THE ROLE OF INSTRUCTIONAL DESIGN IN COMPETENCY-BASED EDUCATION IN THE UNITED STATES: A QUALITATIVE INQUIRY IN THREE HIGHER EDUCATION INSTITUTIONS

Open Access
Author:
Fu, I-Pang
Graduate Program:
Workforce Education and Development
Degree:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Dissertation
Date of Defense:
May 06, 2016
Committee Members:
  • William J. Rothwell, Dissertation Advisor
  • William J. Rothwell, Committee Chair
  • Wesley E. Donahue, Committee Member
  • Judith A. Kolb, Committee Member
  • Rayne A. Sperling, Outside Member
Keywords:
  • Competency-based education
  • competency
  • higher education
  • instructional design
  • qualitative inquiry
  • CBE
Abstract:
In response to emerging needs for competency-based education (CBE), the U.S. Department of Education defined the direct assessment program on March 19, 2013 and provided guidelines in the Higher Education Act 34 CFR 668.10 for higher education institutions that planned to seek approval to offer CBE programs that met Direct Assessment regulations. However, CBE development still challenges faculty, staff, and administrators, and there is a need to shift the research focus from the regulatory environment for CBE to the operational process for CBE programming. This research was designed to investigate the recent development of the CBE movement in the United States through the lens of instructional design and to identify the role of instructional design in CBE programs. Qualitative inquiry was utilized to offer a different perspective on three selected research sites; the researcher tried to preserve the uniqueness of each individual case and provide cross-case analysis to enrich both readers’ and researchers’ knowledge of the CBE movement in the United States. Study results from the three cases revealed that backward design is commonly used in CBE programs, while transforming an existing degree program and fulfilling regulatory requirements were determined to be more popular ways to reduce the impact of CBE programming. As anticipated, the role of instructional design in CBE programs is still evolving, and the role played by instructional designers in CBE vary due to different institutional settings and contexts. Hence, multiple sources of learning were recognized in CBE programs and strong connections between industry needs and CBE curricula were evident in CBE instructional design practices. Findings showed that future CBE programming should be adapted so that: 1) instructional design staff or teams are included in higher-level planning and the decision-making process; 2) it prepares students for workforce needs; and 3) ensures strong student support so that students are retained in either CBE or traditional programs.