Research

New Report Identifies Core Issues in Competency-Based Education

Public Agenda outlines framework of issues involved with CBE efforts in post-secondary education.

A new report on competency-based education (CBE) outlines the elements impacting the fast-growing educational trend and creates a baseline framework of issues that others can use going forward.

Competency-based education, a model in which progress toward a degree is determined by a student's demonstration of command of a subject and skills rather than time spent in a classroom, is now offered by more than 500 schools.

"The Competency-Based Education Ecosystem Framework" details the activities, concerns, challenges and accomplishments of CBE from five different perspectives, all based on discussions and interviews with students, educators and policymakers:

  • Core people or programs who administer or participate in CBE programs
  • Settings or places where CBE is designed, delivered and demonstrated
  • Higher education institutions and communities that offer CBE programs
  • Supporting organizations or companies involved by not offering CBE programs
  • Funding and governing groups that set policies, fund and promote prohibit CBE programs

"Modern forms of CBE have emerged in higher education as viable and needed alternatives to traditional postsecondary credentialing programs where time and place are fixed," said Laurie Dodge, co-chair of the Competency-Based Education Network, a consortium of institutions whose common goal is to address CBE challenges. "While these frameworks provide a baseline understanding of the CBE ecosystem, we also know that these descriptions will change as the ecosystem evolves."

The report was prepared by Public Agenda, a nonprofit that offers information and guidance on complex public issues, in conjunction with an earlier report, "Shared Design Elements and Emerging Practices of Competency-Based Education Programs." That report found that, while most colleges and universities with CBE programs believe meaningful assessment tools are important, many of them also know that finding ways to give students "substantive feedback" can be difficult.

The Public Agenda survey was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Educause and several other education-related associations. The full report is available for free download at the Public Agenda site.

About the Author

Michael Hart is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and the former executive editor of THE Journal.

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