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Competency-Based Education (CBE): Overview

Professional development resource for teachers. Created as an artifact in fulfillment of MITx: 0.502x: Competency-Based Education: The Why, What, and How

Elements of Artifact for Assignment 2

The Ontario Ministry of Education is committed to deep learning and integrating global competencies into our student's learning journey.  While the common language and terminology of competency-based education (CBE) may not be used in Ontario curriculum and ministry documents, CBE is embedded into educational direction through the expectations and the Ontario Ministry's emphasis on innovative learning.  Understanding the tenets and common characteristics of CBE will support our teacher's in 'teaching for learning' - pedagogy, planning and assessment  - and compliments our district's work on assessment for, as and of learning.

The challenge for our district is not in understanding competency-based education, but in implementation; the up front commitment and teacher efficacy required for purposeful planning and formative/summative assessments.  Fortunately, a district priority has been working within our schools to provide capacity to plan purposefully and create meaningful and engaging learning experiences while integrating the curriculum.

Through pilot projects, we have worked with schools to personalize learning for students at risk of not graduating through exploring cross-curricular competencies demonstrated in alternative ways and environments.

Common terminology

Definition of competency


Competency-based education, also known as proficiency-based education, is defined as "... a systems model in which (1) teaching and learning are designed to ensure students are becoming proficient by advancing on demonstrated mastery and (2) schools are organized to provide timely and differentiated support to ensure equity."  (2016: iNACOL )

"Competency-based learning refers to systems of instruction, assessment, grading, and academic reporting that are based on students demonstrating that they have learned the knowledge and skills they are expected to learn as they progress through their education." 

Competency-Based Education: The What

"Instructor Justin Reich, Director of the Teaching Systems Lab and faculty member at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), explains what competency-based education (CBE) is by presenting some characteristic elements and considering aspects that are especially variable."

Used with permission from: ​edX MOOC MITx: 0.502x: Competency-Based Education: The Why, What, and How

Why Competency-Based Education Now?

This explainer lays out the central elements of a full proficiency (competency)-based education system.  When you watch to discover the 'Why', think of the connections to our board work around Equity, innovative pedagogy and experiential learning, as well as our SIPSAW big ideas - engaging learning experiences, purposeful planning, global citizenship, publishing, community connections.