Competence Based Education and E-Portfolio in Tertiary Education

Textbook, 2020

66 Pages, Grade: A


Table of Contents















Teachers, instructors, and faculties are facing extraordinary challenge due to paradigm shift from content based to the learner cantered, competence based approach that aims at bridging the gap between graduates and the labour market. This is a worldwide move of which Universities and colleges needs to improve their teaching methods in response to the demand for more highly skilled workers; students and workers need to obtain more visible, transferable skills, acquired in both formal and informal education while employers and business men are expected to identify and recruit the most suitable candidates for jobs.

This book is partly a report from EPICA Project, a new EU- African strategic plan which aims to bring together businesses, public sector organizations and universities to co-design an innovative and scalable e-Portfolio (developed by MyDocumenta). EPICA conducted training to Several East African University staff who was involved in the project including the Makerere University of Uganda, the Maseno University of Kenya and the Open University of Tanzania.

This book will be of great importance to all university lecturers, teachers from different higher learning institutions and other tertiary level instructors as we embark into online teaching and learning including my-documenta e-portfolio as a marketing strategy for our students

Many practical illustrations t are also found in the book to simplify the work of facilitators and teachers so as to prepare an effective competence based curriculum and e-portfolio from their respective programs, courses, and teaching subjects in particular.


Chapter 1: Background to Competence Based Education

This chapter sets the stage for the rest of the book. 1t looks at the historical background of CBE and also important concepts have been defined in this chapter

Chapter 2: Educational Goals, Objectives, and Outcomes

Chapter two describes the terms goals, objectives and outcomes, their meaning, characteristics and how they are related to educational competences

Chapter 3: CBE Theoretical Perspective

Chapter three covers the theoretical perspectives of competence based education and contributions from different theorists. Several theories are discussed here including behaviourism, constructivism and the like

Chapter 4: Developing a Competency-Based Curriculum

In an introductory section on how teachers can develop competence based curriculum from different programs and courses.

Chapter 5: Identifying Course Competences

Consists of detailed information on how to identify competences in a particular course/subject

Chapter 6: Designing Active Methodologies

CBE insists on learner participation so this chapter gives the description on the selection of Competence based teaching methods including project, problem solving, game based learning, flipped classrooms to mention only a few

Chapter 7: Competence Based Evaluation

The chapter describes the process of Evaluation by competencies versus traditional learning evaluation

Chapter 8: Introduction to My Documenta E- Portfolio

The chapter introduce the concept and structure of e-portfolio; it also justify the use of e portfolio by highlighting its importance as well as advantages to both the learners and instructors

Chapter 9: Hands On With E Portfolio

The chapter is more or less practical oriented, it describes the structure of e portfolio, how students can easily share evidences privately or publically, and teacher’s ability to comment or evaluate students work.

Chapter 10: Digital Identity and Marketing in E-Portfolio

The chapter describes on how students can building competence based digital identity through e-portfolio, the kind of evidence/competences to be published in university students’ e-portfolio as a marketing strategy

Dr. Hyasinta C. F. Kessy

The Open University of Tanzania



Introduction to Competences

Higher education institutions are adopting competence based education (CBE) curriculum as a means to improve outcomes for graduates. Competence based education curriculum is inherently learner cantered because it enables personalized learning, provide flexibility, and ensure mastery of the highest standards possible (Nodine, 2016). Most of tertiary institutions are moving fast to online model of teaching and learning and venturing into CBE to provide flexible, learner cantered options for students market.

Why are Competencies so Important Today?

Back in the 1950s and 1960s, there was an extended discussion concerning instructional objectives where many educational practitioners opted for educational programs with clear and quantifiable goals. This resulted into outcome-based education that was advocated by Ralph Tyler and Benjamin Bloom, the founder of Bloom’s taxonomy. Outcome-based education is a philosophical umbrella that rejects the traditional focus on what the teachers provides to students, in favour of making students demonstrate what they know and are able to do. The philosophy emphasize on setting clear standards for observable and measurable outcomes. Everyone today is interested in student learning outcomes instead of measuring what is being taught

Moreover, Globalization and modernization are creating an increasingly diverse and interconnected world. To make sense of the world and its functioning well individuals need to master the changing technologies and to make sense of large amounts of available information. They also face a combination of challenges in the societies like balancing economic growth with environmental sustainability, and prosperity with social equity. In these contexts, the competencies that individuals need to meet their goals have become more complex, requiring more than the mastery of certain narrowly defined skills. Again, Sustainable development and social cohesion depend critically on the competencies of all of our population – with competencies understood to cover knowledge, skills, attitudes and values (OECD Education Ministers) OECD the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development is an international organization that works to build better policies for better lives. The member countries launched the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), with the aim of monitoring the extent to which students near the end of compulsory schooling have acquired the knowledge and skills essential for full participation in society.

DeSeCo Framework for Key Competencies

In 1997, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) created the DeSeCo Project (Definition and Selection of Competencies) which came up with conceptual framework to guide the identification of key competencies. Experts in a wide range of disciplines, stakeholders, and policy analysts were involved in the preparation of a framework for assessing key competencies acquired by learners The DeSeCo Project’s conceptual framework for key competencies classifies such competencies in three broad categories.

- First, individuals need to be able to use a wide range of tools for interacting effectively with the environment: both physical ones such as information technology and socio-cultural ones such as the use of language. As illustrated in Table 1 individuals should understand such tools well enough to adapt them for their own purposes – to use tools interactively.

- Second, in an increasingly interdependent world, individuals need to be able to engage with others, and since they will encounter people from a range of backgrounds, it is important that they are able to interact in heterogeneous groups.

- Third, individuals need to be able to take responsibility for managing their own lives, situate their lives in the broader social context and act autonomously (OECD, 2016)

Generally, the DeSeCo Project aimed at monitoring the extent to which students have acquired the knowledge and skills essential for full participation in their society. Students were assessed on their capacity to analyze reason and communicate effectively as they pose, solve and interpret problems in a variety of subject matter areas.

Table 1: The DESECO Project/OECD Competences

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Source: Rychen et al (2003)

In terms of lifelong learning, students were assessed not only on curricular and cross-curricular competencies but also they were needed to report on their own motivation to learn, beliefs about themselves and learning strategies. Again, member countries were able to assess students’ knowledge and skills in the areas of reading, mathematics, science and problem solving. Generally student performance and success in life was believed to depend on a wider range of competencies rather than a single subject.

Historically, the outcome-based education led to Competency-Based Education that was put into practice in the early 1970s. CBE focused on student learning rather than mere credit hours. Competency-Based Education was structured around discrete learning goals the “competencies” rather than courses. Consequently, a “competency” can be described as a learning unit or a discrete set of knowledge or even ability. Competency-based type of education doesn't pay attention to how long a person has been in a course, instead, it focuses on specific things that need to be learned in the course, which are called competencies. If you are competent at something, you are able to do it. Thus, the skills that students need to be able to do (the skills they need to be competent at) are the course's competencies. IBE-UNESCO (2014) describe further competence as the developmental capacity to interactively mobilize and ethically use information, data, knowledge, skills, values, attitudes, and technology to engage effectively and act across diverse 21st century contexts to attain individual, collective, and global good. Here it means that, what learners learn is necessary but no longer sufficient to enable learners to acquire discrete knowledge, skills, and values. It is critical that learners can intelligently make connections between the elements of a competence, integrate, and interactively apply them to solve contextual demands as well as to change their environment. In 2014, UNESCO introduced the key competences as illustrated in Figure 1 that are described as the knowledge, skill, and attitude required by an actor in the cognitive, socio-affective or psychomotor sphere, within a context and according to established conditions (UNESCO, 2014)

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 1: Key Competences by UNESCO

Source: Fontelles (2006)

According to Fontelles (2006) key competences are composed of knowledge, skills and attitudes that are considered equally important and each of them can contribute to a successful life in a society. Figure 1 reveals some examples of competences that one can take into account when writing the competences of a course. These competences overlap and aspects essential to one domain will support competence in another. For example, competence in the basic skills of language, literacy, numeracy and in information and communication technologies is essential foundation for all learning activities. Again, Fontelles (2006) identified and defined 8 key competences necessary for personal fulfillment, active citizenship, social cohesion and employability in a society as follows:

1) Communication in the mother tongue;
2) Communication in foreign languages;
3) Mathematical competence and basic competences in science and technology;
4) Digital competence;
5) Learning to learn;
6) Social and civic competences;
7) Sense of initiative and entrepreneurship; and
8) Cultural awareness and expression.

Thus, it is the role of each society to identify the necessary competences for learner’s employability


What are Goals? Goals are broad, generalized statements about what is to be learned. Think of them as a target to be reached, or “hit.” Goals are statements of educational intention which are more specific than aims. In fact goals are derived from societal aims. Aims are general statements that provide direction or intent to educational action. Aims are usually written in unstructured terms using words like: learn, know, understand, appreciate, and these are not directly measurable. Aims may serve as organizing principles of educational direction for more than one grade. Indeed these organizing principles may encompass the continuum of educational direction for entire programs, subject areas or the district. Goals too may encompass an entire program, subject area, or multiple grade levels. They may be in either amorphous or in more specific behavioral terms. Goals reflect large aspirations for long term, positive change, based on well-documented needs.

Generally, the goal of education is learning. An objective is more specific than a goal. Education is likely to be more effective if educators are clear about what it is that they want the learners to learn. Hence, if teachers have a clear idea about what learners are expected to learn, they can more easily and more accurately determine how well students have learned. Instructional objectives specify exactly what is supposed to be learned, they are helpful to the teacher as well as the learner throughout the learning process and are very useful in the evaluation process.

In the teaching and learning process they are called instructional objectives/ behavioral objectives/ learning objectives. They are basically statements which clearly describe an anticipated learning outcome. When objectives were first coming into their own in education, they almost always began with the phrase: "Upon completion of this lesson, the student should be able to…." This phrase focused on the outcome of learning rather than on the learning process. In fact, one of the criteria for a well-written objective is that it describes the outcome of learning, that is, what the learners can do after learning has occurred that they might not have been able to do before the teaching and learning process began.

Hence, a well-written objective should meet the "SMART criteria which stands for "Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-Bound."

Specific: clear about what, where, when, and how the situation will be changed;

Measurable: able to quantify the targets and benefits;

Achievable: able to attain the objectives (knowing the resources and capacities at the disposal

Realistic: able to obtain the level of change reflected in the objective; and

Time bound: stating the time period in which they will each be accomplished.

Common Types of Objectives

Psychomotor: Physical Skills (e.g., “The student will be able to ride a two-wheel bicycle without assistance and without pause as demonstrated in gym class.”); actions which demonstrate the fine motor skills such as use of precision instruments or tools, or actions which evidence gross motor skills such as the use of the body in dance or athletic performance.

Cognitive: understandings, awareness, insights (e.g., “Given a description of a planet, the student will be able to identify that plan, as demonstrated verbally or in writing.” Or “The student will be able to evaluate the different theories of the origin of the solar system as demonstrated by his/her ability to compare and discuss verbally or in writing the strengths and weaknesses of each theory.”). This includes knowledge or information recall, comprehension or conceptual understanding, the ability to apply knowledge, the ability to analyze a situation, the ability to synthesize information from a given situation, and the ability to evaluate a given situation.

Affective: attitudes, appreciations, relationships (e.g., “Given the opportunity to work in a team with several people of different races, the student will demonstrate a positive increase in attitude towards non-discrimination of race, as measured by a checklist utilized/completed by non-team members.”). See also a detailed description of the affective domain.

Finally we have learning outcomes. A learning outcome describes the overall purpose or goal from participation in an educational activity. Courses should be planned with a measurable learning outcome in mind. Outcome is a written statement that reflects what the learner will be able to do as a result of participating in the educational activity. The outcome addresses the educational needs (knowledge, skills, and/or practices) that contribute to the professional practice gap and achieving the learning outcome results in narrowing or closing that gap. The learning outcome can assess the overall impact of multiple objectives. It is the knowledge at conclusion of the educational activity; participants will self-report knowledge gain of effective communication styles.

Hence learning outcomes: describe broad aspects of behavior which incorporate a wide range of knowledge and skill; increased use in the 1990's when workplace requirements involve broader skill sets which are transferable to a wide range of work settings; accomplished over time in several learning experiences; and refer to demonstrations of performance

Conversely a learning objective is the instructor’s purpose for creating and teaching their course. These are the specific questions that the instructor wants their course to raise. They are usually viewed from the instructor’s perspective (what does the instructor want to accomplish? In contrast, learning outcomes are the answers to those questions. They are the specific, measurable knowledge and skills that the learner will gain by taking the course.

Objectives are used to organize specific topics or individual learning activities to achieve the overall learning outcome.

Objectives are statements that define the expected goal(s) of an educational activity. Learning objectives can be used to structure the content and outcomes of an educational activity. Objectives may include tasks such as "list", "discuss" or "state."

Hence learning objectives: tend to describe specific, discrete units of knowledge and skill, these are the outcomes; were useful during the 1970's and 1980's when attempts were made to describe workplace activities as specific tasks to be completed; can be accomplished within a short time frame - still may be relevant for a class period; tend to be statements of intent; do not necessarily suggest that the behavior has been demonstrated

At the end of instruction the outcomes are obtained depending on specialization

Characteristics of Good Learning Outcomes

If your department already has learning goals that it would like to develop into outcomes or is examining its current learning outcomes there are several characteristics to look for:

Learning outcomes are student-centered in that they focus on the knowledge and skills that students can demonstrate (not on what instructors or curriculum aim to teach students).

The learning described in outcomes should encompass the essential and significant knowledge and skills students should develop in your course.

Generally outcomes are short; usually one sentence in length that clearly states the behaviors that student should be able to demonstrate.

Outcomes focus on the action that signifies student learning by using concrete, measurable verbs: action verbs. First drafts of outcomes often contain verbs like understand, be aware of or appreciate that are difficult to observe and measure. Actionable verbs such as interpret, compare, design, and evaluate are far more concrete and less complicated to observe and evaluate.

The number of outcomes will vary from course to course, usually between 5 and 7, and generally not more than ten. The focus should be on creating a manageable number of significant learning outcomes, it is better to work with six focused outcomes of significant learning than a dozen scattered ones.

Writing Learning Outcomes

Writing learning outcomes should be a reflective, faculty-guided process as the members of the department best understand their discipline and their expectations of their majors. Many departments find the following steps to be helpful as they begin the process of creating learning outcomes for their majors.

Reflect with other faculty members on the question: What it is that graduates should know or be able to do with a degree in your discipline?

Refer to resources from your discipline, department, college, and the university about expectations of graduates. Disciplinary associations often have websites and publications that provide useful assessment materials. Institutional expectations of students can often be found in department and institutional learning goals, missions, and vision statements.

Draft questions in outcome form. In order to keep the outcomes student centered, begin each one with “Students will be able to…” and choose action verbs that can be observed and measured.

Group outcomes in broad categories based on similarity to determine if one outcome can take the place of several:

“Students will be able to design and conduct experiments to address questions of interest to the discipline.” “Students will be able to design and administer surveys that address questions appropriate to the discipline.” “Students will be able to conduct interviews and focus groups that address questions relevant to the discipline.”

The relationship between goals, objectives, instruction, and outcomes is summarized in Figure 2

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Figure 2: Educational goals, objectives, instruction, and outcomes

Source: Kelly (2012) The Peak performance centre


Competence based education is linked several philosophical foundations and learning theories. To start with, there are five primary components of CBE related to advancement, objectives, assessments, support, and skills training. These five components identify a program as competency-based. As you look over these characteristics, consider how they provide opportunities to benefit students.

- Students advance upon demonstrated mastery
- Competencies include explicit, measurable, transferable learning objectives that empower students
- Assessment is meaningful and a positive learning experience for students
- Students receive timely, differentiated support based on their individual learning needs
- Learning outcomes emphasize competencies that include application and creation of knowledge, along with the development of important skills and dispositions.

CBE is an eclectic model adopting concepts from several modern learning theorists. Such theoretical foundation has multiple learning theory roots including behaviorists, functionalist, constructivists, cognitive theorists, as well as humanistic learning theories. The most important theories are the Behaviorism theories which are based on observable changes in individual behaviour. Behaviorists believe that new behaviours need to be repeated until they are internalized. The learner is expected to focus on a clear goal and can respond automatically to that goal (Schuman, 1996). However, learners may find themselves in situations where the stimulus for a correct response does not occur, and therefore in that situation the learner cannot respond. For example, a learner who has been conditioned to respond to a certain cue in the class like copying notes from teachers will stop learning when the teacher is missing because he has not been trained to respond to the new situation like learning individually or independently. Generally, according to behaviourists a Competence is treated as something a person is or should be able to do. It is a description of action, behaviour or outcome capable of demonstration and assessment

Cognitive theory is all about the thought processes behind the behaviour. This is a psychological process that explains human behaviour by understanding the thinking processes. The theory assumes that humans are logical beings making choices that are most sensible to them. Any observed changes in behaviour reflect what is happening inside the learner’s mind. The goal is to enable learners to do and complete tasks consistently. Hence, to cognitive theorists Competence is what a person knows and can do under normal circumstances.

Constructivists assume that individuals construct their own perceptions and perspectives of the world as a result of both previous and ongoing individual experiences and the contexts. Such adaptability and flexibility prepare learners to solve problems in new situations. The learner is better able to interpret multiple realities and deal creatively with real life situations. Such learners may apply their existing knowledge to new situations (Schuman, 1996).

Ralph Tyler introduced a combination of liberal arts education and the professional education movement (Tyler, 1976). The professional education movement placed emphasis on practical preparation for a profession and Tyler advocated its importance for students to learn the theoretical foundations to best understand how to apply their learning to practice. Tyler (1976) insisted on viewing, analyzing and interpreting curriculum and instructional programs in educational institutions as well as linking measurable learning objectives and assessment strategies. Tyler (1976) advocated that “curriculum should be dynamic, always under evaluation and revision, rather than a static, set program” This dynamic approach to learning shifts curriculum from being content driven to a student‐cantered approach to learning which is a foundation of CBE

John Carroll as a psychologist and educator studied on how students learn and outlined that what and how a student learn is based on the time it takes for them to learn a task, the learning opportunities provided to learn the task, the amount of time a student is willing to invest in learning a task, the quality of instruction regarding the task, and the students understanding of the task. This learning approach considers the student's ability to learn and the instructor's quality of teaching (Carroll, 1963)

Benjamin Samuel Bloom (1913 – 1999) introduced the classification of educational objectives and the theory of mastery learning. He was a theorist and psychologist who believed that most students can master what we teach them and it is the task of instruction to find the means which will enable our students to master the subject under consideration (Hall & Jones, 1976) According to Bloom, for students to master what is taught, the instructor must find effective means which will enhance students to master the subject properly (Hall & Jones, 1976). This “mastery of learning” approach allows for assessment of a student's learning before (pre) and after (post) lesson to determine the length, extent, and depth required, and what educational interventions would be helpful to assist the student in learning. Again, learning objectives are developed based on the outcome of a pre‐assessment of student knowledge. Hence, instruction based on the learning objectives, focuses on specific behaviours a student needs to demonstrate in order to achieve the so called competence.


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Competence Based Education and E-Portfolio in Tertiary Education
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Competence Based Education, Tertiary Education, Employability Skills, Active Methodologies, MyDocumenta, E-Portifolio, Digital Identity, Digital Marketing
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Dr Hyasinta Kessy (Author), 2020, Competence Based Education and E-Portfolio in Tertiary Education, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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