It was during one of those, end-of-academic-year sleepless nights when a colleague of mine came up with what I believe to be, if not the best definition of a Competency, one of the most inspiring ones:
It would be something that, if I stumble upon one of my students doing it right, it would make my heart jump.
I believe under the, arguably, ticky-tacky sound of these words there is a powerful simplicity. A competency should be an ability that can be autonomously improved, performed, and ideally, assessed. A trainee should be able to say when he is actually competent. A competency should also be a conclusive point in a learning intervention, be it a semester-long course or a weekend workshop. It should be a conclusive point for teachers as well, and a prideful one at that.
Courtesy of the Blackboard blog, we find three tips for the “right” design of CBE, or Competency-Based Education. The post strives to bring sense into the seeming complexity of CBE implementation, both in organizations and Learning Management Systems.
The first word of advice or caution embeds a precise definition of the competency, with the appropriate subject-matter language and the associated topics. The competency should reveal, upon reading, the field, the focus and the outcome of its application.
Secondly, the competency should enjoy a harmonious definition and implementation in every scenario where its development takes place. The LMS, the classroom, during tutoring or at home in individual homework. Learning through a competency could help in the intrinsic motivation towards the topic as gives students one of its key ingredients: a sense of purpose.
Third and last, competencies as a whole must be the reflection of an institutional vision. Educators, administrators and other stakeholders in positions of leadership within the organization should play a role in its definition, and feel represented by the system of competencies.
In summary, competencies are the practical counterpart to empowerment. If teachers can vouch for the competencies laid out by an institution’s unique vision, students will feel empowered, as representatives of an identifiable source of change.