Competency-based education (CBE) is a multi-layer approach to teaching and learning that involves students progressing based on what they know and can do, rather than the time they have spent in class. It focuses on providing students with the supports and opportunities needed to build skills, not just absorb content. In a CBE environment, one might expect to find a combination of the following elements:
• Transparent learning targets that are clear and comprehensible to students/teachers/families;
• Sustained learning experiences that have an arc and duration (not just small discrete lesson plans and disparate activities);
• Student ownership of learning and an understanding of what's needed to advance/achieve/improve;
• Evidence of students working at different paces;
• Instances of individual and small group feedback being offered by the teacher;
• Meaningful student demonstrations and applications of learning; and,
• Opportunities and expectations for revision and reflection.
For the next generation of learners to succeed and thrive, their learning experiences must facilitate their development in three primary domains: knowledge, skills, and dispositions.
The below chart includes our description of each of these domains and a set of examples adapted from the work of the Council of Chief State School Officers.
The theoretical or practical understanding of someone or something.
The capacities and strategies that enable learners to apply knowledge to novel situations, engage in higher order thinking, problem solve, collaborate, communicate effectively, and plan for the future.
The behaviors and ways of being that contribute to learners fulfilling their full potential.
• World class standards
• Career and technical
• Other content areas and
• Global competence
• Applied knowledge
• Learning how to learn
• Time/goal management
• Critical thinking
• Problem solving
• Working collaboratively
• Communicating effectively
• Self/social awareness
• Creativity & innovation
• Agency (self-efficacy)
• Ethical behavior and
There is evidence that this triad of domains can be mutually reinforcing. Deep engagement with disciplinary knowledge builds and develops learners' skills—such as communication, collaboration, creativity, problem solving, metacognition, and critical thinking—and dispositions—such as resilience, curiosity, resourcefulness, persistence, and adaptability. Strong skills and dispositions can then allow learners to broaden and deepen their knowledge, driven by their own interests and motivations, as well as by agreed standards for competency in these domains.