CBE tips

3 Ways Competency-Based Education is Being Used by Teachers

Written by NCLD Editors | February 13, 2014

Competency-Based Education (CBE) is a system of personalized learning where students master specific knowledge and skills at their own pace. But what does CBE look like in practice? To find out, we asked several teachers about how they’re using CBE in their classes.

The teachers we spoke to described their classrooms as “organized chaos.” Students are often working independently and there may be times when every student is working on a different competency. Some might be using computers, some working in groups, while still others are getting one-on-one support. But the key, according to teachers, is that the students all know what goals they are working toward and what they should be doing.

We asked three of the teachers to give us specific examples from their classrooms. Here’s what they said.

Daniel Crocker, Math Curriculum Leader
(Hall-Dale Middle School, RSU-2, Maine)

How He’s Using CBE:

“One of my students, J, was having a hard time not just with the math concepts but also with focusing. I knew J is a fan of Pokemon, a Japanese video game, so I designed a math task around Pokemon Cards. J was able to take out his cards, count certain characteristics of the Pokemon characters, and then solve ratio and proportion problems. J was able to work and demonstrate his mastery of these math competencies.”

Why CBE Works for Students With Learning and Attention Issues:

“By having kids work toward goals at their own pace, the CBE model has freed up a lot of class time. I’m able to do daily rounds and visit students. I can provide support to any student who struggles. If a student is falling behind, I can set up targeted interventions and meet with the student individually.”

Diane Anderson, Special Education
(Sanborn Regional High School, New Hampshire)

How She’s Using CBE:

“A student in my class, M, is participating in an internship this year. Two of his classes will be ‘embedded’ into that internship, meaning they will be based on his internship experience. M’s internship involves building a bike trail and working on creating a bike park in the community. He participates in his internship for two hours each day and then returns to school. At school, M’s science class will relate to his internship by including topics such as soil erosion. His English class will include reading and writing assignments related to the topics he’s learning about in his internship.”

Why CBE Works for Students:

“CBE is a great system to deliver instruction to students because it makes clear what the student needs to be able to do. The students can then use multiple activities to demonstrate what they know. CBE makes it easier to be specific about where the child is struggling and where we can add more support. CBE allows students multiple ways to catch up if they can’t quite show their understanding of the material the way other students might.”

Robert Owen, Middle School ELA & Social Studies
(Lindsay School District, California)

How He’s Using CBE:

“I use CBE to keep better track of how each student is progressing individually. I have a data wall in my classroom. I also have an online system to let parents, students, and teachers know how students are doing on required competencies. This system helps students take ownership of their learning and allows teachers to communicate with students and give instant, individualized feedback.”

Why CBE Works for Students:

“I believe CBE is a great framework for students with learning and attention issues because it gives them ‘voice and choice’ in their learning. Students are able to express what they know in a variety of formats. For example, one of our students, T, is able to learn the material during class. Then, once he is comfortable with it, he can submit a blog on his classroom website to show that he understands and has mastered the competency.”

Programs: