A Thin and Blurry Line – Kairos Project Series

October 24, 2016

Series on the Kairos Project at Sioux Falls Seminary
Post 7: A Thin and Blurry Line, Pt. 1

The Kairos Project track within Sioux Falls Seminary’s Master of Divinity, MA in Christian Leadership, and MA Bible and Theology programs is a version of Competency-Based Education (CBE).  It is also a proficiency model of education that could be referred to as Outcome-Based Education.  While CBE seems to be something that is relatively new, OBE has been around for many decades.  Now that we are two years into the Kairos Project, we can say with confidence that the line between really well-done Outcome-Based Education and this new thing called Competency-Based Education is very thin and extremely blurry.  In fact, I would go as far as saying that they are not mutually exclusive.  Over the next two weeks, we are going to take a closer look at what this means.

What is Outcome-Based Education?
Outcome-Based Education is a proficiency model of education wherein the primary focus is on the outcome produced by a learning process.  In this model, content plays second or even third fiddle.  It recognizes that student learning, especially with adults, takes many forms, which means the pathways for reaching a given outcome are flexible.  In this way, OBE could be seen as a broad educational category in which Competency-Based Education finds its roots.

What is Competency-Based Education?
Competency-Based Education takes the concepts of OBE and divides the curriculum into a discrete set of competencies.  In many cases, but definitely not all, CBE does not use courses or semesters to mark time during the educational process.  Instead, students progress through the degree when they demonstrate proficiency of a competency.  In this model, a “competency” is more than a skill.  It refers to a student’s knowledge, skill, and disposition in a given area.  In this way, the word “competency” can be misleading because it refers to more than skill.  It is also why Sioux Falls Seminary doesn’t use “competency” in the same way.  In our programs, we have educational outcomes that are supported by learning targets.  The collection of targets helps students develop the knowledge, character, and competency required to show proficiency of a given outcome.

The Connection Between Outcome-Based Education and Competency-Based Education
The beauty of the connection between OBE and CBE is that a school (like Sioux Falls Seminary) can develop an educational track (like the Kairos Project) that can be referred to as a CBE track even though is still uses courses and semesters as the markers of time.

In essence, Sioux Falls Seminary has embraced an outcomes-based philosophy of education that permeates every degree program and every educational track at the seminary.  Some students interact with that philosophy of education by taking a traditional course in a traditional way.  Others interact with that philosophy through distance education courses and contextual learning opportunities.  The bottom line is that the learning outcomes are what matters, not the path to reach them.

If, after reading those first few paragraphs, you find yourself saying, “Huh?” – don’t worry…you’re not alone. The main points to understand are that 1) Competency-Based Education is one outworking of Outcome-Based Education, and 2) we need to recognize that there are several ways to implement Competency-Based Education.  Next week, we will break this down a little more!

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