The word “Competency” means to do something efficiently with skill and proficiency. It is a learning approach where education is flexible and personalized. The focus of this method is on allowing the student to learn at their own pace and through a medium that most appeals to their learning style. This method of learning ensures that the student progresses through the academic curriculum at their own speed and depth. This form of learning is an attempt to break away from the regular classroom model, where all the students in a class, study the same subject, at the same speed irrespective if they have grasped the topic. On the other hand, competency-based learning focuses on mastery and personalization.
Students acquire and demonstrate their knowledge and skills by engaging in learning exercises, activities and experiences that align with clearly defined programmatic outcomes. Students receive proactive guidance and support from faculty and staff. Learners earn credentials by demonstrating mastery through multiple forms of assessment, often at a personalized pace. The system allows the students to continue learning the same topic repetitively until the desired learning outcome is achieved. Once the student can demonstrate this mastery of a particular subject or a skill, either through a test or some other form of assessment, they are allowed to move to the next level of the subject. This form of learning promotes individualized learning as it is designed to accommodate various learning styles. This experience makes education a personalized experience because the content is tailored to each student.
One of the strongest outcomes of the competency-based education system is that the learners feel more empowered as they have ownership over their education. The control that a competency-based program offers students makes them more confident of grasping the study material at their own time, space and pace.
Competency-based programs are self-paced where the focus is on the final outcome and not the journey of learning. Since the students are given the freedom to learn at a pace that suits them and are not confined to a strict method or schedule, they tend to be highly self-motivated as they seek mastery over their subject.
Students who are part of a competency-based learning program have access to regular mentoring, consistent advising and feedbacks from the academic coach. This supportive learning environment helps the learning process and aids the success of the student.
One of the key benefits of competency-based learning is that it is a skill-based learning program. All the programs under this form of learning are designed around the skills or competencies that are needed for a particular career. This ensures that all the material that is included in the curriculum is relevant and allow the students to develop expertise over a topic.
Due to the flexibility and personalization factors, Competency-based program supports students with diverse knowledge backgrounds, education levels, and other related aptitudes.
Competency-based education does not suit subject areas where new skills and new knowledge need to be rapidly accommodated within a specific timeline. Additionally, competency-based educational programs tend to focus on developing skills that are needed at present and are less focused on preparing learners with the flexibility needed for a more uncertain future.
Social Learning is when the students in a classroom learn from one another through observation, imitation, and modeling. Since the students in a competency learning program are learning on their own they often miss out of the benefits of social learning.
As with any learning model, there are positive as well as negative aspects for every institute to consider. It is important for an institute to weight in all the pros and cons and select a learning approach that will be most beneficial to the students.
One of the biggest disadvantages of competency-based learning is that it may lead to procrastination amongst unenthusiastic students. Since there is no fixed schedule or time frame for the completion of the course, it may lead to laziness among the students. For the success of a competency-based learning program, it is essential that the students be self-disciplined, and self-motivated to be able to plan and work independently. This is not possible for all students.