Date of Award

Spring 6-11-2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD) in Education


College of Education, Doctoral Program

First Advisor

Donna Kiel

Second Advisor

Andrea Kayne

Third Advisor

Sally Julian


Competency-based education has been a growing movement in K-12 education but faces several implementation challenges. In addition, discussion in the field is lacking related to the competency-based principle: learning outcomes emphasize the authentic application of knowledge. New to the competency-based field are proficiencies called competencies, which are skill-based, transdisciplinary proficiencies that are structured across a continuum of varying performance levels. This study employed a case study methodology utilizing teacher and educational leader interviews as well as artifacts to explore the implementation of competencies in a competency-based organization and two schools that partnered with it. This study specifically investigated how competencies are implemented at these schools, how competencies influence teacher practice, and implementation challenges. Major themes in the findings include a comprehensive description of: (1) competencies and their deliberate connection to authentic, agentic learning experiences, (2) a dynamic of push and pull between competencies, content, and project-based learning, (3) notable mindsets amongst teachers, (4) characteristics of classroom preparation and practices, (5) professional development, and (6) challenges. This study concludes with implications that address: (1) increasing teacher capacity for competency-based education, (2) developing structures to support authenticity and agency, (3) using competencies as proficiencies and as a tool for teaching, (4) the intersection to other educational fields including social & emotional learning, project-based learning, and service learning, (5) potential solutions to identified challenges, and (6) system-wide structures that may better support competency-based education at scale.

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