Standards, Competencies, and Proficiencies; Oh my!

During my summer hiatus, I’ve been reading many books and articles on improving student achievement. Most of what I’ve read mentioned standards, proficiencies, and competencies. I began to ponder the difference between each of those terms. Aren’t competencies and proficiencies the same? confused.jpg

To help me clarify the terms and understand how they are linked to student achievement, I decided to define each one for my thinking. I used the Merriam – Dictionary to help me define the following:

  • Standards –  something set up and established by authority as a rule for the measure of quantity, weight, extent, value, or quality.
  • Competencies – having requisite [essential and necessary], or adequate ability or qualities.
  • Proficiencies – well advanced in an art, occupation, or branch of knowledge.

I’ve been grappling with these terms because I wanted to know how they appeared within the current construct of Instructional Design Theory. These terms are very pertinent and repetitive in Curricular Model Theories, however, I wanted to know what terms are linked to student achievement within Instructional Design Theories?



Based on my readings of Reigeluth, Beatty, and Myers, (2017), the focus of Instructional Design Theories seems to be on the means that yield performance and goal attainment rather than the results of learner achievement. In other words, what conditions and feedback are necessary for proficiency?

Terms like attainment, task-centered learning, and values were making themselves evident in my review of the literature on contemporary Instructional Design Theories and Models. I decided to use the Merriam-Dictionary to help me define those terms:

  • Attainment – to come to as the end of a progression or course of movement.
  • Task – a usually assigned piece of work often to be finished within a certain time.
  • Values –  relative worth, utility, or importance.

I reflected on my new learning and decided to construct a table that helped me to contextualize these terms better through the lens of personalized learning. The table below lists my ideas as a result of examining these terms:

Screenshot 2018-08-09 17.46.59.png



In sum, as instructional designers, including myself, learn more about brain science, information technology, and personalized learning, it would behoove us to not only consider the learning goals and tasks for attaining those goals, but also the instructional designer’s values that undergird instructional designs for learning.

In Reigeluth, C. M., In Beatty, B. J., & In Myers, R. D. (2017). Instructional-design theories and models: Volume IV.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)

Get new posts by email: