Five considerations before creating a competency-based curriculum

In the summer of 2020, the C-LOP team partnered with the Institute of Secretariat Training and Management (ISTM) to redesign their foundation training program for Assistant Section Officers (ASOs). This program focussed on empowering ASOs with skills that were essential to the seamless execution of their roles, while impacting their lifelong learning journeys. Adopting concepts of competency-based personalised learning is sparingly used by government training institutes. The process of the curriculum redesign is complex and the lack of empirical evidence on similar successful programs adds to this complexity. To know more about the engagement, please visit the Curriculum Redesign section of the C-LOP website.

The following blog mentions five considerations to examine while designing a competency-based curriculum.

  1. Focus on instructional design and practice: To create lifelong learning experiences, it is critical to use effective instructional design methodologies which help facilitate effective learning. This curriculum should employ the latest methodologies of learning that are grounded in research and andragogy (adult learning) and are contextualised to adhere to the requirements of the specific role. To get started, an in-depth needs analysis must be conducted to understand why the current methods of instruction are not sufficiently meeting the specific competency or skill needed for each role, and which parts of the curriculum need to be revised to drive a significant overhaul in current training practices.
  2. Training of trainers: Besides improving the capacity of ASOs, emphasis must be laid on improving the capacity of the training institute, to incorporate a rigorous “training of trainers” component. The institutes that design curriculum and facilitators should be required to undergo coaching aimed at learning new methods of teaching which can be employed during training sessions. By investing in regular capacity building programs, trainers can be exposed to continuous professional development by learning from experts around the world on new methodologies of teaching and curriculum design. To ensure the quality of programs delivered, the training institutes need to have regular training programmes scheduled, which focus on both incoming faculty members as well as current faculty. To facilitate smoother transitions between outgoing and incoming faculty members, a strong handover plan should be designed and brought into effect during the period of transition.
  3. Assessment design: To constructively evaluate the effectiveness of the competency-based training program, the assessment structure should be redesigned to test specific competencies and skills acquired. This new system will replace the current one of administering a singular assessment at the end of the training period. Along with yielding timely, relevant and actionable evidence, assessments should be proctored and independent. They should be designed specifically to assess the mastery of each competency, while also guiding future learning. Once a learner can demonstrate their mastery of a particular skill or competency, they can move to the next level of competency. 
  4. Prior planning and expert consultations: The outcome of any curriculum redesign should be identified at the beginning of the process and a clear logical framework should guide the process. This requires significant planning at the outset, with strict adherence to timelines which ensures that each stage of the project has enough time to be seen through productively. Structures to enable the envisioned changes should be set up before the launch of the redesign process to facilitate smooth transitions. Based on the desired outcomes, experts should be on-boarded with the project to design the elements assigned to them. The roles and responsibilities of each participating organisation in the redesign process should be outlined clearly at the beginning of the project and progress should be tracked.
  5. Technology as an enabler: Given the uncertainties and vulnerabilities associated with Covid-19, the future of any foundational training program requires a heterogeneous mix of methodologies as opposed to traditional classroom-based teaching. A technology-based platform provides significant flexibility to learners, enabling them to gain the right behavioural, functional and domain competencies required for a specific role while sitting anywhere in the world. The introduction of the iGOT platform will help its users to benefit from a large repository of courses that are linked to relevant competencies. Hence, any training institute must incorporate the use of technology as a core to any changes in curriculum or instructional design.

Competency-based learning is a transformative shift in the existing training culture, pedagogy and structures which transcend the limitations of traditional models of education. It helps foster a deep learning culture that is positive, meaningful and empowering and creates a system of continuous improvement for learners. Over the next few years, C-LOP will be contributing towards creating such many more curriculums for various departments of the Indian government by engaging in all aspects of program design and implementation premised on the five above-mentioned pillars. 

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