Competency based educationAll aboard?

In my previous post, I attempted to summarize the arguments for and against the emerging Competency Based Education (CBE) phenomenon that is gaining momentum in North American higher education. How should we respond to this phenomenon? In my opinion, we should thoughtfully welcome this development, seeking both to get ahead of the curve and to shape its trajectory. Why? First, because the concerns driving this trend are legitimate and long standing. Second, because infusion of CBE into the higher education landscape is inevitable. And third, because CBE offers great opportunity to collaborate and innovate in ministry formation and leadership development.

For good reason

Writing about the implicit time-as-constant, achievement-as-variable structure of higher education in my 1988 doctoral dissertation, I asserted:

Colleges exhibit scant modesty regarding their effects on students. The substantial investment required to obtain a college education indicates that not a few believe that the investment garners a significant return. But the times have caught up with our colleges. A sophisticated and skeptical public demands solid evidence that colleges actually accomplish their ends. Traditional methods of assessing quality such as reputational studies, regional accreditation, and composite student input characteristics leave unanswered questions about the real performance of colleges.

So you can see that the underlying concern over the disconnect between time spent and learning documented has been around for decades. It is finally coming to a boil. And I believe it will result in change of yet-to-be-determined shape and magnitude. If you affirm the critique, why not embrace the change?

No looking back

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching is calling for replacement of the century-old “Carnegie unit” with “more informative measures of student performance.” During the past year, the CBE conversation has moved beyond the advocacy to the policy stage. The US Department of Education as well as several Canadian provincial higher education authorities have developed incentives and signaled that they are prepared to allocate funding for those who take initiative in developing and accommodating Competency Based Education. I predict that mandates are on the way. We can either react with reluctance to the mandates, or position our institutions to benefit from them.

Don’t miss the boat

As the predominant ministry emergence pattern shifts from pre-service credentialing to in-service equipping, enormous opportunities exist for those who collaborate with non-formal educators in forging ways to document knowledge and skill achievement and to incorporate them into our transfer credit and degree curricula requirements. It is past time that we view church-based ministry leader development initiatives as potential collaborators rather than as pesky competitors. The principles and best practices of Competency Based Education could well represent a pathway and platform upon which to build bridges of beautiful collaboration. Are you a CBE conversation catalyst on your campus? I believe you should be.

Fresh gleanings to fuel your leadership awareness, reflection, and conversations …

ABHE COA paves the way for CBE 

Speaking of Competency Based Education, ABHE’s own Commission on Accreditation is paving a path for member colleges who are ready to embrace CBE and help shape its trajectory. Check out COA Director, Ron Kroll’s call for comment relative to the COA’s proposed CBE policy guidelines.

Not so fast 

If you are interested in a more skeptical perspective on higher education’s problems and the many calls for reforms, you will want to know about this new book by veteran education scholars and college presidents William Bowen and Michael McPherson.

Unprecedented political climate? Hardly …

Calm down, populist social foment has cycled for millennia, observes the wise and witty pastor John Ortberg. Ortberg suggests you might recognize parallel elements of today’s populist political furor in Jesus’ early ministry. The path to social justice and personal well being Jesus counseled and chose for Himself stands in stark contrast to the conventional political rhetoric of His day and ours. “Odd,” Ortberg remarks, “how we live in a world where that subject keeps coming up.”