. doi: 10.1002/cbe2.1011

Rickabaugh, J. (2016). Tapping the power of personalized learning: A roadmap for school leaders.

Schaef, S. (2016, October 09). ReDesign. ReDesign Blog. Retrieved December 27, 2017, from https://www.redesignu.org/what-difference-between-competencies-and-standards.

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