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Competency Based Professional Development

Competency Based Professional Development


In this lesson, students analyze the importance of competency based professional development.

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Source: Globe, Clker,; Stick Figure, Clker,; Badge, Pixabay,; Sneakers, Pixabay,; Darts, Pixabay,

Video Transcription

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Hello there, and welcome. We've used the term competency a great deal throughout these tutorials. In this lesson, we will analyze why competency-based professional development is so important. Let's begin. One of my most vivid memories from my early childhood schooling was learning how to tie my shoes when I was in first grade.

My teacher had three large plastic model shoes in the back of the room for students to use to learn and practice with. When we demonstrated the ability to tie our shoes, we no longer had to practice. On the other hand, if we struggled, the teacher provided us with more time to learn. Little did I know, when I was six years old, I was experiencing competency-based learning.

The idea of competency-based education became prevalent in the 1960s as a way to ensure that all students were taught the skills they needed beyond high school. Competency-based education, or CBE, is actually based on something called outcomes-based education. As the name suggests, you begin with identifying the desired outcome and work backwards from there.

This method offers students the opportunity for self-pacing and alternate ways of achieving the competencies. In other words, we know where we want students to go, and it really doesn't matter how we get them there as long as we get them there.

Today, outcomes-based education can be implemented using face-to-face, online, as well as hybrid models that continue to evolve every day. As we continue to take advantage of those available technologies, students have more opportunities than ever for self-pacing in connecting their learning to real world applications.

So exactly what is competency-based education? It's defined as a learner-centered approach in which, rather than taking a course or measuring learning units in terms of quarters or semesters, the learner works to master given skills or competencies. The biggest difference from traditional education is that the learning is measured, not time.

This really lends itself to a wide range of learners and much more individualized approaches to education. And since any one given professional development design does not necessarily meet the standards of all teachers, there are many factors that facilitators must consider.

Let's take a look at them. There are two major questions that need to be answered. The first is, what happens to teachers who struggle to master the knowledge, skills, and competencies in the amount of time allocated? Does the facilitator simply move on, regardless?

And number two, what happens to teachers who already have a solid understanding of the knowledge and skills covered? Should they be required to repeat the instruction, even though they do not need it in order to demonstrate their competency?

In competency-based education, the learner would not move on if they have not achieved mastery. In addition, learners who have achieved mastery do not have to go back through the instruction. Rather, they can move on if they have achieved mastery. Competency-based education certainly finds its way into professional development. And when it does, it may contain all or some of the following components.

Progression-- this means that teachers are able to advance to new skills and topics as they demonstrate mastery of current knowledge and skills giving them a sense of autonomy and self-efficacy. It's kind of like when a student is allowed to test out of a topic. I was recently involved in a crisis prevention intervention training but only had to attend a refresher session because I had previously demonstrated mastery of skills.

Clear objectives-- competencies that include clear, measurable learning targets that can be generalized to many contexts will empower teachers and make for a focused professional development. For example, a district might need teachers to input grades into a learning management system, like Aspen. By simply doing that, they will become more exposed and pick up many other features found in Aspen, as well.

Meaningful assessment-- assessment literacy is something all educators should become more familiar with. By providing meaningful information for teachers, assessments can help to create positive learning experiences. When an individual knows where their learning is heading, it can offer a sense of comfort. When I worked with first year teachers, one of the first things I shared with them was the rubric that their evaluator would be using on them. Putting it in context really helped guide our work together.

Timely feedback-- it may be challenging, but it is possible for teachers to receive timely, differentiated support based on their individual learning needs. We are fortunate that there are multiple ways to receive that now, including the use of an instructional coach or through online learning and flipped professional development. My advice would be to always leave a meeting by setting the date for the next one. It sounds obvious but chances are, if you don't put it down, it most likely won't happen.

High level cognitive processes-- teachers have to constantly be stepping up their game and include high level cognitive processes such as creation of knowledge and application of it. Integrating technology in your existing curriculum is a great example of how the development of skills can improve practice and increase student achievement and attitude.

Competency based metrics-- like most things, professional development application and acquisition can be measured with a competency-based rubric. Most evaluation models have them embedded and are derived from the Danielson framework or Marzano's model. Other metrics can also be used that are more specific and geared toward the actual professional development. For example, the technology integration example I just mentioned could be measured using the ISTE standards.

Recognition of competency-- more and more teachers are using online programs to achieve their professional development goals. And this can lead to one of the most simplest yet effective forms of competency recognition-- the acquisition of badges. With many online programs, like this course through Sophia, teachers can earn badges or credentials. I recently completed a Google Classroom challenge. And let me tell you, earning a badge felt good.

So to summarize this lesson, we first defined and looked at the history of competency-based education. There are two questions to consider when subscribing to competency-based education. What to do when the learner masters the competency, and what to do when they don't. Lastly, we analyzed and gave examples of the seven components found in competency-based professional development.

And now, here's your food for thought. Does your school or district employ competency-based professional development? To dive a little deeper and learn how to apply this information, be sure to check out the additional resources section that is associated with this video. This is where you'll find links targeted toward helping you discover more ways to apply this course material. Thanks so much for watching. And we'll see you next time.

Notes on "Competency Based Professional Development"

(00:00-00:13) Intro

(00:14-00:42) Learning To Tie

(00:43-01:36) A Brief History

(01:37-02:13) CBE

(02:14-02:55) Considerations

(02:56-06:00) Components of PD

(06:01-06:47) Summary/Food For Thought

Additional Resources

Competency-Based Education: No More Semesters?

This National Public Radio (NPR) blog post explores the idea of competency-based education, and how learners might experience it.


This collaborative initiative to advance competency-based education is a partnership between iNACOL, the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, and others. This website is a repository for competency-based education articles and resources, including a wiki, blog posts, and listings of conferences, workshops, and other events related to CBE.