Snapshot: Higher ed competency-based education looks like this

Massive survey highlights the elements of, and challenges experienced by, competency-based education in hundreds of institutions.

competency-based-educationAccording to a new national survey of over 170 diverse institutions across the U.S., nothing is more important to a competency-based education (CBE) program than designing “measurable and meaningful assessments.” And nothing presents more of a challenge to these programs than needing data systems that are automated and compatible with one another.

These are just two findings from a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Lumina Foundation-funded, and Public Agenda produced, report on what competency-based education programs look like across the country. The survey, which was completed by 179 individuals part of CBE programs in higher education during July and August 2015, gathered baseline data from CBE programs on CBE programs, gauged program levels of adoption of various CBE practices and design elements, and measured how important those elements and practices are to individual programs and how difficult they are to implement.

According to Public Agenda, it is the “largest-scale survey ever conducted on the state of practice of competency-based education in higher education in the U.S.”

“The emerging design elements and practices we’ve identified offer promising approaches to help CBE programs develop healthy, scalable CBE models,” said Alison Kadlec, senior vice president and director of Higher Education and Workforce Programs, Public Agenda, in a statement. “These findings are guideposts for institutions, policymakers, foundations and students about key features needed for successful and robust CBE programs.”

Survey respondents were asked a series of questions on their opinions about, and use of, the Shared Design Elements part of the Competency-Based Education Network’s website, which include 10 broad and diverse elements that should be part of any effective CBE program. Each design element (e.g. that the program uses “clear, cross-cutting and specialized competencies”) contains a catalog of ways CBE programs carry out that element.

(Next page: The report’s snapshot of higher ed competency-based education programs)