Turning Competencies into Learning Outcomes

Here’s what I did with one set of trade instructors to turn competencies into learning outcomes:

  1. Re-translating the program outline

We started with the provincial program outline for their trade (owned by the BC Industry Training Authority, here’s an example for Carpenter). This outline is deceiving: it is originally intended to communicate performance competencies for the workplace, articulated according to levels of  mastery, and as such, the DACUM charts illustrate this. These high level competencies are then further broken down in the Program Content section. However, instead of being titled as sub-competencies, they are titled, ‘objectives’ which are then further broken down into ‘teaching tasks’. But these are not teaching/learning outcomes as written, they are competencies. I’m guessing that the owners of the outline, the ITA, intend to prescribe to contracted training providers the content associated with each competency, and link it via learning objectives and tasks, which makes complete sense. However, they just need to re-write those objectives and tasks to be more appropriate.

2. Move towards holistic curricular themes

Then we decided to make a few more improvements and made our task a little more complex. The trade instructors do not find teaching line-by-line according to the program outline to be authentic or meaningful from a teaching and learning perspective. So we took a look at the entire outline and trade and determined what main curricular themes emerged that each of the competencies could be associated with, so that teaching could be contextualized within in a meaningful practice and/or topic via the curricular theme. Some competencies appear many times in various curricular themes, which might not look an efficient way of teaching from an instrumentalist approach, but certainly made these trade instructors relieved because it made 100% sense from a trade-practice approach. It also allowed for these competencies to be cycled through a number of times, allowing students multiple opportunities to learn and apply in multiple contexts. The point of view is from a teaching & learning perspective, not from an industry/level of achievement perspective, and the difference can be subtle reading the surface-level language but can be far reaching in terms of interpretation, as I have witnessed by the frustrations of training provider instructors.

3. Re-write

Then we re-wrote the objectives/tasks ourselves, cross-referencing with the prescribed content from the program outline to ensure that we were aligned. Instructors = happy. They now have meaningful learning outcomes mapped to associated competencies and written in the language of outcomes has made it much easier for them to plan and design authentic learning activities and assessments.