Tuesday, May 24, 2011

"Model of the Moment"

By: Steve Kolowich

AEFIS Response:
Competency-based models in higher education cater to the fast-paced attitudes of many of today’s students to get a degree and get into the workforce, specifically part-time students. However, many criticize this model for its limits in providing students with learning experiences outside of their fields and technical skillsets, going so far as to say that the competency based model “is not a college education.”

How does a competency-based model compare to the implementation of a strong assessment plan with student learning outcomes? The difference is the application of data –in a competency model, students are awarded credit based on successful completion of competency tests after preparing individually without an instructor or structured course – while student learning outcomes performance data is collected in supplement to grades to understand student learning and achievement. The focus is removed from effective student learning in an effort to save customers, students, time and money. Institutional development shifts from curriculum design to test design to ensure that graduates have suitable credentials to obtain a degree. Are these methodologies separate, but equal?

Regular student interaction, whether in person or online, and structured instruction benefit students’ learning and opportunities for collaborative educational experiences. And the collection of assessment data over time benefits both the understanding of students’ development and institutional programmatic development as it relates to workforce professions over time. While competency-based models provide great convenience to part-time or returning students, they do not offer “18-year-old [freshmen] or 20-year-old community college student[s the opportunities] to really do well and get a degree.” And convenience is not the vehicle for a strong education.

Measuring competencies or student learning outcomes in addition to grading traditional assignments demonstrates to students what has been learned over the course of curricula and provides mechanisms for practicing necessary skillsets.
Becky Joyce, AEFIS Team

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