Competency-based education and the real world

December 3, 2013

Carol Geary Schneider, president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, recently published an article that dives deeper into what competency-based education should encompass and what the student’s role in becoming “competent” should be.

“If Competency Is the Goal, Then Students’ Own Work Is the Key to Reaching It” makes a point about competency-based education that Capella works to embed in our curricula and institution. Competencies must reflect broader intellectual and civic outcomes, as well as professionally-aligned outcomes. Demonstrating competency in both these areas is crucial for students to earn the kind of education and degree that opens up more opportunities and lays the foundation for a lifetime of learning. Schneider states it well; what competency-based education efforts should really emphasize is “students’ demonstrated ability to connect their learning with real-world challenges, in their jobs, their communities and their own lives.”

This is exactly what Capella’s system of authentic, fully embedded assessments allows us to measure from within our competency framework.  Learners must demonstrate the ability to apply theory (learning) with a real world situation through the creation of a work product that approximates the type of work that would be expected when faced with “real world challenges”.

Schneider emphasizes the importance of the student’s role in their own learning, “The fact is that students learn what they practice. If competency is the goal, then students’ own effortful work on projects, papers, research, creative task, and field-based assignments is the key to reaching it.” It is important that competency-based education programs stay dedicated to what “true” competency means, and model their curriculum after this concept.  That will help ensure their students are given the full set of tools to succeed, and the work they do in the course reflects a person who is competent both professionally and societally.

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