03 SES 11 B, Key Skills/Competence-based Curriculum
Emphasis on competence-based approaches in education was initiated in mid-90s by UNESCO under Jacque Delors leadership (Delors, 1996), followed by Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Definition and Selection of Competencies (DeSeCo) project, which then led to The European Reference Framework (ERF) of key competences (Official Journal of the European Union [OJEU], 2006). More recently, with “A New Skills Agenda for Europe”, the European Commission [EC] doubled down on its push towards more skills-based education as “[…] pathway to employability and prosperity” (EC, 2016, p. 2). In the Agenda, ‘skills’ are defined broadly as what a person knows, understands, and can do. A few publications have recently focused on examination of worldwide spread of competence-based education (CBE) from educational policy perspective (Anderson-Levitt, 2017) as well as presence of research related to ‘key competences’ covering the period from 1990 to 2013 relying only on ERIC education database (Buscà Donet, Ambròs Pallares, & Burset Burillo, 2017). However, very little is known from the educational research perspective on how CBE approaches have influenced educational policy and practice within specific national education systems, or what research questions have been addressed when examining the competence-based curricula. Davies (2000) argued that educational policy and practice gain much from systematic reviews and research syntheses. This paper aims to provide a synthesis of the state of the art with regard to educational research that focused on competence-based education and curricula covering a period of 20 years – starting with 1997 as the first year after Delors report in 1996. Two key research questions are addressed here: (1)How much research is reported in the peer reviewed literature about ‘competence-based education’, ‘competence-based curricula’, ‘key competences’, and ‘key competencies’ education? And (2)What is geographical distribution, themes, education levels, subject matter domains, research methodologies, and key findings of the studies in CBE research? Theoretically, the study is grounded on knowledge traditions of education (Furlong and Whitty, 2017), who have proposed a three-cluster categorization of knowledge traditions, including academic, practical, and integrated knowledge traditions. Further, the study adopts from the curriculum-didaktik approaches as two main education traditions in the Western world that shape to a large extent, for example, what education policies are implemented in school systems (Hopmann, 2015; Tahirsylaj, Niebert, & Duschl, 2015; Schiro, 2013, Pinar, 2011; Deng & Luke, 2008).
The study is a relevant contribution as very little is known from the educational research perspective how curriculum policy, teacher understanding of CBE, curriculum implementation, and assessment of key competences have been shaped under CBE approaches within and across national education systems. As it has been argued, educational policy and practice gain much from systematic reviews and research syntheses (Davies, 2000). As such, the review sheds light on definition of ‘key competences’ as a core concept underpinning CBE approaches, dissecting the various theoretical/academic sources versus those more prone to project work of multi-international organizations such as UNESCO and OECD. Further, the paper has direct implications for national curriculum policy making as it highlights the key challenges already faced in efforts to implement CBE approaches, and to some extent, may also serve as a reference point whether CBE approaches should be pursued at all.
This study is a systematic review, and more specifically it falls within ‘narrative reviews’ category as the goal is not to seek generalizations but to identify and analyze key issues related to CBE from educational research perspective (Davies, 2000; Educational Research Review, n.d). The search strategy relies on Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) framework (Liberati et al., 2009), which is one of the most established frameworks for systematic reviews and meta-analyses. The PRISMA framework outlines key stages to search for the articles, develop inclusion and exclusion criteria and evaluate articles that are part of the final sample. We used the following four search terms: ‘competence-based education’, ‘competence-based curriculum’, ‘key competences’, and ‘key competencies’ in five major international social science databases, including: ERIC; Scopus; Springer Link; Taylor & Francis Online; and Web of Science. For inclusion criteria, we relied on (1) the type of publication, including journal articles and conference proceedings; (2) timeframe: 1997-2017; (3) field of study: education (or social sciences), (4) language: English, and (5) Peer-reviewed. For exclusion criteria, we set: (1) Not in primary and secondary education; (2) In vocational education; (3) Not about competence-based education and (4) No full-text accessible. Whenever possible, inclusion and exclusion criteria were applied through filters available in the databases, while exclusion criteria specifically were applied by reading article abstracts.
The initial search for the articles with four search terms across the five databases turned the following results: 1284 articles related to ‘key competencies’; 847 related to ‘key competences’, 371 related to ‘competence-based education’, and 171 related to ‘competence-based curriculum’ – 2673 articles in total. The results indicate that there is an overlap of articles both across four search terms and databases due to cross-indexing. Upon application of inclusion and exclusion criteria, 97 articles were included in the final stage for content analysis. Some of the findings we are able to share here include the following: regarding geographical distribution, 12 articles each are related to New Zealand and Spain, 11 are international in scope, then UK and European Union have 7 each and so on; four major topical categories are identified, namely, curriculum policy, curriculum implementation, teacher-related articles focusing on teachers’ understanding of CBE approaches, and student-related articles focusing on assessment of key competences; in terms of education levels, the majority of articles belong to upper-secondary education; in terms of subject matter domains, the majority of articles are a mix or general and not specified, followed by those related to ICT, Sciences and Mathematics; overwhelming majority of articles were published after 2010; the majority of articles use qualitative rather than quantitative methodologies; and the majority of articles do not define ‘competences/competencies’, and when they do they adopt definitions either from OECD or EU documents and publications, and less references are made to academic literature.
Anderson-Levitt, K. (2017). Global Flows of Competence-based Approaches in Primary and Secondary Education. Cahiers de la recherche sur l’éducation et les savoirs, (16), 47-72. Buscà Donet, F., Ambròs Pallares, A., & Burset Burillo, S. (2017). Bibliometric characteristics of articles on key competences indexed in ERIC from 1990 to 2013. European Journal of Teacher Education, 40(2), 144-156. Davies, P. (2000). The relevance of systematic reviews to educational policy and practice. Oxford Review of Education, 26(3-4), 365-378. Delors, J. (1996). Learning: the treasure within. Paris: UNESCO. Deng, Z. & Luke, A. (2008). Subject Matter: Defining and Theorizing School Subjects. In Connelly, F. M., He, M. F., & Phillion, J. (Eds.). The Sage Handbook of Curriculum and Instruction. Sage. 66–87. Education Research Review [ERR]. (n.d.). A guide for writing scholarly articles or reviews for the Educational Research Review. Retrieved from: https://www.elsevier.com/__data/promis_misc/edurevReviewPaperWriting.pdf European Commission [EC]. (2016). A New Skills Agenda for Europe. Retrieved from: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:52016DC0381&from=EN. Furlong, J., & Whitty, G. (2017). Knowledge traditions in the study of education. In Knowledge and the study of education: An international exploration, 13-57. Symposium Books Ltd. Hopmann, S. (2015) ‘Didaktik meets Curriculum’ revisited: historical encounters, systematic experience, empirical limits. Nordic Journal of Studies in Educational Policy, 2015:1, 27007, DOI: 10.3402/nstep.v1.27007 Liberati, A., Altman, D. G., Tetzlaff, J., Mulrow, C., Gøtzsche, P. C., Ioannidis, J. P. A., … Moher, D. (2009). The PRISMA Statement for Reporting Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses of Studies That Evaluate Health Care Interventions: Explanation and Elaboration. PLoS Medicine, 6(7), e1000100. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000100 Nordin, A., Sundberg, D. (2016). Travelling concepts in national curriculum policy-making : The example of competencies. European Educational Research Journal (online). 15. 314-328 Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU). (2006). Recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 December 2006 on key competences for lifelong learning (2006/962/EC). http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2006:394:0010:0018:en:PDF. Pinar, W. F. (2011). The character of curriculum studies: Bildung, currere, and the recurring question of the subject. Palgrave Macmillan. Schiro, M. S. (2013). Curriculum theory: Conflicting visions and enduring concerns. Sage Publications. Tahirsylaj, A., Niebert, K. & Duschl, R. (2015). Curriculum and didaktik in 21st century: Still divergent or converging? European Journal of Curriculum Studies. 2(2), 262-281.
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