Competency-Based Learning

What is Competency-Based Learning?

Competency-Based Education (CBE) is a student-centered approach to learning grounded in equity for all learners that begins with rigorous, common expectations for learning. Within the competency-based system, learners progress toward mastery of and application of key skills and knowledge, or competencies, in order to transfer knowledge to new contexts. Instruction is designed around progress, not seat-time, so all students must receive the individualized guidance, attention, and time they require along their different pathways towards mastery of each competency. Assessments are designed to be a meaningful and positive experience that often mirror real-world tasks; assessment is a tool for measuring progress, not a way to judge or sort students. Learners develop agency through the process of reflection, feedback, self-assessment, and goal-setting which leads to choices about how and when each student will demonstrate skills.

Where is the impact?

Transformation In Practice

Within the competency-based educational system, students take ownership of their learning by mastering transferable, real-world skills. Students learn to express their ideas skillfully through writing and collaborative discussions in their language arts class. Then, they take these skills with them into their biology class, as they exchange ideas about the nature and function of different components of plant cells. Learning to communicate clearly and articulately about complex subjects is a skill that transfers into a myriad of contexts, both inside and outside the classroom. As students self-reflect, set goals, and progress towards mastery of a skill or competency, they develop a greater sense of agency. As teachers focus on progressing students towards mastery of rigorous, common skill expectations, they create a more equitable learning experience for all types of student learners.

MV Case Study

As part of their high school innovation Diploma course, Molecular Gastronomy, students demonstrated mastery of chemistry competencies through cooking. Larissa Pender-Healy, along with an interdisciplinary team of MV teachers, designed multiple pathways for students to explore and demonstrate their learning around food chemistry. In conjunction with their other courses, students also developed skills needed for event production and writing to make the final performance task assessment possible. Students created pop-up restaurants with several menus and themes, all designed and produced by students, for a senior celebration event. This capstone experience, defined by student choice, empathy, prototyping, and feedback, shows the competency-based educational journey in action and the transformational impact it can have on students.

External Case Study

The Dewey Schools

As part of a comprehensive, multi-year consulting partnership, MV Ventures’ consultants lead faculty and administration from The Dewey Schools, a network of K-12 schools in Vietnam, through professional development workshops, curriculum redesign, and consulting to implement Inquiry-based learning and Competency-based education practices. MV Ventures guided The Dewey Schools on curriculum and assessment transformation using interactive, online workshops, site visits, and in-person training sessions. MVV expert consultants worked on both a macro and micro level, leading systems change school-wide and working with individual teachers to create and implement performance task assessments, to score assessments with proficiency scales, to give high-quality feedback, and to create a culture of reflection among students and teachers. This work has transformed the learning and assessment practices throughout The Dewey Schools.

How do I get started?

Excited? Curious? Overwhelmed? Check out these step-by-step resources to guide you along your Competency-based Learning journey.


Want more information on competency-based learning?  Let us know where you are on your journey.  Transformation needs a guide.  We can help. 

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