What is Competency-Based Learning?

June 10th, 2014

Category: Postsecondary Success

Last week I attended a conference focused on Competency-Based Learning (CBL). It was an opportunity to hear several other groups present about efforts in their states to pilot CBL. Competency-Based Learning meets students where they are academically, allows students to move through material at a pace personalized to their individual needs, and ensures that all students reach mastery of the presented material.

According to the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL), there are five key elements* of competency-based learning approaches:

  1. Students advance upon mastery.
  2. Competencies include explicit, measurable, transferable learning objectives that empower students.
  3. Assessment is meaningful and a positive learning experience for students.
  4. Students receive timely, differentiated support based on their individual learning needs.
  5. Learning outcomes emphasize competencies that include application of knowledge with the development of important skills and dispositions.
  6. These five elements are recognized to be pivotal not only to the success of CBL, but are also critical in order to ensure that students are engaged in their learning at all times and in significant ways.

Great teachers already recognize the need to meet students where they are, provide necessary supports, and deliver engaging material. CBL provides a definition to what many teachers recognize as good teaching, and provides students with additional ownership over their learning. Furthermore, as schools advance the use of technology to support student learning, the elements of CBL could truly take root, and result in strong academic results for Delaware’s students.

For more information on Competency-Based Learning, visit the CompetencyWorks page.


*Necessary for Success: Building Mastery of World-Class Skills A State Policymakers Guide to Competency Education, iNACOL, 2013

Rachel Wiggans Chan




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