Online College Courses for Credit

2 Tutorials that teach iNACOL's 5 Design Principles of CBE
Take your pick:
iNACOL's 5 Design Principles of CBE

iNACOL's 5 Design Principles of CBE

Author: Jody Waltman

In this lesson, you will learn about the five design principles for implementing competency-based education.

See More

Like what you're learning?

Understanding Competency-Based Instruction

Take the whole course from Capella University FOR FREE


Source: Image of iNACOL logo, Fair Use,

Video Transcription

Download PDF

In this tutorial, we'll discuss iNACOL's five design principles for competency-based education. We'll begin with a brief review of CBE. And then, we'll look at each of iNACOL's five principles in turn. Then, we'll summarize with some big ideas. Let's get started.

First, let's review competency-based education. Competency-based education, or CBE, is a competency-based approach to learning. In CBE, students progress based on demonstrated mastery of the current skill or competency. In other words, students don't move on simply because a lesson, unit, or a grading period ends. CBE is a great fit for a technology-rich environment that can support student self-pacing and that can facilitate the opportunities necessary for students to demonstrate their mastery of the required knowledge and skills.

The five design principles that underlie competency-based education were identified by iNACOL at a 2011 summit. iNACOL is the International Association for K-12 online learning. They partnered with the National Governor's Association, which is the organization that established the Common Core State standards, in order to develop these design principles. The principles are as follows.

Principle one-- students advance upon mastery. Principle two-- explicit and measurable learning objectives empower students. Principle three-- assessment is meaningful and a positive learning experience for students. Principle four-- students receive rapid, differentiated support. And principle five-- learning outcomes emphasized include the application and creation of knowledge. Let's take a closer look at each of these principles.

Principle one-- students advance upon demonstrated mastery. In competency-based education, students advance only upon demonstration of mastery of the current skill. So progression is not based on age or time. Students are given work that is appropriately challenging, and the pacing at which students move through this work may be flexible. Teachers act as facilitators as students work towards mastery and proficiency. It's important that students are evaluated and assessed based on their performance of the current skill.

Design principle two-- explicit and measurable learning objectives empower students. In CBE, learning targets are communicated clearly to students. Students are aware of the learning targets that they're working towards, and they are aware of how their progress will be measured. Again, in this environment, the teacher acts as a facilitator or a coach, and the unit of learning is defined. In CBE, learning opportunities can easily extend outside of the classroom walls.

Design principle three-- assessment is meaningful and a positive learning experience for students. Formative assessment plays a huge role in competency-based education. Formative assessment occurs frequently, and immediate feedback is provided, so that students can take ownership of their assessment data and their learning. This also helps them to make informed decisions about what they need to do in order to adjust their behaviors or other factors that are impacting their learning.

Both formative and summative assessments in a CBE environment include multiple contexts or formats. Again, formative assessment plays a major role, and the importance of these formative assessments is emphasized by the teachers in a CBE environment. Furthermore, teachers collaborate with one another whenever possible, in order to help determine students' proficiency levels.

The emphasis in a CBE environment is on learning, not on letter grades. In this environment, not only is each set of concepts or skills assessed in multiple ways in multiple contexts, but the summative assessments are also adaptive. If a student doesn't demonstrate proficiency on the first try, a retake is provided.

Design principle four-- students receive rapid, differentiated support. Competency-based education emphasizes the importance of differentiation and personalisation. Implementing differentiated and personalized techniques, along with flexible pacing, can really help students to reach their learning targets. Students requiring differentiation or any type of interventions might receive that assistance from teachers or specialists. An adaptive learning technology may be used in order to facilitate these efforts. These adaptive learning technologies which respond to student mastery of concepts can be incredibly useful tools in a CBE environment.

Finally, design principle five-- learning outcomes emphasized include application and creation of knowledge. The focus on competency-based education is application of students' learning in real-world settings. And the competencies that students are working towards should include both academic standards and concrete skills. So demonstrating mastery of these learning objectives should involve both the application of skills and the application of knowledge, both in and out of the classroom environment.

Rubrics should be used to assess students' progress towards their goals. These rubrics should indicate what students know and what students need to be able to do. Students should have access to samples of exemplary work, and 21st century skills are emphasized in the CBE environment.

So let's wrap all of these design principles up with some big ideas. In competency-based education, each student is provided with a personalized education experience at that student's own level, with differentiation and interventions provided, as appropriate. You may see or hear CBE referred to by some other names-- proficiency-based education, performance-based education, standards-based education, or mastery-based education.

In this tutorial, we reviewed competency-based education. And we took a closer look at each of the five design principles of CBE, as identified by iNACOL. Finally, we shared a couple of big ideas that can help put the idea of CBE into context

So now, it's your turn to stop and reflect. Can you see how each of iNACOL's five design principles might apply to your classroom environment? For more information on how to apply what you learned in this video, please view the Additional Resources section, that accompanies this video presentation. The Additional Resources section includes hyperlinks useful for applications of the course material, including a brief description of each resource. Thanks for joining me today. Have a great day.

Notes on "iNACOL's 5 Design Principles of CBE"

(00:00 - 00:17) Introduction

(00:18 - 00:51) Review CBE

(00:52 - 01:43) iNACOL's 5 Principles

(01:44 - 02:16) Principle 1

(02:17 - 02:48) Principle 2

(02:49 - 03:57) Principle 3

(03:58 - 04:36) Principle 4

(04:37 - 05:23) Principle 5

(05:24 - 05:52) Big Ideas

(05:53 - 06:06) Review

(06:07 - 06:36) Stop and Reflect

Additional Resources

Detailed Definition of Competency Education

This page on the CompetencyWorks website provides a detailed definition of competency-based education and discusses the five design principles at length.