Competency-Based Approach‏‎ to Teaching English

Chef traniing his cooks.The Competency-Based training method was developed primarily for Industry. The training was based on what people were expected to do in the workplace. It emphasized what people could actually do as a result of their training rather than simply looking at the amount of training that the employees attended.

This method allowed trainers to match the training with required job competencies thereby making the training totally relevant to the needs of the employee.

This in turn increased the motivation of the trainees because they could see the direct relevance of what they were studying. It also kept the trainees task oriented and active. Last but not least, it made the assessment process easier because the outcomes required were clearly stated in the competency standards.

The application of this training method to adult ESL education started in the mid 1970s. The Competency Based Approach or Competency Based Education (CBE) was first used in the language and orientation programs for refugees and in adult literacy programs.

A CBE approach can be used for learners with academic, employment, and self-enrichment goals as well as for those with basic survival goals.

CBE Nuts & Bolts

Competency: an instructional objective described in task-based terms, that is, in statements which include a verb describing a demonstrable skill such as: answer, interpret, or request. Example "Students will be able to ..."

Competencies include basic survival skills such as answering personal information questions, using public transportation, or obtaining food and shelter; or more academic or work-related skills such as taking notes during an academic lecture, following directions for a work-related task, explaining one's position on an issue, or distinguishing between fact and opinion in a newspaper article.

A CBE approach consists of four elements:

  • assessment of learner needs
  • selection of competencies based on those needs
  • instruction targeted to those competencies
  • evaluation of learners performance in those competencies.

Through the initial needs assessment and ongoing evaluation of learner goals and progress, competency-based programs are continually adapted and refined.

How It Works

The teacher first carries out a needs analysis to see how and where the students will need to use their English.

The teacher then defines some competencies (tasks) that the students will need to accomplish. For example, giving personal information, filling a form, making a doctor’s appointment, applying for work, and so on.

The teacher creates activities that will teach the students how to accomplish those competencies (tasks).

Finally the teacher evaluates the students on their ability to perform those tasks.

See Also

Task Based Language Learning‏‎

Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching (book)‏‎

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