Competency Based Training

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What is Competency Based Training?

Competency based training (CBT) is a style of education that focuses on what you can achieve in the workplace after completing a course, or because of your workplace training and experience.

Competency Based Training is training that is designed to allow a learner to demonstrate their ability to do something

Two key terms used in competency based training are:

  • Skill: A task or group of tasks performed to a specific level of competency or proficiency which often use motor functions and typically require the manipulation of instruments and equipment. Some skills, however, such as counselling, are knowledge- and attitude-based.

  • Competency: A skill performed to a specific standard under specific conditions.

Five essential elements of a Competency Based Training system:

  • Competencies to be achieved are carefully identified, verified and made public in advance.

  • Criteria to be used in assessing achievement and the conditions under which achievement will be assessed are explicitly stated and made public in advance.

  • The instructional program provides for the individual development and evaluation of each of the competencies specified.

  • Assessment of competency takes the participant’s knowledge and attitudes into account but requires the actual performance of the competency as the primary source of evidence.

  • Participants progress through the instructional program at their own rate by demonstrating the attainment of the specified competencies

Characteristics of Competency Based Training

In addition to a set of competencies, other characteristics which are associated with Competency-Based Training Programs are summarised as follow:

  • Competencies are carefully selected.

  • Supporting theory is integrated with skill practice. Essential knowledge is learned to support the performance of skills.

  • Detailed training materials are keyed to the competencies to be achieved and are designed to support the acquisition of knowledge and skills.

  • Methods of instruction involve mastery learning, the premise that all participants can master the required knowledge or skill, provided sufficient time and appropriate training methods are used.

  • Participants’ knowledge and skills are assessed as they enter the program and those with satisfactory knowledge and skills may bypass training or competencies already attained.

  • Learning should be self-paced.

  • Flexible training approaches including large group methods, small group activities and individual study are essential components.

  • A variety of support materials including print, audiovisual and simulations (models) keyed to the skills being mastered are used.

  • Satisfactory completion of training is based on the achievement of all specified competencies.

Advantages of Competency Based Training

One of the primary advantages of CBT is that the focus is on the success of each participant. Watson states that the competency-based approach “appears especially useful in training situations where trainees have to attain a small number of specific and job-related competencies” .

Benefits of Competency Based Training include:

  • Participants will achieve competencies required in the performance of their jobs.

  • Participants build confidence as they succeed in mastering specific competencies.

  • Participants receive a transcript or list of the competencies they have achieved.

  • Training time is used more efficiently and effectively as the trainer is a facilitator of learning as opposed to a provider of information.

  • More training time is devoted to working with participants individually or in small groups as opposed to presenting lectures.

  • More training time is devoted to evaluating each participant’s ability to perform essential job skills.

Limitations of Competency Based Training

While there are a number of advantages of competency-based training, there also are some potential limitations. Prior to implementing CBT, it is important to consider these limitations:

  • Unless initial training and follow up assistance is provided for the trainers, there is a tendency to “teach as we were taught” and CBT trainers quickly slip back into the role of the traditional teacher.

  • A CBT course is only as effective as the process used to identify the competencies. When little or no attention is given to identification of the essential job skills, then the resulting training course is likely to be ineffective.

  • A course may be classified as competency-based, but unless specific CBT materials and training approaches (e.g., learning guides, checklists and coaching) are designed to be used as part of a CBT approach, it is unlikely that the resulting course will be truly competency-based.

Approaches to Competency Based Training

The key features of approach to training include:

  • Development of competencies (knowledge, attitude and practice) is based on national standards.

  • Quality of performance is built into the training process.

  • Emphasis of the training is on development of qualified providers, not on the number of clinicians undergoing training.

  • Training builds competency and confidence because participants know what level of performance is expected, how knowledge and skills will be evaluated, that progression through training is self-paced, and that there are opportunities for practice until mastery is achieved.

Design Activities of Competency Based Training

Design Activities of Competency Based Training include:

  • Identification of the specific skills that will form the basis of a competencybased training course.

  • Identification of the conditions (e.g., using models, role plays, clients) under which the skills must be demonstrated.

  • Development of the criteria or standards to which the skills must be performed.

  • Development of the competency-based learning guides and checklists which list each of the steps and sequence (if necessary) required to perform each skill or activity.

  • Development of reference manuals which contain the essential, need-to-know information related to the skills to be developed.

  • Development of models to be used during training.

  • Development of training objectives which outline what the participant must do in order to master the clinical skills.

  • Development of course outlines which match a variety of training methods and supporting media to course objectives.

  • Development of course syllabi and schedules which contain information about the course.

Implications for Using Competency Based Training

In a study of operating competency-based programs, it is identified a number of implications for organizations considering implementing a CBT system:

  • Organizations must be committed to providing adequate resources and training materials.

  • Audiovisual materials need to be directly related to the written materials.

  • Training activities need to match the objectives.

  • Continuous participant interaction and feedback must take place.

  • Trainers must be trained to conduct competency-based training courses.

  • Individuals attending training must be prepared for CBT as this approach is likely to be very different from their past educational and training experiences.

  • Presentation of a statement of qualification which identifies the specific service the individual is qualified to provide.

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