Can Competencies Oust Outcomes?

I was recently reading through a heated exchange on an online competency-based education discussion forum when I came across the following statement from an exasperated educator: “Why are we bothering to talk about CBE? Why don’t we just get back to measuring outcomes?!” I was shocked. I thought to myself, does this educator not know that in a competency-based program design, the competencies are the outcomes? That shock quickly turned to epiphany as I realized this question may very well be the reason why CBE is met with so much confusion by the exasperated educator and others like him; there seems to be a misbelief that measuring competencies excludes us from measuring outcomes. I would like to set the record straight: in a competency-based program, the measurement of competencies validates that the outcomes have been achieved. Furthermore, these competency outcomes are carefully and precisely designed to match the knowledge and skills that employers have stated they want to see in their newly hired employees. If we place a traditional learning outcome and an employer-vetted competency side-by-side, it may be impossible to tell which is which without going to the source and asking, “Which one was written with the employer’s need in mind?” To support my point, I have taken 5 student learning objectives from a Principles in Management course syllabus and placed them side-by-side with 5 employer-vetted competencies from Wonderlic’s Direct Assessment of Learning Outcomes module on Principles of Management:

Define management and explain the role of the business manager in the organization.

Illustrate roles and responsibilities of managerial positions.

Discuss the history and evolution of  management as well as organizational environments and cultures.

Demonstrate the considerations and realities of businesses in the global economy.

Explain management functions and organizational strategies.

Define the importance and process of effective organizational planning.

Identify the skills and competencies managers need.

Describe the role of the manager during various organizational changes.

Discuss leadership principles and its applications.

Illustrate how leadership differs from management in both goals and practice.

Hard to tell the difference? It may help if I tell you that the traditional learning objectives from the course syllabus are on the left, and Wonderlic’s employer-vetted competencies are on the right. It may also help you to know that the 5 learning objectives on the left comprised the entire learning outcomes portion of the course syllabus, but that the 5 employer-vetted competencies on the right were actually selected from a group of 15 competencies that had also been ranked and weighted based on level of importance by over 100 employers. Additionally, the direct assessment of competencies helps clarify with laser-like precision exactly which knowledge and skills the student must perform in order to demonstrate mastery. To learn more about refreshing your institution’s learning outcomes by seeing how they stack up against employer-vetted competencies, click here.

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