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Competency-Based Education & Teacher Education: Next Steps

An #AACTE24 Session Recap and Reflection

Attending the AACTE 2024 Annual Meeting Featured Session, “Competency-Based Education & Teacher Education: Next Steps” provided invaluable insights into reimagining traditional higher education models. The presenters compellingly reasoned how competency-based programs can bolster equity and accessibility by offering flexible, personalized pathways for a diverse range of learners (Patrick, 2021). Key highlights included the backward design process for developing competency-based curricula and the significance of authentic, performance-based assessments.

The session underscored how competency-based education fundamentally shifts the focus to actual student learning and the application of knowledge. As discussed, students progress by demonstrating mastery of real-world teaching competencies, rather than by accumulating seat time or credits (Klein, 2013). This mastery-based approach accommodates individual pacing and learning needs, thereby making teacher licensure more attainable for non-traditional students.

Key Takeaways

As an educator, I found the backward design framework for competency-based curriculum insightful. Commencing with learner personas rather than courses or credits aligns with ensuring students acquire applicable teaching skills. However, executing competency-based redesigns will demand substantial effort. Developing valid, reliable assessments of teaching competencies will be challenging. Navigating accreditation requirements will also be crucial, given the disparities between competency-based education and traditional models.

Presenters highlighted that competency-based education is still evolving, emphasizing the necessity for rigorous research on implementation and outcomes. As discussed, adequately addressing interpersonal aspects of teaching, such as cultural competence, poses a significant design challenge. Nevertheless, presenters provided examples of how competencies and assessments can be thoughtfully tailored to meet contextual needs, underscoring the importance of flexibility and collaboration in competency frameworks.

Implications for My Context

I envision significant potential in implementing a competency-based approach to teacher preparation within our institutions. Given our commitment to cultivating culturally responsive educators, focusing on competencies could strengthen our institutions’ missions. We could tailor competency profiles to intricately integrate cultural competence and anti-racist teaching strategies. Moreover, creating authentic teacher scenario assessments could effectively gauge the application of these competencies.

Furthermore, adopting competency-based pathways could enhance access and diversity among our teacher candidates. By offering flexible, self-paced degree options that are not constrained by rigid schedules, we could empower more working adults and career changers to pursue teaching licensure. This adaptability holds the potential to diversify our teaching workforce.

Nevertheless, realizing this vision would necessitate considerable effort. Assessing existing skills and crafting new competency frameworks would undoubtedly require substantial faculty engagement and support. Additionally, providing personalized services for competency-based students would represent a departure from our current approaches. Nonetheless, with incremental implementation and collaboration among various stakeholders across our institutions, meaningful transformation is achievable.

This session affirmed competency-based education’s promising value proposition while shedding light on the complexities of thoughtful design and delivery. Achieving the full potential of competency-based teacher education will demand a commitment to equity, flexibility, and continuous improvement. As the field continues to evolve, I am eager to learn from the successes and challenges of institutions implementing competency-driven programs. With patient collaboration and research, competency-based approaches could positively transform teacher preparation to the benefit of diverse students.

Charles A. Barnes II, JD, is a Ph.D. Candidate at Rowan University and is currently the AACTE Holmes Scholars Program President.





Klein-Collins, R. (2013). Sharpening our focus on learning: The rise of competency-based approaches to degree completion. Occasional Paper, 20, 1-19.

Patrick, S. (2021). Transforming Learning through Competency-Based Education. State Education Standard, 21(2), 23-29.

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