Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Competency based education, not such a new idea

Competency based education, an idea whose time came many years ago.  But, hey, it is always good when people catch up. 

U.S. businesses continue to express concerns over the job-ready characteristics of high school and college graduates.   All the testing of the last twenty years has not yielded a better employee.   The Committee for Economic Development, a non-partisan public- policy group of business education leaders, convened a panel after a survey identified the skills most needed and most difficult to find in the workplace.  Their conclusion was that critical thinking and problem-solving in job applicants are the most essential but hardest to find.  Other competencies being sought are the ability to work with others of diverse backgrounds and teamwork/collaboration.  Employers say that most STEM based job skills  content can be out of date within a year or two but the other skills will last the lifetime.

Some of the problem might be parenting trends.  A dean of students for a California university recently described a group of babied middle and upper middle class freshmen students who looked to their parents to resolve and solve all of their problems. She  commented in her book that lower socio-economic students fared better because they were used to standing on their own.

Competency based education does not require memorization.  Students work to demonstrate the use of knowledge through achieving certain competencies.  It is a continuing work in progress.  There are no tests as we know them.  Instead students do projects that demonstrate understanding and use of knowledge.

The President just signed the Every Student Succeeds Act.  It is a re-write of No Child Left Behind that left quite a few kids and teachers behind.  However we are still on the “accountability” train and our definition of accountability is only testing. 

The Harbour School in Maryland has been doing Competency Based education for almost 20 years.  It is working very well as demonstrated by the success of its graduates.  Good to see some other folk are getting on board.

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