From the competency-based approach to the competency-based project: a shift in meaning and confusion of concepts




HOWE, Robert

For the past 20 years, the expression competency-based approach (CBA) has become ubiquitous in academic discourse and pedagogical literature. Thus, competency development in education should be a given, and many cite CBA as a label of quality, a sort of ISO standard for college teaching. When we hear or read the expression competency-based approach, we must understand that it refers to a teaching and learning planning approach that focuses on developing competency. Unfortunately, this is quite a mouthful. In the interests of brevity, the term competency-based approach was coined, at the risk of losing sight of the true meaning of this approach. Now we see that competency-based has filtered into other aspects of educational discourse, clearly creating areas of confusion.

Over time, the expression competency-based approach has generated offshoots. We now hear and see other associated expressions: competency-based tasks, competency-based programs, competency-based course plans, competency-based assessments, and competency-based report cards. Perhaps awkwardly, the descriptor competency-based means that the planning of teaching will deliberately and specifically target the development of various competencies. This author proposes to clarify matters a little by returning first to the historical context of the development of pedagogy in the college system, and then briefly examining a few of these expressions to show how the abuse of competency-based can cause shifts in meaning.

Article available in French only.

The AQPC acknowledges the financial support, in 2014-2015, of the Government of Canada through Canadian Heritage, Canada Periodical Fund, Business Innovation component.

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