Will the Pandemic Propel ‘Competency-Based’ Education Into the Mainstream?

Instructional model replaces ‘seat-time’ requirements with focus on mastery of content, skills


The pandemic forced schools to switch from in-person to remote learning nearly overnight, raising questions about the relevance of “seat time” as a standard measure for earning course credit. Now, as schools move into education recovery mode, an alternative model known as competency-based learning is getting a fresh look and is expected to see more widespread adoption.

Advocates say competency-based education – a flexible approach that aspires to promote mastery and real-world learning – is especially well-suited to this unprecedented moment in American schooling and for the long haul. For starters, its design is based on better meeting the unique needs of individual students and allowing them to progress at their own pace.

In this Education Writers Association webinar, a national expert and a Chicago education official explain the ins and outs of competency-based learning. Journalists will get the grounding they need to effectively report on competency-based learning in their own states and local communities, and to tell smart, compelling stories.

The presenters address key questions, such as: What are the essential features of competency-based learning? How does it differ from the norm in public education? What evidence exists of its impact? Where is it being practiced? What are the implications for promoting educational equity? Also, reporters will learn how and why the nation’s third largest school district, in Chicago, is piloting this innovative approach in 11 high schools.

This webinar was presented June 3, 2021.