Competency-Based Education Pt. 2: Competencies in a Hierarchical Structure

By October 16, 2017 No Comments

In working with Competency Frameworks, grasping the competency rules is helpful to gaining a more comprehensive understanding of the hierarchical structure. It’s easy to understand a simple competency setup where competencies are at the same level and completion of that competency from a course triggers the completion of the competency within a learning plan.

But most of what people have in mind is more complex than that. We want to see progress toward the competencies either in building to proficiency in a single competency or acquiring multiple skills or competencies toward a broader level. Competency rules let you add some of that complexity into the equation.

We’ll use the following competency framework to illustrate, and our example will not involve manual reviews.

cbe hierarchy

In this trimmed down example, we have a Main competency with two sub competencies that each have two foundational competencies or skills. We’ll set up rules so that the foundational competencies are automatically rated foundational, and completion of both foundational competencies automatically triggers a Basic rating for the Sub competency. We will also establish rules so that completion of the two Sub competencies triggers completion of the Main competency with an Advanced rating.

How Scales Matter

A scale determines how proficiency is marked for a competency, and the first step to building out competency frameworks is to select or build the appropriate scale. Keep in mind that at least for now, completion of activities triggers competencies.

In the case of the default competency scale the levels are complete/not complete. If completion of a course or activity automatically marks the competency as complete the learner will never see the not complete rating unless there is a manual review or override.

Most competency frameworks benefit from custom scales that align with your existing nomenclature or the way you want these reflected to the learners. Some examples of those are:

  • Not yet competent, Competent
  • Working on, Demonstrates underlying goals
  • NE (not evidence), NY (not yet), D (developing), P (proficient)
  • Unsatisfactory, Inconsistent, Effective, Highly Effective, Exceptional
  • Foundational, Basic, Advanced

When you add a competency to the framework, you have the option to select your scale, and then it needs to be configured to mark as you expect. There are two options you want to define—the default rating and the ratings that trigger proficiency.

The item selected as the “Default” is the rating given when completion of an activity or course automatically marks a competency. The items selected as “Proficient” are the ratings that trigger a yes/no letting the learner know if their current level is an indicator of proficiency.

When adding a new competency, options are available to inherit the scale and settings from the framework or set it to something different. You could select a whole other scale, but in our example, we’ve used the same scale and adjusted the default and proficiency settings for the Main, Sub, and Foundational competencies.

In the screenshot below from our example for the sub-competencies we’ve selected “Basic” as the default scale value, while marking Foundational, Basic, and Advanced as levels for proficiency.

cbe level scale

Competency Rules

If a competency has sub-competencies, you can configure the completion rule for the competency. If not specified, no rules are applied so the competencies are triggered the same as other competencies by completion of the course and activities that are linked. The default rule used in our example is “Completed when all sub-competencies are complete.”

cbe competency rules

In this case for the Sub competencies we have not linked courses or activities to this competency, but instead will use mastery of the foundational (or child) competencies to trigger the Basic level of mastery. Likewise, we used Basic mastery of the Sub competencies to mark Advanced mastery of the Main competency once the Sub competencies are rated.

The screenshot below is for a learner who has completed Foundation 1, 3, and 4 competencies. Since 3 and 4 are both marked complete with a Foundational rating Sub2 is automatically marked with a Basic rating. Sub1 is not yet rated or marked proficient since Foundation 2 is not yet rated. Once the learner has a rating for Foundation 2, Sub1 will be marked Basic and Main will be marked Advanced.

cbe learning plan competencies

In a similar example, you could have a set of child competencies where the default might be ‘working on’ then once they collect all the child competencies the parent competency default is ‘complete’ or ‘demonstrates underlying goals.’

The other main competency rule option is to use points-based criteria. In the example shown below, there is a parent competency with five child competencies. On the parent competency, we’ve defined a competency rule to mark it as complete when the learner has completed four points worth. All five of these child competencies use the three-level scale we discussed earlier and trigger a Foundational rating. Apart from that, we’re able to give each competency a distinct point value within the competency rule.

cbe competency rules

You’ll notice for the five competencies, two are low value and only worth 1 point each, two are mid value and worth 2 points each, and one is a higher value and worth 4 points. In this example, maybe Option 5 is a day-long course with a known effectiveness covering lots of material about the parent competency. Options 3 and 4 might be courses with several exercises and assessments but are less intensive, and Options 1 and 2 might be just an assessment. Requiring 4 points allows the learner to mix and match so they could fulfill this competency by:

  • attending the day long course
  • completing Option 3 and 4
  • completing Options 1 and 2 plus one of 3 or 4

This is just one example of how the points-based rule could be applied to automatically mark completion.

Options other than completing the competency

For the examples presented here, we’ve considered only options to automatically mark completion. It’s not always the case this is the best or only option.

In working with competencies and developing frameworks and learning plans, also consider times when it may be more appropriate to simply attach evidence or recommend a competency. When a completion rule triggers a recommendation, the evidence will be added to the competency, and the system will request a review of this competency by a person with the appropriate role.

As we began to discuss here, and in our post about Competency-Based Education Pt. 1: What is it and how is it being used in Moodle?, these automated triggers are perfect for many applications, but reviewers can do more in-depth evaluation to elevate ratings and provide specific feedback to learners.

More on Competencies

You can also watch check out eThink’s presentation at the 2017 U.S. Moodle Moot on Forging a Path with Competency Based Education by our Vice President of Services, Courtney Bentley, and Director of Support Services, Claire Machia!

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