Competency Based Learning

Competency-based learning is a unique approach to training design that builds and enhances individual competencies in line with previously identified profiles of success. Competency based training is a style of training that focuses on what one can achieve in the workplace. It gives the skills and knowledge required to complete specific workplace activities at an industry standard of performance, in a range of work environments and situations.

Competency-based learning is an approach more often used in learning concrete skills than abstract learning. It differs from other non-related approaches in that the unit of learning is extremely fine grained. Learners work on one competency at a time, which is likely a small component of a larger learning goal. An individual is evaluated on the individual competency, and only once they have mastered it, they move on to others. After that, higher or more complex competencies are learned to a degree of mastery and isolated from other topics. Another common component of Competency based training is the ability to skip learning modules entirely if the learner can demonstrate they already have mastery.

Competency-based learning is learner‑focused and works naturally with independent study and with the instructor in the role of facilitator. Learners often find different individual skills more difficult than others. This learning method allows the one’s with those individual skills they find challenging at their own pace, practising and refining as much as they like. Then, they can move rapidly through other skills to which they are more adept.

While most other learning methods use summative testing, competency-based learning requires mastery of every individual learning outcome, making it very well suited to learning credentials in which safety is an issue. What it means to have mastered a competency depends on the learning domain. In subject matter that could affect safety, it would be usual to expect complete learning that can be repeated every time.

It is important to understand that this learning methodology is common in many kinetic skills-based learning, but is also sometime applied to abstract academic learning for students who find themselves out-of-step with their grade, course or program of study. Increasingly educational institutions are evaluating ways to include competency-based learning methodologies in diverse types of programs to make learning a success.

Competency-based learning is a technique that can be applied in many fields and learning environments. It is an area of instructive research and is not adequately understood in one, single learning domain.

Once organizations have used a competency dictionary to define the competency requirements for groups, areas, or the whole organization, it becomes possible to develop learning strategies targeted to close major gaps in organizational competencies and to focus learning plans on the business goals and strategic direction for the organization.

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