December 5, 2019

Competency-Based Education (CBE), an educational method focused on outcomes and mastery of competencies is the most recent research commissioned and funded by ELECTRI International. CBE uses predetermined standards associated with a job or position to set academic expectations.  Each job or position is broken down into a series of competencies, things learners need to be able to do well in order to be successful on the job.

Competencies are organized into learning paths, specifying the order in which a learner learns each competency.  Learners have to demonstrate to their instructors that they are competent, or that they have the appropriate levels of knowledge, skills, and attitudes to complete a particular task or procedure successfully.  If learners demonstrate competence, they can move on to learn about another competency. But, if they cannot do so, they must continue learning about that competency until they are able to demonstrate competence.

The research, conducted by Steven W. Schmidt, Ph.D, East Carolina University, resulted in the report The Shift to Competency-Based Education in the Electrical Trades Industry. A Practical Guide to Implementing CBE. The work is divided into three main sections:

  • an overview of CBE and includes characteristics of CBE, terms, definitions, and concepts.
  • a step-by-step guide to implementing CBE.  Each step includes tasks, instructions, guidelines, and best practices.
  • Details for preparing for and managing CBE programs.  Organizational guidelines and requirements to support the implementation of CBE programs are discussed including responsibilities of instructors and students as well as information on the development of activities for the CBE classroom and the development of assessment tools.

Each section includes recommendations, guidelines, best practices, and summaries. His work is presented as a practical guide to be used in the implementation and management of CBE programs.

The development of CBE programs can be accomplished by the electrical industry via a series of steps designed to help organizations transition from traditional curriculum to CBE.  The process features a backwards design in which CBE starts at the end by looking at the knowledge, skills, and attitudes the learner should have upon completion of an educational program.  This entire body of knowledge is then broken down into a series of competencies with rigorous assessment tools developed for each competency.  A benefit of CBE is that, by the time learners complete their programs of study, they will each have demonstrated competence in all knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary to be successful as a new employee on the job. 

The successful development and implementation of CBE programs requires substantial organizational commitment, including appropriate infrastructure at national, regional, and local levels, instructors who understand how to teach in CBE environments, and students who understand how to learn in CBE environments.  The full report is available here.