Administrator Credentials News

Can Competency-Based Assessment Move Us from Credit Hours to Competencies?

The EvoLLLution
Separating the executive and educational features of credit score hours is important to creating a postsecondary setting that’s really aware of the wants of recent and future learners.

It appears easy sufficient: Simply change from credit score hours to competencies. It appeared easy to Sally Johnstone, Peter Ewell and Karen Paulson once they wrote Scholar Studying as Educational Foreign money for the American Council on Schooling (ACE) in 2002 and up to date it in 2010. It appeared apparent to Amy Laitinen within the landmark Cracking the Credit score Hour in 2012. It appeared possible (sometime) to the Carnegie Basis in The Carnegie Unit: A Century Previous Commonplace in a Altering Schooling Panorama (whose advisory panel included Johnstone, Ewell and Laitinen) in 2015.

However greater than 16 years after Johnstone et al. felt that academia “could also be on the verge of an evolutionary change,” the change has but to occur. Why? As a result of it’s not a easy shift.

The credit score hour, also referred to as the Carnegie Unit, was established by the Carnegie Basis over a century in the past to point scholar readiness for school. Every unit indicated an quantity of educational time through which college students have been uncovered to material. It has by no means measured what college students discovered—it wasn’t meant to. On the time, this simplicity that made it the constructing block of recent American schooling. At this time it undergirds all the things from day by day faculty schedules to school workloads, federal monetary assist eligibility to commencement necessities. It’s “a standard foreign money that makes potential innumerable exchanges and interconnections amongst establishments” (Silva et al., 2015, p. 5).

Former Carnegie Basis President Lee Shulman summed up the problem thusly: “There’s nothing easy about measuring the standard of studying. The rationale for the robustness of the Carnegie Unit is just not that it’s the most effective measure, simply that it’s far more troublesome than people assume to exchange it.” Regardless of the difficulties, the US Division of Schooling proposed a reconsideration of the credit score hour in Winter 2018. Clearly, the time to speak about altering from the credit score hour to competencies has (once more) arrived.

The thought of utilizing a measure of studying as an alternative of a time-based proxy is just not novel. In 1984, the Involvement in Studying report referred to as for schools and universities to “set up and keep excessive requirements of scholar and institutional efficiency” (Nationwide Institute of Schooling, 1984, p. three).

Twenty years later, in 2005, then-Secretary of Schooling Margaret Spellings created the Fee on the Way forward for Larger Schooling, which reiterated the decision for establishments to measure scholar achievement and report “significant scholar studying outcomes” (US Division of Schooling, 2006, p. four). The standards for such outcomes have been articulated by the Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions, which launched a set of tips for establishments round specifying what college students ought to study by:

  1. Setting clear studying objectives, which converse to each content material and degree of attainment
  2. Amassing proof of aim attainment utilizing applicable evaluation instruments
  3. Making use of collective judgment as to the which means and utility of the proof
  4. Utilizing this proof to impact enhancements in its packages

However, it’s more and more evident that “the pliability of the credit score hour idea has reached its restrict” (Johnstone et al., 2010, p. four).  Even Carnegie concluded that “counting on the Carnegie Unit to measure the time that college students spend in programs as a proxy for scholar progress has resulted in inadequate consideration to what college students are literally studying, or not studying” (Silva et al., 2015, p. 14).

As a brand new regulatory window opens, we will agree that change is required. However, we have to ask ourselves: Are we in a greater place to think about altering educational foreign money than we have been up to now?  Has the work of teams like AAC&U, NILOA and the Competency-Based mostly Schooling Community (C-BEN) made a conversion extra possible?

Certainly, actions like AAC&U’s Liberal Schooling and America’s Promise and Legitimate Evaluation of Studying in Undergraduate Schooling, together with different thought-leading work akin to Lumina’s Diploma Qualifications Profile, have broadened and deepened the postsecondary business’s capability to explain and measure proficiency in educational efficiency. Particularly, the work of the Nationwide Institute for Studying Outcomes Evaluation (NILOA) on the IUPUI Evaluation Institute and the Affiliation for the Evaluation of Studying in Larger Schooling continues to construct understanding and drive the power to measure the unmeasurable nuances of postsecondary schooling.

The CBEN High quality Framework for Competency-Based mostly Schooling Packages and the attendant High quality Framework Consumer’s Information have elevated the sector’s understanding and skill to handle competency-based schooling (CBE) successfully and with a excessive diploma of high quality assurance. The Experimental Websites Initiative (ESI), launched by the US Division of Schooling in 2014, has additionally helped to discover and tackle (if not utterly clear up) points of monetary help and credit score hour accounting for direct evaluation CBE packages. Working with the Southern Affiliation of Schools and Faculties Fee on Schools (SACS-COC), a gaggle of states established accreditation tips for CBE packages that didn’t depend on direct evaluation.

What is clear from all this thought and work is that two important developments are wanted: The decoupling of administrative makes use of from educational makes use of of the credit score hour; and a shift from measuring seat-time to assessing competency.

Whereas the Carnegie Fee recognized areas the place the Carnegie Unit was impeding innovation, additionally they identified that “abruptly eliminating the Carnegie Unit would make it very troublesome for establishments and college students, educators, and directors to perform effectively … No matter challenges the Carnegie Unit might pose, in its absence there can be no widespread language to arrange the work of education and … nobody understands this problem higher than the varsity and school directors who depend on the Carnegie Unit to handle institutional funds and scholar data” (Silva et al., 2015, p. 30).

That stated, establishments are discovering artistic methods to beat this problem. In a rising variety of instances, establishments are protecting credit score hours to handle administrative (and monetary help) processes, then mapping or aligning these hours to assessments of educational competencies. Western Governors College, Capella College and Southern New Hampshire College have all instituted competency fashions whereas managing their administrative processes, complying with federal necessities and producing conventional transcripts. These types of dual-reporting techniques are additionally rising within the Okay-12 sector as properly. So, this decoupling of the executive and educational makes use of of the Carnegie Unit can now be executed and “doesn’t tear asunder the present mannequin of educational accounting with respect to both credentialing or value” (Johnstone et al., 2010 p. 13).

Pivot from Measuring Seat-Time to Assessing Competency

Probably the most adventurous mannequin of CBE is direct evaluation, the place college students work by way of tasks utilizing quite a lot of studying assets and actions, and take assessments on the finish of every unit to find out if they’ve mastered the competencies wanted to move the unit. As Laitinen famous in Cracking the Credit score Hour, “if crafted nicely, direct evaluation might open area for high-performing, progressive establishments and accreditors to create a greater mannequin for a way we measure and pay for studying” (p. 21).

What the direct evaluation mannequin demonstrates very clearly is that the measurement of studying is deeply dependent upon the standard and validity of the assessments. Shifting from clock hours to an evaluation of studying would require that we confront a clumsy fact in educating: Since solely the school member who taught the course is aware of what was taught, solely the school member can devise the evaluation to validate what the scholar discovered. When the credit score hour was time-based, this variability was acceptable. However when monetary help can be paid based mostly on competencies achieved as an alternative of time spent studying, the evaluation requires elevated proof of causality.

As Carnegie notes, attaining this trusted proof of studying will “require requirements that clearly outline rigorous expectations and function the idea for equally demanding assessments that reveal college students’ precise studying” (Silva et al., 2015, p. 14).  One device shall be rubrics, that are an more and more widespread solution to improve rigor and consistency throughout assessments. They’re important to objectifying and constructing belief in CBE assessments.

The central concern we have to confront is our (solely justified) worry of standardized testing. A part of this comes from complicated requirements with standardized.  Whereas each postsecondary schooling program and course has a constant set of studying outcomes (requirements) a scholar should obtain to graduate, each course and educational mannequin needn’t be mandated (standardized) to be precisely the identical. “Requirements,” as Rob In a position, CEO of IMS International, has stated, “are the important thing to agility.”  Having consensual, fastened studying outcomes and legitimate assessments that precisely measure and guarantee mastery, and map again to these meant outcomes, opens the door to far more versatile and clear school innovation than our present fashions help.

Transparency is totally different from widespread—and standardized—as exemplified by the Transparency in Studying and Educating in Greater Schooling (TILT Larger Ed) program that helps school design and implement a clear educating framework. It promotes a scholar’s acutely aware understanding of how they study and helps school to collect, share and promptly profit from present knowledge about college students’ studying.

The place Do We Go From Right here?

The concept shifting from time-based to competency-based measures of evaluation will present a extra clear and correct report of what a scholar has discovered has been on the desk for greater than twenty years. We don’t want to vary all the things—we have to change the correct issues. I contend that our confirmed capability to separate the executive from the tutorial makes use of of credit score hours will allow us to lastly transfer our educational measuring stick from the handy to the competent.

Because the Carnegie Fee said: “As these new techniques show themselves, the reliance on the Carnegie Unit as a proxy for scholar studying might start to decrease. On this context, the Carnegie Unit at present is extra of a bridge to the longer term than a barrier from the previous” (Silva, et al., 2015, p. 33).

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“Negotiated Rulemaking Committee; Public Hearings.” Federal Register (July 31, 2018).

Johnstone, S., Ewell, P., & Paulson, Okay., (2010). American Council on Schooling, Middle for Coverage Analysis and Technique, One Dupont Circle NW Washington, DC.

Laitinen, A., (2012). Cracking the Credit score Hour. New America Basis, Washington, D.C..

Nationwide Archives and Data Administration, “Division of Schooling: Program Integrity Points,” Federal Register 75 (209) (October 29, 2010): http://www.

Nationwide Institute of Schooling. (1984). Involvement in Studying: Realizing the Potential of American Larger Schooling. Washington, D.C..

Regional Accreditation and Scholar Studying: A Information for Establishments and Evaluators, (2004). Council of Regional Accreditation Commissions


Silva, E., White, T., & Toch, T., (2015). The Carnegie Unit: A Century Previous Commonplace in a Altering Schooling Panorama. Carnegie Basis for the Development of Educating, Washington, D.C.

US Division of Schooling. (2006). A Check of Management: Charting the Way forward for U.S. Larger Schooling. Washington, D.C.

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