A Call to Competency-Based Education and Innovative Models in Teacher Preparation Programs

Colleges and universities offer a range of teacher preparation programs to cater to the diverse educational needs and career goals of its students. From bachelor’s programs that provide a foundation in educational theory and teaching methods to advanced graduate degrees in curriculum development, specialized teaching areas, and leadership, variety in program offerings abound. However, these offerings are not keeping up with America’s persistent and multifaceted teacher shortage. The shortage is often exacerbated by teachers leaving the profession within the first few years due to factors like low salaries, high workloads, and limited support, leading to a constant need for replacements. Shortages are especially felt in specific subject and geographic areas, disproportionately affecting low-income, minority students who often attend schools with fewer educational resources.

Despite decades of research and investment in redesign, postsecondary education remains deeply inequitable with too few learners, especially learners of color and working students, reaching degree attainment. A major driver of this inequity is that students are unable to advance in their program of study because of antiquated teaching, learning, assessment, and advising practices that are rooted in industrial processes, clock time measures, and discriminatory practices that result in occupational segregation and decrease the effectiveness of K-12 schools. Solutions that tinker around the edges of postsecondary education are not enough and the evidence is clear- we are not moving the needle on attainment to meet workforce demand, and even more critical is our inability to produce equitable outcomes in degree attainment.

As a result, there are innovations taking hold and new types of programs, such as Grow Your Own Apprenticeship programs, seek to address the shortage of teachers while at the same time growing the diversity of the teacher workforce. To address teacher shortages and to usher in a new approach to learning, teacher preparation programs should embrace competency-based approaches as they equip educators with the knowledge, skills and behaviors needed for today’s educational landscape. Competency-based education shifts the focus from traditional time-based learning to a more personalized, outcome-oriented model, allowing aspiring teachers to progress at their own pace while requiring a demonstration of proficiency in essential teaching competencies. By shifting to competencies, colleges can ensure that future educators are not only well-versed in subject matter but also possess the practice skills to engage diverse learners effectively.

A competency-based approach encourages adaptability, which leads to classroom-ready teachers who can respond to rapidly changing instructional dynamics and student needs. By embracing competency-based approaches, colleges and universities produce highly competent, student-centered teachers prepared to thrive in the ever-changing field of education. We must have innovative teacher preparation programs that increase access for individuals not currently enrolling, including paraprofessionals who are already employed in the field and reflect the community in which they serve, but require upskilling to achieve licensure.

Competency-Based Education Network (C-BEN), Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), and American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) are joining together to help build capacity for, and remove barriers to, improving equity in teacher preparation through quality competency- based education and innovative models. We seek to partner with higher education institutions to create equity-driven, competency-based solutions that deliver on results for students and the teaching profession. Quality competency-based education (CBE) programs can eliminate disparities in educational outcomes of students from historically underserved and underrepresented populations.

Innovating teacher education in this way mirrors changes under way in education broadly. In April 2023, the Carnegie Foundation and ETS announced a partnership to radically transform education and assessment in the United States today, from pre-K through postsecondary offerings. They propose replacing what counts as learning and how it is assessed, formerly credit hours and standardized tests, with a new currency of learning: competencies and skills. By rethinking how essential affective, behavioral, and cognitive competencies are taught, developed, and assessed, students will thrive in school, career, and society.

We encourage you to join us in our work to create equity-driven, competency-based solutions that deliver on results for students and the teaching profession.

About the Competency-Based Education Network (C-BEN)

C-BEN is a network of institutions, employers, and experts who believe competencies can unlock the future of learning — making education and training more flexible, responsive, and valuable. We support stakeholders across the spectrum of competency-based learning, from institutions and employers who want to embed competencies into their existing programs to those looking to design full competency-based degree programs from the ground up. For more information, visit C-BEN.org

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