Competency-Based Education - Empowering Students to Improve Grades Post Covid-19 School Shutdowns

The Covid-19 pandemic significantly disrupted traditional education systems worldwide. The sudden shift to remote learning presented numerous challenges for educators and students alike and resulted in a widespread decrease in academic performance and a widening of many pre-existing learning gaps. One effective recovery approach has been competency-based education. Competency-based education’s focus on clear learning goals, targeted and timely feedback, and valid and reliable assessment and grading practices was helping to improve student achievement and close learning gaps prior to the pandemic, and CBE has emerged as a leader in empowering students to regain their academic footing and thrive post-Covid-19.

Tailored Learning Experience
At the heart of competency-based education is the belief that a student’s academic advancement should be predicated on their achievement. This is a simple and equitable concept, but delivering on that promise necessitates a set of clear and comprehensive learning goals, an assessment and grading system that delivers valid, reliable, and timely data about each student’s achievements and needs, and educators who understand how to facilitate individualized learning plans within a CBE system. By gathering the best data and delivering targeted feedback, teachers can equitably support each student as they recover from the pandemic.

Clear Learning Objectives
A competency-based approach sets clear learning objectives for each subject and each grade or level. These objectives provide students with a roadmap for what they need to achieve, making their academic goals more attainable. With a well-defined path, students can focus their efforts, track their progress, and feel a sense of accomplishment as they successfully meet each objective. This clarity of purpose motivates students and instills a growth mindset, encouraging them to strive for continuous improvement.

Structured Assessment and Feedback
Teachers in a CBE system utilize traditional quizzes and tests as well as alternative forms of assessment such as probing discussions to provide both formal and informal assessments almost each day. They are also practiced at using the information gleaned from this data to provide constructive feedback about areas of strength and weakness to each student, enabling them to refine their study strategies and prioritize areas that require additional attention. This iterative process of assessment and feedback promotes a cycle of improvement. CBE teachers then analyze collected data to determine a student’s true level of competency regarding a particular learning objective. When competency in enough objectives has been achieved, the teacher is able to facilitate student advancement regardless of the time of year. This means that students can work at their own pace.

Agency and Growth Mindset
In a true CBE system, students take almost complete ownership of their achievement and progress. They have the ability and freedom to design and schedule their own assessments, and they can provide the teacher with input about their own level of knowledge and skill. Giving students agency over their own education is particularly important in a post-pandemic world, where they often feel they have very little control over anything in their lives.

Competency-based education is a powerful tool to help students rebound from the challenges posed by Covid-19 school shutdowns. By offering tailored learning experiences, clear objectives, structured assessments, and a focus on student agency, this approach empowers students to improve their grades and regain their academic momentum. As we navigate the post-pandemic world, prioritizing competency-based education will play a crucial role in addressing learning gaps, building resilience, and ensuring students’ success. By embracing this approach, we can equip students with the skills and knowledge they need to thrive in the face of future disruptions and emerge as resilient learners.

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