The Shift

Dimensions of Major Shifts from Traditional to Competency-Based Education

The major shifts in moving from traditional education to CBE happen at three levels within the school system: at the organizational level, the teaching-learning level, and the classroom level. As classrooms shift to a more personalized CBE focus, there needs to be alignment within and across the organizational level and teaching and learning structures in order to realize student centered practices in a classroom.

As you examine the different dimensions of the CBE shifts, you may notice that your school or district tends to be more traditional for some of these dimensions and more progressive toward CBE in others. This is a great vantage point for asking yourselves what portal of entry is best for your school to explore more formally in your transition to fully systemic, learner-centered, sustainable, competency-based education.

Click through the tabs below to view the full dimensions!

Download MAjor organizational shifts

Organizational Shifts




Professional Culture

Professional Learning

Traditional Descriptor

Policies constrain teaching and learning to cohort driven, time-based models for school structure within flexibility or opportunity to learn in various learning environments such as blended, online, and community-based learning opportunities.

Hierarchical structure with fixed  job roles.

Professional culture reflects top-down hierarchy with little collaborative decision making at the school or teacher level. Teachers isolated in their work roles.

Professional  development is directed through central office via whole group training. Professional  goal setting is generally individual with hours of activity accrued as evidence for further licensure. Class scheduling  isolates teachers within their work environments. Professional work constrained to after school work hours and in-service, student free sessions.


Competency-Based Education Descriptor

Local policies support the vision of the graduate--anytime, anyplace learning is supported, equity scan and review has taken place, proficiency is valued overtime and place, collective bargaining supports whatever it takes to reach the vision of the graduate.

Assessment policies and instructional support in aiding the more complex and integrated learning tasks and evidences.

Leadership roles are expanding to include teacher roles. Top-down hierarchy is flattened to  respect teacher leadership voice and role in supporting new paradigms in student learning.

Teachers own their learning as they determine their starting point in moving the principles of CBE and choose to work in collaborative learning groups with their peers. School schedules support collaborative work groups within the school day daily.

Professional goal setting by collaborative groups is prioritized. These groups focus their protocol-driven work on professional learning that supports the shift from  teacher-centered to personalized student learning. These groups meet frequently to prototype new strategies and examine student artifacts of learning. Priority in school scheduling allows collaborative work groups to meet frequently. These groups have open communication with administrators who facilitate and support the educators with resources to accomplish the group learning goals for their students.

Shifts in Structure for Teaching and Learning


Academic Competencies

Personal Success Skills

Performance Assessments

Evidence-Based Grading

Traditional Descriptor

Academic content defined by standards. High School graduation dependent of accrual of time-based credit accrual.

Undefined or randomly  integrated into instruction but rarely assessed.

Professional culture reflects top-down hierarchy with little collaborative decision making at the school or teacher level. Teachers isolated in their work roles.

Subjective grading procedures from teacher to teacher across the K-12 continuum. Grading generally based on the average of scores. 0-100 point scale predominates middle and high school grading schema.


Competency-Based Education Descriptor

A well articulated, coherent system of academic and personal competencies, K-12, leads to  graduation competencies.

Locally determined graduation personal skills and dispositions are identified and assessed by students against a developmental continuum of skill sets leading to the graduation expectations for personal skill sets. Social emotional learning integration into authentic academic learning. Supported by learning sciences- Learning is a social interaction.

Performance tasks and project based learning identify academic competencies integrated with personal success skills that are based on higher level Depth of Knowledge performance.

Proficiency is determined by a holistic proficiency scale that guides task rubric writing. This determination of proficiency is the anchor for K-12 grading system.

Shifts from Teacher-Centered to Student-Centered Learning Environments


Core Instruction



Student-Centered Learning

Traditional Descriptor

Grade level assigned curriculum, often program driven in K-8.

Pacing is based on whole class completion of units of instruction.

Grades are the evidence for learning. Subjectivity and unreliability are part of traditional  grading systems. Grades are the evidence for learning as well as promotion and graduation.

Teacher directed instruction; academic content coverage prioritized through whole class instruction. Whole class learning model predominates with some group differentiation to address struggling learners.


Competency-Based Education Descriptor

Student engages their level of progression in the identified K-12 learning progression.

A learner only moves forward  in their learning progression when proficiency is demonstrated.

Balanced system of assessments based on a variety of ways to score and report learning. Assessment data is used to improve learning and instruction.

Student voice and choice in learning gives rise to student agency along learning pathways K-12. Instruction is based on where individual students are in their learning progression; flexible student grouping ensures students meet proficiency  before moving to the next level of the learning progression. Professional resources are deployed across grade levels and spans based on student learning needs.

Student Support

Body of Evidence

Classroom Culture

Special Education and Intervention support is fixed by time, place, and student assignment.

Report cards and transcripts.

Determined and developed individually by teachers

Interventions systems are replaced by flexible systems of student support to meet students where they are in their learning and provide scaffolding and support to take them to the next level within their progression.

Equity designed grading systems accurately communicate student learning with validity and reliability. Policies describe how students build a body of evidence-conjunctive.

Democratic classrooms rely on student ownership of their learning space and guidelines for their engagement in their learning.

Interested in learning how CBE Solutions can help you and your organization navigate the shift toward CBE through the use of reflective scales, professional development, or instructional coaching?

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