What is Competency-Based Education?
Competency-Based Education (CBE) is not new; however, it is only in the past few years that this modality has gained importance in the national and international conversation on student success, retention, and employability. CBE is a system of transparent learning outcomes — some refer to CBE as Outcomes-Based Education. While learning outcomes are necessary as they state what skills the students will have at the time they complete or exit the course, CBE tests how the student can apply these outcomes and the skills learned in the program.
The distinction between Learning Outcomes and Competencies
To be clear, there is a distinction between learning outcomes and competencies. Traditionally, the higher education system has relied on learning outcomes as the key drivers of the classroom experience. Learning outcomes describe what the students should learn in the course and the competency-based approach gives the educator pedagogical tools to verify that learning. A competency-based approach enables a student and educator to provide proof of learning.
Why CBE at TIEP
The Technical Institute for Environmental Professions (TIEP) is dedicated to providing focused, affordable pathways to professional certificates and Associate degrees. Using a competency-based design approach, TIEP will create skills-based pathways to a career, not just a job. Our employer-validated competencies will be embedded into stackable degrees and certificates. Further, a focus on professional skills combined with career services and employer partnerships will drive the curricular design.
In May, I joined Unity College to lead the TIEP. What drew me to Unity College was the focus on access, equity, student success, career pathways, focus on a high-quality curriculum, and visionary leadership. My own expertise lies in building rigorous, well-designed competency-based programs, workforce alignments, and robust student success models. Currently, I serve on the Board of Directors of the Competency-Based Education Network, an organization that advocates for, and influences policy related to, competency-based education.
Having worked at community colleges for over two decades — both as a faculty member and an administrator — I understand the need to align student learning with employer requirements. Further, I am keenly aware of the constraints and needs of the adult student population. Diversity and Inclusion are more than buzzwords to me. In my past role, I worked hard to increase the number of women in the computer science program and succeeded.
I look forward to welcoming you to the TIEP and helping you get to the next step in, or start, your professional journey!
Dr. Amardeep Kahlon
Dean of the Technical Institute for Environmental Professions