Competency Based Education Part 6: College and Career Readiness

CBE may be the foundation employees need to onboard rapidly and develop quickly into competent professionals.

Teaching April 14, 2022

CBE is set up to provide students with college and career readiness through the development of knowledge, skills, and attitudes (DLN, 2015). This requires educators to move beyond traditional success measurements such as GPA or standardized test scores and focus on creating a wholistic approach to student learning where knowledge, skills, and attitudes are equally considered.

More and more higher education programs are transitioning to a CBE model, especially in STEM areas. Medicine, nursing, and other healthcare professions are realizing the benefit of CBE in preparing students for professional success. Competencies developed in college and university programs underpin professional practice and can be aligned with current practice. This is a shift from an era when education was focused on ‘input’, as opposed to CBE which is focused on ‘output’ (van der Vleuten, 2015). Student learning outcomes in CBE higher education programs are competency focused, including application and knowledge creation balanced with skill development and attitude maturation (Bailey et al, 2015; AACN, 2021). Integrating CBE elements in elementary and high school can help prepare students for these programs in college. 

CBE impacts the professional environment in positive ways as well. Employers hiring new graduates from CBE programs know exactly what they are getting specific to the competencies of the program. CBE allows higher education institutions to ensure graduates from their programs have the skills necessary to effectively transition from student to professional. 


Organizational, bureaucratic, or state policies or requirements can cause problems with full CBE implementation. However, CBE is a valuable educational approach and should be implemented as far as possible even if it cannot be implemented fully. In higher education, for example, CBE is already being delivered in many areas, minus the component of agile timeframes because it is delivered within a semester timeframe to abide with accreditation requirements. Funding support to promote innovation can also be an issue. Adequate funding models to support equitable, agile learning environments that maximize CBE potential need to be explored with a diverse group of stakeholders (DLN, 2015). 

There are benefits of CBE for teachers, students, parents, programs or schools, and employers. Maximizing student learning through proficiency-based progression across multi-year timelines can result in competency mastery, knowledge retention, and highly developed critical thinking and reflective practice skills which are vital in the professional work environment. In the complex, rapidly changing work environment of the 21st century, CBE may be the foundation employees need to onboard rapidly and develop quickly into competent professionals.  

Additional Reading

For educators in the United States, there are resources specific to federal and state policies related to CBE at the K-12 levels on the following websites, along with funding information and much more.

  •  Competency Works Blog. Here you can find out how to get started, effective change and innovation in curriculum design and teaching and learning strategies, issues in practice, and stories of leaders in the field.
  • Digital Learning Now. This site contains archived content from the ExcelinEd’s Digital Learning Now initiative (2011-2015). 
  • Excel in Ed. This site contains current, up-to-date Digital Now initiative materials. 

This is article is the last part of a series of six articles. Read the previous articles from this series:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5


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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