New educational models are constantly emerging in search of greater efficiency in the transmission of knowledge to students.
One of the most recent is the skills-based approach. With this article, we can better understand the basics of this methodology and thus discover the immense potential of this technique, already used in many educational institutions.
What is the skills-based approach?
The competency-based approach or competency-based learning is a pedagogical methodology whose foundation is to facilitate this students acquire the content of each subject through practical situations and experimental environments. This system is therefore opposed to classic teaching models in which a program is presented in a highly theoretical way and students have to memorize the data and then be evaluated.
One can easily appreciate, from this comparison, that the skills-based approach follows a much more dynamic and participatory methodology for students, Be an active part during the acquisition of knowledge and not simple passive subjects who attend the lesson of the teacher, which can be more or less pleasant, but under a rigid methodology and without much possibility of interaction .
It has been shown that these traditional methodologies, based solely on the memory capacity of the students, are not a fully efficient system and do not produce a quality treatment of this knowledge, which in the long run can be greatly altered. However, methods that involve the implementation of the subjects taught, such as the skills-based approach, are more conducive to the acquisition and retention of knowledge.
For example, during assessment, traditional methods opt for an exam or test to assess what you have learned, or in fact, how much he was able to memorizeAs in many tests, you don’t even need to reason about the concepts being studied, but simply capture them as they appear in the textbook or as dictated by the teacher during the corresponding lesson.
In contrast, with the competency-based assessment approach, assessment tests are practical activities in which the student must actively demonstrate that he has acquired these skills, and he does so through a test which inevitably implies having attained the competence required to be able to pass it satisfactorily.
How to implement it in the educational context?
We already know what the basis of the competency-based approach is. Now we might ask ourselves how it is possible to implement this model, since the teaching subjects are very varied and do not apparently all fit into this system of practical evaluation that we have described. The key to this is in the concept of prior modularization of education.
What does it mean? That all the content that we want to transmit to the students must be, first of all, divided into its simplest parts, in order to be able to transfer progressively. In this way, until the student has acquired the most basic skills of a specific subject, he will not move on to the following ones, which need the previous ones as a basis to be able to be understood and assimilated in their entirety.
This system offers an advantage over the traditional model, which usually involves a cascade of data in which it is not difficult for the so-called snowball effect to occur. This happens when a student is struggling to understand a very specific point in the lesson and it means that they are not properly digesting everything that comes after because it is a cumulative problem. This leads to frustration and loss of interest.
On the contrary, with the skills-based approach, until the pupil has shown that he has correctly assimilated the material exposed, he will not advance to the next level.. In this way, no student is left behind and at the same time personalized support is offered to everyone. If any of them are having difficulty at any point, we will know exactly which competition is affected and we will be able to help them.
Continuous assessment system
This also results in recoveries. In the usual system, if a student fails in a subject, he is obliged to re-prepare it in its entirety to be assessed in a supplemental examination. The skills-based approach has another proposal: if a student has failed the test for a specific skill or knowledge, we will suggest a test to be re-assessed in that particular part.
It would therefore govern the system of continuous evaluation, in the face of the unique development which is emerging in a large number of university establishments. What is avoided with this methodology is that the student is a passive entity who only tries to assimilate knowledge at the last minute, trying to memorize a complete program in order to be able to pass the proposed test.
And even if he succeeds, that does not guarantee quality learning by far. On the other hand, if we use the competency-based approach and offer assessments in each knowledge module, we will make sure that the students have fully internalized the questions we have asked them before moving on to the next phase, for which there is no risk. to experience the snowball effect of a concept that they did not fully understand at one point.
Is this a new methodology?
If we reflect on the principles laid down by the competency-based approach, we will realize that in reality this style of teaching is not something new, as it is the methodology commonly used to facilitate the learning of competences. or techniques, such as playing an instrument. , practice a sport or a martial art, different dance styles, learn to use a program or a machine or learn to drive.
It is therefore not that the competency-based approach offers a revolutionary idea, but it is is a great opportunity to take advantage of a methodology that has proven useful for teaching techniques and transfer it to regulated educational institutions. In fact, in recent years this has been done in many of them.
For example, the concept of continuous assessment is common in schools. If the number of final exams is always maintained, it is true that throughout the course, it is common to take partial tests which sometimes even free the student from having to re-study the subjects included, in case of success in the exam. . In other cases, these partial checks are also carried out but the final test is maintained, with the complete syllabus.
even in the university field, traditionally the most rigid in this respect and using standardized tests at the end of the semester to rapidly assess large numbers of students, the system was changed through the implementation of the Bologna Plan, a standardization at European level that was completed in 2012.
One of the pillars of the Bologna Plan is precisely the continuous assessment system it proposes, which is fully in line with the competency-based approach. Not only that, but it also gives great importance to practical teaching, so it meant a change from classic master classes, where the student remained passive, as we have already mentioned.
This way, theoretical lessons continue to be provided, but increasingly supported by practical learning, Where each student must show that he is able to achieve what the teacher has previously explained to him in class. Likewise, if you are struggling to overcome a practice, the teacher will give you the guidelines you need to do so, so you shouldn’t get stuck in the process.
Criticisms of the competency-based approach
Despite all the advantages of the competency-based approach, some authors do not entirely agree that it is of such a useful and innovative methodology. This is the case, for example, of Ángel Díaz, who asks whether in reality skills-based learning is nothing more than an illusion of change. To begin with, he states that the very term “skills” raises doubts, as there is no standardized classification of these..
Doubts also arise as to the ability of the school system to fully adopt such a practical methodology when much content is theoretical and requires a more traditional method in this regard. It is therefore difficult to create a program design based on this set of skills, which one does not even quite know what they are, beyond very general concepts.
However, it recognizes the advantages in some respects and the potential of the competency-based approach, if a satisfactory method of integrating it into the education system is found.
- Díaz, Á. (2006). The skills-based approach in education: an alternative or a disguise of change ?. Educational profiles.
- Perrenoud, P. (2009). Competency-based approach, a response to academic failure? Social pedagogy. Interuniversity magazine.
- Rodríguez, RL, García, MM (2007). Collection of strategies within the framework of the competency-based approach. Sonoran Institute of Technology.
- Roda, M. (2009). The evaluation of pedagogical performance: considerations of the competency-based approach. Electronic journal of educational research.