Competency Based Education Part 5: Assessment and Progression

“If everyone in the learning process knows what the goal is, students will take more ownership of their own learning and teachers will be better able to assess their progress towards the learning goals.”

North American April 7, 2022

Because competency-based education (CBE) focuses on mastery of competencies, not merely retention of information, assessment and progression are handled quite differently in CBE than they are in traditional educational models.

Formative and Summative Assessment 

CBE needs robust assessment and evaluative frameworks that are equally accessible to both students and teachers. Expectations should be clear to all involved; nothing should be a surprise. It’s much like going on a road trip: if you do not know the specific details about the destination, there’s a higher chance of getting lost on the way. If everyone in the learning process knows what the goal is, students will take more ownership of their own learning and teachers will be better able to assess their progress towards the learning goals. Formative feedback should be frequent and specific, while summative assessments should be administered carefully and only when students are prepared to demonstrate mastery. 

A key part of the formative assessment in CBE comes in the form of student reflection. Student reflection is the practice of writing or orally reflecting on the learning process and identifying strengths, gaps, and areas for improvement. Reflection is a personal and professional skill that can be developed and strengthened early on through the use of CBE. 

Summative evaluation focuses on the evaluation of knowledge, skills, and attitudes developed. These assessments are based on the development of aligned student learning outcomes that are observable and measurable in assignments, rubrics, projects, and tests. Competencies statements lend themselves nicely to assignment rubric creation and test question generation. 


In CBE, students advance based on mastery of content, not seat time or calendar year. Progression is based on measurement of learning gains. This requires building pacing and agility into the curriculum according to learning to help accommodate the length of time it takes individual students to learn concepts (DLN, 2015). Flexibility in time and resources is critical. Those seriously planning on implementing CBE need to consider a more agile education approach with design to proficiency, such as year-round education, increased utilization of digital online resources/approaches, and collaborative teaching (DLN, 2015). Benchmark effectiveness needs to be focused on cost effectiveness instead of time spent, resulting in measurements of student achievement as the benchmark, not time passing (DLN, 2015).  

Assessment and progression are important aspects of any well-designed CBE program. Carefully planning these aspects will allow for effective CBE implementation.

This is article is the fift part of a series of six articles. Watch for the final part next week!

Read part 1

Read part 2

Read part 3

Read part 4


Sharon Aka

Sharon, PhD, is a consultant full time, currently working for 4 organizations: Adjunct Faculty at Andrews University in the graduate leadership department, Adjunct faculty at Notre Dame of Maryland University - leading their School of Nursing Competency-based Curriculum Revisioning, a researcher and author with the NAD Center for Research and Evaluation, and works half time for the General Conference as a contractor with the Virtual Exhibition Team and the Adventist COLLECTIVE. Sharon worked as the Associate Director of the Adventist Learning Community & Associate Director for the North American Division Office of Education. Sharon is a Registered Nurse by trade, with 16 years experience as Surgical Nurse and Nurse Educator at The Scarborough Hospital in Toronto, Ontario. She also has 11 years experience as a Professor of Nursing and Professional Development Specialist for faculty at Humber Institute of Technology & Advanced Learning in Toronto, Ontario.

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