Home » Get Empowered » Resources for Educators and District Leaders » Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About Competency-Based Education

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About Competency-Based Education

There are many common misconceptions about personalized, competency-based learning that can make it challenging to explain. Our competency-based education FAQs highlight those you may hear the most often from essential stakeholders—including teachers, parents, community members and students—and we’ve paired them with responses that could spark critical conversations about what competency education offers your learning community. See below for answers to competency-based education FAQs.

Will students spend all day on a computer or tablet?

Technology can be a great tool for learning, but it’s not the only one. Some students may prefer project-based work or a computer program, while others prefer pencil and paper. Competency education provides students with the opportunity to learn how they learn best and to demonstrate learning in a variety of ways, rather than just taking a test or writing a paper.

Isn’t competency-based education just a new way of ensuring schools follow Common Core?

Standards guarantee every student an equal, quality education. It doesn’t matter what the standards are called or who created them. What is more important is that the state – be it Texas or Maine or Alaska – has chosen to use state-wide standards to ensure consistency in learning among all districts, no matter the tax-base or zip code, ensuring students in low-income and high-income districts are guaranteed a high-quality education.

What role does the teacher play in a competency-based classroom?

Relationships drive student learning in a competency-based environment. Teachers are more essential than ever before, creating unique opportunities for learning, working with students to create classroom culture, helping students discover their learning styles and working side-by-side with learners throughout the year.

Is competency-based education another workforce model?

Many of today’s students will enter the workforce and fill jobs that have yet to be created. Through competency-based education, students master core academic content and demonstrate what they’re learning while also developing the social-emotional skills necessary to succeed in ambiguity. Skills like critical thinking, self-awareness and the ability to collaborate will help them no matter what path they choose after high school.

What do you mean that competency-based education isn’t time- or seat-based?

Students move ahead when they have demonstrated mastery of content, not when they’ve reached a certain birthday. However, competency-based education classrooms have a class pace set by the teacher. There may be some learners who work ahead or a little behind pace, but this more student-centered approach gives the teacher greater understanding as to where each student is, and when supports are needed.

Traditional schooling worked for me. Why do we need something different?

The world has changed, and this changes what students need from their education, and by necessity, how education is delivered. Competency-based education is a more equitable approach that allows for the flexibility and variety that every student needs to succeed, not just the students who have been traditionally served well.

How will a teacher personalize learning for every single student?

A learner-centered classroom doesn’t mean 25-30 individual lesson plans for each student. It’s about developing student agency so they have a voice, a choice and engagement opportunities to access content in the best way for them. The school day includes instructional time with the teacher and opportunities to work independently, in pairs or with other students. Because their learning targets are transparent, students work with the teacher to determine what they need to accomplish to meet them and how they could show evidence of learning. Learning isn’t a mystery, and students have a greater understanding of what they need to learn and why.

Want to share these competency-based education FAQs with others? Download Dispelling the Myths: Frequently Asked Questions About Competency-Based Education.