The competency-based approach: definition and principles

In the 1980s and before its appearance in the field of education, the APC was adopted in vocational training aimed at improving the skills of staff and improving their productivity. It is a targeted methodology insofar as it sets a benchmark of skills to be reached towards the end of the training in a specific job.

Starting from this principle (a reference system of competences) the APC was adopted in the field of education and it is more and more accepted in educational systems. Nowadays we are talking about core competencies in Switzerland, Canada and France and the bases of competences for basic education and the terminal skills and knowledge required for the General and Technological Humanity in Belgium and the basic skills in Mauritania, Djibouti and Tunisia ...

In the Teaching / Learning process, the approach allows students to acquire sustainable skills that can help them in their education and in their daily lives. You can find examples of students' success browse around here.  It emphasizes all that is fundamental in order to guarantee a better transmission of knowledge. The APC thus becomes the pedagogical basis of all the constituents of education.

The actions and reflexes of the learner become the main source of his learning, it aims to put the learner in the center of the educational process to fight against its failure.

The skills-based approach was the subject of several studies developed by the educationalists such as Philippe Perrenoud which supposes that to guarantee the good practice of this approach in the education systems it is necessary to renovate and rewrite the programs so that it has a coherence between the intentions (the objectives) and their implementations (the practice).

Perrenoud defines five unifying principles for teaching according to the APC:

  • Create didactic situations with meaning and learning.
  • To differentiate them so that each student is solicited in his zone of near development.
  • Develop a formative observation and interactive regulation in a situation by working on obstacles objectives.
  • To master the effects of intersubjective relations and cultural distance on didactic communication.
  • Individualize learning paths in the multi-year learning cycle.

In what follows we will try to determine the main values and principles on which the APC is based.

The first principle "what is significant for the learner is better with the use of time", the teacher is careful to create learning situations with meanings for the learner insofar as it links knowledge to social practices that are part of its socio-cultural environment. The formation is released from its field of contents and accumulated knowledge to reach this X. Rogiers calls it "the ecological variety".

This principle is, therefore, to bring the learner to mobilize his knowledge by touching his centers of interest which allow him to contextualize the acquired knowledge and seize their utilities. The PCA is an asset for creating and making sense of school work and the learner becomes an active subject in the teaching and craftsman of his own knowledge.

The second principle is the creation of "situation" learning. The approach is based on the "situation" which represents the primordial tool of the integration of knowledge, X Rogiers defines the situation as "an example of information intended for a specific task". The importance is no longer given to the knowledge/know-how of the learner but earlier to the mobilization of his knowledge in the different situations and circumstances.

Cycle-based teaching: in order to establish sustainable skills, it is necessary to shift the evaluation deadlines to allow time for the construction of knowledge and learning.

This principle conveys the idea that what is fundamental at one level of education is not that of another level, hence the need to prioritize competencies from one level to another and evaluation is only about what is fundamental and necessary for the continuation of the studies so it was necessary to make a distribution of the teaching on the cycles and on degrees and to opt a formative evaluation of evaluation to assess the level reached and to remedy the gaps at the learner.

Differentiation: it is based on the principle of individual differences in learning since each learner learns a little in his own way at his own pace, his specific skills and his particular difficulties, taking into account this diversity makes it possible to guarantee equality of potential and chances of success for all learners.

Finally, we can say through the reading of different principles of the competency-based approach that it responds to the need to reduce school failure in students as long as it places the learner at the center of the educational activities, it becomes the main player in the Teaching / Learning process

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