Kazin believes that learning based on competency is a better model because it is learner focused. It ensures that students actually possess the skills they are supposed to have acquired and are ready for today’s workforce. In addition, students avoid the remedial label, which can have devastating consequences. “We need to label skills instead of students,” Kazin says.
Competency-based learning in action
To make this method work, skills need to be well-defined and contextualized for specific courses. Competency-based learning’s biggest strength is that it personalizes learning and better serves student needs.
The transition from a placement-testing to a competency-based model is neither quick nor easy, but you can start by looking at your college’s track record and assessing if the developmental education program is helping students move toward graduation. If it isn’t, Kazin recommends checking out the Competency-Based Education Network, a Lumina Foundation-funded network of 30 colleges and universities and four public systems that’s working to advance high-quality competency-based education and offers resources such as the Quality Framework for Competency-Based Education Programs. She also suggests clearly communicating to students about what they should know and be able to do upon completing the courses, using multiple measures to assess readiness, and recognizing that different majors and career goals may require preparation.