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Resource Guide to Competency-Based Education: Assessment

A list of resources provided by Truxal Library for researching competency-based education.

The Assessments

Laurie Dodge, Associate Vice Chancellor of Institutional Assessment and Planning at Brandman University comments on the importance of providing some flexibility in how students demonstrate their learning and knowledge in competency-based education programs. She says:  

PLA (Prior Learning Assessment) is one option. Other options may include taking a course, engaging in a new field experience, or learning through open sources. It is not always 'looking back' to see what I know - but also 'looking forward' - what is the best way to gain this knowledge.                from Klein-Collins, Rebecca. Competency-Based Degree Programs in the U.S.

Prior Learning Assessment (PLA)

Generally accepted approaches to PLA:

Find more information on Prior Learning Assesment at the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning.

CBE and Accreditation

In 2013 CAEL and the Center for Educational Measurement at Excelsior College convened a national summit, Assessing Outcomes and Competencies, where it was recognized that regional and national accreditors must "focus their quality review efforts on assessments" and "weigh in on which standards and guidelines should be used in the development of competency-based programs". Ralph Wolf, president and CEO of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges points out that a competency-based degree program using direct assessments must be reviewed for quality by its regional accreditor before it can be considered for federal financial aid. from CAEL 2013 Forum & News: Competency-Based Education

Regional accreditors of higher education:

Post Learning Assessment

"Assessments are competency-based when they are focused not just on what students know but also on what students can do with what they know. Yet clearly there are multiple levels of competency around which assessments should be based. At lower levels of competence, multiple-choice and other tests of objective learning may be appropriate. At higher levels of competence, however, getting at more complex and analytical thinking requires different kinds of assessment such as student narratives, demonstrations, simulations, or performance-based assignments."  from Klein-Collins, Rebecca. Sharpening Our Focus on Learning: The Rise of Competency-Based Approaches to Degree Completion.


The National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment published a case study of Capella University by Natasha Jankowski focused on "its systematic, embedded student learning outcomes assessment process; its administrative support and vision of what assessment can do for individual learners; its transparency efforts ... and its use of assessment to enhance learner success."  from Jankowsi, Natasha. Capella University: An Outcomes-Based Institution.


The Association of American Colleges and Universities supports the VALUE initiative: Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education.



Badges for competencies

Brandman Univeristy

"Digital badges - which can represent a range of accomplishments, skills and abilities - are verified, portable units of achievement owned and curated by the individuals who earned them. ...these secure machine-readable credentials link back to the issuing source for validation of their authenticity while also providing a self-contained set of data about the criteria, issuer and evidence that gives the credentials context and value." from press release Brandman Teams Up with Credly for Digital Badges.

Lipscomb University

"Lipscomb's competency-based education program utilizes behavioral- and project-based assessments, incorporates a comprehensive badging ecosystem, and features 4 levels of competence ... the model focuses on employers and their workforce development needs ... organized into a series of stackable digital badges that can be applied for credit" from Competency-Based Education Network program overview

"A total of 15 competencies are evaluated by Lipscomb using behavioral assessment at the CORE Competency Assessment and Development Center. These competencies can be transcribed through a system of electronic badges that document four levels of mastery for each competency. The badges can be used to demonstrate competencies to an employer, or they may be converted to credit hours and applied towards a bachelor's degree at LIpscomb." from Klein-Collins, Rebecca and Rick Olson. Customized, Outcome-based, Relevant Evaluation (CORE) at Lipscomb University. CAEL, 2014.

Library photo courtesy of Barry Halkin Photography