What’s All the Buzz About Competency Based Education? Part 1

This article is originally published on the blog of ABHE President Dr. Ralph Enlow

If you are not aware of the contemporary surge of interest in Competency-Based Education, you should be. Fresh interest in CBE is being driven by innovators at the institutional level but also by policy-makers at the national and international levels. One institution with a historical connection to ABHE is at the forefront of the CBE conversation. Northwest Baptist Seminary (BC) is one of two ATS-accredited seminaries that has been granted special experimental permission to develop a credible approach to accredited CBE. Over the next 4 months, I will be posting excerpts of an interview with Northwest Baptist Seminary President Kent Anderson and Director of Competency Based Theological Education, Ruth McGillivray, about this innovative approach and how you can become informed and involved.

Ralph: What are the essential features of and arguments in favor of CBTE?

Kent Anderson & Ruth McGillvray: Competency-based theological education (CBTE) is an educational approach that bases program and curricular design on demonstrating mastery of the competencies required to be successful in a targeted vocation or ministry role. People sometimes call CBTE programs “reverse-engineered” because program design starts with the desired end result—as defined by practitioners and employers—and works backward from there.

The key distinction between CBTE and traditional course-based programs is that CBTE programs award credit based on demonstrated competency, not completed courses. In course-based programs, students can receive a passing grade in every class without mastering key concepts or skills. This doesn’t happen in CBTE programs because competencies are assessed holistically and directly, rather than by proxy through exams, courses and papers.

Northwest’s CBTE programs focus on mentored mastery in-context. Students don’t take courses, but rather are guided through a process of learning and development by a dedicated mentor team while they work in their chosen ministry. This way, learning, application, assessment and mentoring occurs in the context of real-world situations. Students graduate as proven leaders, trained holistically in-context in the knowledge, skills, and character traits they need to prosper in their callings.

(click here to read the rest of the interview)

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