Taking a competence-based approach

The curricula of the Tampere higher education community are competence-based. This means that the planning of teaching starts with conceiving the academic and general competences specific to different disciplines as well as understanding generic competency. Defining such competency utilizes and requires researched knowledge, discussions that happen in interaction with society and working life.

We should be thriving towards an understanding and a vision of valuable and appropriate expertise and competencies, which are created through multifaceted dialogue. Since competence is a key concept in competence-based learning, it is important to understand what is meant by it. It is especially important to have a shared understanding of this among personnel within degree programmes, so that everyone knows what kind of goals and competency development is supported.

Competence-based approach means that in the context of learning and teaching we focus on:

  • What competences should a student have after graduation?
    • What is competence in different disciplines and fields of study? How do we appreciate the development of interdisciplinary competence, and consequently, the shared competences of the university community, as well as working life skills?
    • How do we ensure a sufficient variation of different study modes in taking the degree programme courses? How do we ensure that the chosen modes of study support wide-ranging development of competence?
  • What kind of skills should a student acquire during an individual course, after completing a study unit, and what kind of competencies will he / she have after graduation?
    • How do we ensure that a degree programme and the learning objectives of its courses comprise a streamlined and internally coherent entity?
  • How and in what different ways do the students share their own competence and make their competence visible?
  • How can competences acquired earlier or elsewhere be identified and recognized, and how can these competencies be introduced into the studies and the degree?
  • What do employers expect from the graduates, how does education respond to these expectations, and how can a person with higher education develop working life?
  • How can we avoid overlapping in studies?

Learning outcomes as a part of the curriculum process

A competence-based curriculum puts the focus on the student and their learning. Thus, the key objective of a competence-based approach is to support a student to identify the knowledge and skills specific to their discipline or field of education that they accumulate during their studies as well as the general competences. Planning competence-based learning starts at degree programme level and is then realised at study unit level through the learning outcomes, the study unit’s execution and its assessment. When there is an alignment in teaching – constructive alignment – learning outcomes, teaching methods and assessment are aligned and have a parallel effect.

Learning outcomes are a part of the curriculum process and its evaluation. The learning outcomes of study units and study modules are compiled by comparing them to the entire degree’s objectives. The written learning outcomes of all the interconnected study units should also make visible the accumulated competency. Learning outcomes represent the desired state, which is expressed as knowledge, skills and attitudes.

The assessment must support achieving the learning outcomes

Learning outcomes must be designed and recorded in a way that makes it also possible to assess, test or measure them in some way. It must be possible for the students to achieve them, and the study unit’s assessment must be based on how well the learning outcomes are achieved.

Assessment guides the studying and learning process: the student studies what they know will be assessed. Due to this, also the assessment methods need to be aligned with the learning outcomes and support their achievement. A student must be aware of the assessment criteria and methods by the start of the study unit, at the latest.

The objective of carefully articulated assessment criteria is to unify the assessment process of learning and competence. This also increases the transparency and predictability of learning and competence assessment as well as parity from the perspective of students. In addition to this, shared assessment criteria provide the students with a tool for identifying and expressing their own competence and setting goals for their studies.

How to plan a competence-based study unit

Both field-specific skills and ‘generic skills’ that the student is expected to achieve during the study unit should be included in the competence-based formulated learning outcomes and assessment.

The teacher can consider the competence-based approach of their own study units with the help of following questions:

  • What is the position of my study unit in the entire degree?
  • What kind of competence have the students achieved before starting my study unit, what will they achieve in the degree after my study unit?
  • What kind of field-specific competences will the students achieve during my study unit?
  • How and where are these skills used in working life and in developing working life?
  • What generic competences will the students achieve during my study unit?
  • How will these achieved field-specific competences and generic competences be assessed?

Generic competences and learning outcomes, which all students who have completed degree education from the Tampere higher education community should have upon graduating, have been presented in the shared learning outcomes.

More information for staff

Tampere University

Decision of the consistory: Principles and good practices for curriculum development
Curriculum development and learning outcomes
Osaamisperustaisuus opetussuunntelman ytimenä (in Finnish)

Tampere Universities community

Curriculum design

Elsewhere in TLC

Generic skills and competences
Feedback and assessment of learning
Evolve in teaching
News on trends in education

Links checked 23.2.2021