A Move Toward Competency-Based Education

competency-based educationWritten By Corey Murray for the AACC’s blog, 21st Century Center.

Eighteen colleges and two college systems have been selected to participate in a new research network designed to test the value and effectiveness of competency-based education.

It was Aristotle who said, what we have to learn to do, we learn by doing.

Hands-on learning has been a big part of the community college culture for as long as there have been community colleges. Our institutions don’t merely prepare students to sit around and talk smart; they also provide the skills and the real-world training needed to do tough, necessary work.

In that way, competency has always been a part of what we do. Even if our courses and standards — many of which still require students to sit behind desks, listen, study and take paper-based tests — don’t always sync with that philosophy.

There’s little doubt that students gain knowledge in the classroom. But learners also benefit from the education of life. In an effort to study the value of “seat time” versus the merits of so-called competency-based education, or experiential learning, the nonprofit research organization Public Agenda convened the Competency-Based Education Network.

The network, which went live in March, is funded through a three-year Lumina Foundation grant and includes an initial cohort of 18 colleges as well as two statewide higher education systems.

As pressure mounts to improve completion rates at the nation’s two- and four-year colleges, advocates of the competency-based model say such programs provide yet one more way to validate student success and, ultimately, to get learners through the system and into meaningful careers.

“This network is an unprecedented and exciting opportunity for higher education institutions to collaborate in ways they never have before on challenges they all share,” said Alison Kadlec, Public Agenda’s senior vice president, in a statement about the network. Participating colleges will have opportunities to address a range of needs related to competency-based programs, from design to communication to quality and rigor to stakeholder engagement.

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Please share your thoughts on the competency-based education trend in the comments section.

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