Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Competency-Based Education (Re)-Defined: Trends and Implications in Scholarly Discourses of Higher Education

Indre Cuckler, School of Educational Leadership for Change

Due to the increased interest in competency-based education (CBE) and a recent surge in CBE-related publications, it was timely to examine how the concepts of CBE and competencies were portrayed in higher education academic journals. I utilized content analysis to examine the frequency of publications and to identify trends and themes associated with CBE in 11 selected higher education journals published from 1999 to 2014. The analysis revealed that CBE discourses are strongly associated with workforce needs, the accountability movement, and quality of education. This study confirmed notions proposed by other scholars that CBE and competencies are not yet uniformly defined in the literature. The study revealed that empirical research on CBE that goes beyond the utilization of case studies and surveys about CBE is not prevalent; therefore, there is a need for a more comprehensive view on CBE that includes the latest evidence-based approaches, as well as research from learning theories. Overall, based on the analyzed articles, it seems that current conceptualizations of CBE were influenced by positivist and humanist perspectives, while the critical and postmodern views on CBE were not prevalent. It would be useful to examine CBE from critical and postmodern perspectives in order to facilitate a more socially just conceptualization and practice of CBE. The analyzed articles in the selected academic journals lacked synthesized theory, historical accounts, and empirical research that utilizes experimental designs to investigate CBE. The current CBE movement could benefit from an examination of research on CBE that is available, as well as research conducted in other countries. Finally, I synthesized a definition of CBE and competencies based on themes that emerged from the literature and made suggestions for future research and practice.

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