What Is Competency-Based Education? An Updated Definition

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This report updates the field’s 2011 working definition of competency-based education, which helped to build the field and create common understandings of key elements in competency-based systems among stakeholders. Competency-based education is being implemented at deeper levels in more schools every year. It is a major shift in school culture, structures, and pedagogy focused on ensuring that all students succeed and addressing the fundamental shortcomings of the traditional model.

Eight years after creating the original working definition, feedback from across the field indicated a need for an update to reflect a deeper understanding of key issues and new developments. This report presents the new definition, which was developed with extensive input from invited attendees at the second National Summit on K-12 Competency-Based Education and from a technical advisory group of more than 40 experts and leaders in the field. It also includes a set of belief statements, answers to frequently asked questions, and a brief discussion of common misconceptions about competency-based education. These provide essential context for understanding the definition and the field in which it is situated. Finally, resources are provided for additional exploration of competency-based education policies and practices.


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