A Framework for the Evaluation of Competency-Based Curriculum

A Framework for the Evaluation of Competency-Based Curriculum

Devrim Ozdemir (Des Moines University, USA) and Carla Stebbins (Des Moines University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0932-5.ch013
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Competency-based education is still at its early stages considering the lack of commonly accepted best practices to develop, implement and most importantly evaluate competency-based curriculum. This chapter proposes an evaluation framework for the competency-based curriculum as a result of authors' experience with a fully developed and implemented competency-based curriculum in a Master of Healthcare Administration program. In this chapter, authors will revisit the important concepts about competency-based education and curriculum evaluation. Authors will provide operational definitions and a framework for the evaluation of competency-based curriculum. The goal of this chapter is to provide guidance to the competency-based degree programs during the evaluation of competency-based curriculum for continuous quality improvement.
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As an introduction to the chapter, this section briefly reviews the current literature on the concepts of competency, competency models, and the structure of competency-based education programs; the development of competency-based curriculum; and the use of curriculum evaluation models regardless of the program structure (competency-based or credit-based). It is important to understand these main concepts before implementing an evaluation framework. Without this understanding, it will be difficult for practitioners to develop a meaningful evaluation framework of their own or to incorporate this one into a competency-based curriculum or corresponding degree programs.

The actual concept of competence goes to the “Code of Hammurabi” written between 1792 and 1750 B.C. (Mulder, Weigel, & Collins, 2007). Since then, as is true for many social constructs, the language and practice around the concept of “competency” (i.e. the definitions and the interpretations of the concept) have been the subject of ongoing discussion in the literature. Perhaps most of the confusion is rooted in the fact that the concepts of “competence” and “competency” have often been used interchangeably, although they occasionally had different meaning and implications. For this reason, Le Deist and Winterton (2005) described “competency” as a “fuzzy” concept. They explained that the changing definitions of this “fuzzy” concept indicated the ideology and the emphasis behind it was also fuzzy. Depending on the dominant age (industrial vs. information), the dominant learning theories (behaviorism vs. cognitivism vs. social learning), and the domain (education vs. human resource development), the definitions and the terms (competency vs. competence) changed (Le Deist & Winterton, 2005). Woodruffe (1993) also distinguishes between them, describing ‘competency’ as a capacity, meaning what an incumbent needs to bring to the job environment to be successful in a particular job and ‘competence’ as a specific, current ability or set of skills that are necessary to perform the job successfully. Woodruffe (1993) further posited that, therefore, competency models should be less prescriptive and more future oriented highlighting the future capacity of an individual. Similar distinctions (i.e., capacity versus ability) were also made between actual and virtual competence (e.g., Jonnaert, Masciotra, Barrette, Morel, & Mane, 2007); curricular expectations vs. life-role expectations (e.g., Spady & Mitchell, 1977); and, manpower-centered vs. unique individual competencies (e.g., Moon, 2007).

Despite the confusion regarding the definitions of ‘competence’ and ‘competency’, there is an abundance of competency models that support a myriad of professions. According to CareerOneStop, a web-based career exploration resource developed by the US Department of Labor and Industry’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA) as part of its industry competency initiative, there are around 30 organizations providing competency models in the field of information technology alone (http://www.careeronestop.org). Close examination of these models reveals how the model developers approach the concept of competency as a current ability versus a future capacity. In many cases, competency refers to both the ability and capacity that the incumbent should demonstrate to be successful in a professional area. In addition to higher education, competency models are also used in employment and training administration (Ennis, 2008).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Measurable Indicator: Term used to represent the measurable components in competency-based curriculum such as competence, course objectives, and instructional objectives.

Curriculum Mapping: The activity of aligning the important components of a curriculum. The definition and the important components vary in different cases.

Course Objective: Course objectives are measurable objectives that the learner is expected to accomplish at the end of an instructional.

Instructional Objective: Similar to course objectives which are also used in the literature for different degree programs.

Competency-Based Education: Education that is structured on a competency model rather than credit hours or certain content themes. The educational program is deliberately designed, implemented, and evaluated based on the competencies that it is built on.

Summative Learning Assessment: The assessment conducted by the instructor to assess students learning on certain course or instructional objectives at the end of each instructional unit. There can more than summative learning assessments in one course.

Competence: Measurable knowledge, skills, and attitudes the learner should possess to be successful in the career. They are commonly used in medical education and vocational education.

Competency: Expected capacity the learner should build to be successful in his/her career. Competency is written in broader terms and are not directly measurable.

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