Competency-Based Education: Staying Shallow or Going Deep?

Wendy Surr, AIR
Sam Redding, Center on Innovations in Learning

Image of Going Deep report coverIn order to be successful in the 21st century, students will need to master an expanded set of competencies that extends beyond discrete academic standards. Competency-based education (CBE) is an educational approach that focuses on mastery of these competencies—rather than seat time—as a measure of student learning.

This approach is being adopted by a growing number of educators focused on ensuring students graduate college and career ready. States engaged in CBE initiatives need to ensure that their efforts do not inadvertently promote “shallow” learning by equating “competency” only with the mastery of academic content. True competence is deeper, broader and more personal. It includes academics, but it also includes a wide range of other cognitive, intrapersonal and interpersonal skills, and dispositions that higher education institutions and employers value and demand.

This brief explores how states and districts can define learner competencies that reflect the full range of knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary for students to achieve college and career readiness.