How to Assess Competency-Based Learning

Nowadays, competencies are key aspects of curriculum design. This is why it's important to assess them properly.

Last update: 13 December, 2020

The new educational paradigm stands by competency-based education. In other words, it focuses on teaching content knowledge, skills and abilities that would help students solve problems and facilitate their integral development. Next, we’ll show you how to assess competency-based learning.

First, you should know that competency assessment isn’t easy. There are many factors to evaluate when facing real situations in real contexts.

“Education throughout life is based on four pillars: learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together and learning to be.”

– UNESCO –

Competencies in education

According to Maria Guadalupe Gómez Malagón, competency is:

“A combination of knowledge, procedures and attitudes that are coordinated and integrated to use whenever the person needs them.”

– Maria Guadalupe Gómez Malagón –

How to Assess Competency-Based Learning

Therefore, the school system has the responsibility of teaching theoretical and practical content, so students can develop different competencies. This relates to all kinds of learning throughout life. Because, the aim is to educate useful and functional people who will be able to face life’s challenges, successfully.

In this sense, the new educational paradigm has to prepare students to:

  • Face a diverse and unknown future.
  • Develop a life plan.
  • Be good students: having the ability to learn.
  • Be active, independent, sensible and creative.
  • Develop abilities and skills in an integrated way.
  • Adopt habits to grow personally.

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”

– Alvin Toffler –

How to assess competency-based learning

According to Aurelio Bertolín and others, in order to assess competency-based learning, it’s necessary to carry out a formative assessment. This type of assessment should:

  • Use well designed and defined assessment criteria. It’s important to value the students’ performance, according to certain behaviors and knowledge.
  • Be open and flexible to the students’ answers. There are many ways to solve a problem.
  • Be constant and unfinished, even if they have finished all the educational stages. By solving problems during their lives, students get to prove the different competencies they have acquired.
How to Assess Competency-Based Learning

  • Be complex and enriching. This way teachers can evaluate students’ competencies through different assignments and tests that will develop their ability to use reasoning, curiosity and creativity, in order to obtain answers. As a result, students wouldn’t solve problems in a mechanical and repetitive way.
  • Be democratic and transparent. This way students will know what to expect and how the assessment will be. So, to pass the evaluation, they need to assume certain responsibilities and come to agreements.

More characteristics of a formative assessment:

  • Be contextualized and connected to reality. Assignments should be practical and make sense.
  • Be global. Students should be able to apply everything they’ve learned to different and new situations.
  • Use mistakes and failures as an opportunity to keep learning.
  • Be useful for students and teachers. All the information should be useful to analyze, enrich, plan and improve the teaching-learning process. All this must adapt to the students’ educational needs.
  • Be possible. Teachers and students should be able to put it into practice, using the available resources.
  • Finally, be critical. Learning should promote critical thought.
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  • Gómez, M. G. y López, L. (2012). Las competencias y los estilos de aprendizaje. En F. Guerra, R. García, N. González, P. Renés y A. Castro. Estilos de aprendizaje: Investigaciones y experiencias. V Congreso Mundial de Estilos de Aprendizaje. Santander, España.
  • González-Bertolín, A., López-Río, J., Martín-González, G., Martínez-Rico, G., Moril-Valle, R., Mula-Benavent, J. M. y Escámez-Sánchez, J. (2011). El aprendizaje por competencias en la educación obligatoria. Valencia: Brief.