Skip to content Phone number 877-588-2502
Open Search Bar

Pros and Cons of Competency-Based Education

Students learn at their own pace with competency-based education (CBE) as opposed to moving with an entire group of students through material at the pace of the group. The focus on achievement and mastery of skills becomes more important than the length of time a subject receives. This is a bonus for students who have existing knowledge or who can quickly master a topic because it means they can move forward without waiting. And it's also a bonus for students who may need a little more time to achieve mastery.

Instead of assigning a grade at the end of a semester, regardless of whether the student has mastered all of the material in the course, competency-based achievement signals a student's mastery of the material and readiness to move forward.

For educational institutions, this means finding a way to measure effectiveness and provide proof that a CBE credential is as valid as a grade point average.

Some Pros of Competency-Based Education

Flexibility is the key here. It's a perfect solution for self-directed learners. Students have much more control over their learning process and can skip right to assessment on topics they already know. This is a time- and money-saving approach.

Instructors take on a role that is more coaching and mentoring with less time spent managing due dates and grading papers for all students at once. Some CBE programs include mentors who can help teachers work one-on-one with students as needed to master a specific skill or topic.

Some Cons of Competency-Based Education

Not all students thrive in an environment without deadlines to keep them on track. It can be easy for them to fall behind. Some students prefer a group learning environment and feel frustrated and isolated in a CBE environment. CBE environments require students to be motivated and self-directed.

For teachers, identifying and agreeing upon which skills and competencies demonstrate mastery can be a challenge. Assessing students and tracking their performance depends on clearly stated goals. And, as in a traditional classroom scenario, teachers will need to determine how to provide support to struggling students while not ignoring the self-starters. Teachers also need to adapt course material for students to move through at all different speeds.

Making the transition from long-established methods of instruction, assessment and reporting to any new model takes time and presents challenges. Each institution will have its own unique mission that CBE policies will have to support, and not all fields are well-suited to this type of program.

Shaping the Future of Education

For those who want to implement, construct and evaluate curricula and design multiple forms of assessment, master qualitative research skills and more, the University of West Florida (UWF) offers a fully online Doctor of Education in Curriculum and Instruction/Curriculum and Assessment program. This top-ranked Ed.D. program gives students the flexibility to earn an advanced degree on their own schedule.

Learn more about the UWF Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction/Curriculum and Assessment online program.


NEO Blog: The Pros and Cons of Competency-Based Education

Focus EduSolutions: Competency-Based Education: Is It Right for Your Institution?

Have a question or concern about this article? Please contact us.

Request Information
*All fields required.
or call 877-588-2502
By submitting this form, I am providing my digital signature agreeing that the University of West Florida (UWF) may email me or contact me regarding educational services by telephone and/or text message utilizing automated technology at the telephone number(s) provided above. I understand this consent is not a condition to attend UWF or to purchase any other goods or services.