Integral Formation and Competencies Complex thinking, curriculum, teaching and assessment



Cita APA:

Tobón, S. 2016.  Integral Formation and Competencies Complex thinking, curriculum, teaching and assessment. Lake Mary(USA): Kresearch. link:

Competencies have each day a higher ranking in education. Have gone from being a secondary element strongly criticized to become a key concept of education at all levels. This is how most educational reforms that are taking place in Latin America consider them as a relevant and structural axis to achieve quality. Also, many technical institutions and universities are addressing competencies in the design or redesign of curriculum, both at the undergraduate and postgraduate and for continuous education. This shows the importance of this concept at present and the need to understand and apply it with relevance.

This is also happening in social organizations and business, which in front of the continuous changes and the emergence of new challenges posed by the knowledge society are restructuring human talent management as the main reference of competencies. This is how many organizations in Latin America are having positive results and positive impact by focusing on individuals, allowing to face difficulties and generate new products and/or services, a task in which technology and financial resources are not sufficient.

However, just as has been progress in improving educational and organizational processes through the work with competencies, there a number of challenges that is necessary to address, such as:

  1. Making education a fundamental right, in coverage and quality, and at all levels, not just elementary. Quality education should be for all, not for the rich or for those with greatest skills on logical-mathematical analysis or those with better grades. Competencies can not be used, as is currently being done in many countries, to select people for the purpose of providing educational services. On the contrary, competencies should be used to ensure that all citizens have the educational service that best fits their profile and needs, without excluding anyone.
  2. Having theoretical and methodological domain of competencies work. Oftentimes many principals and teachers have the best disposition to educational change, but lack of substantiation of how to bring it to reality and this requires specific training through conferences, seminars, courses, diplomas and/or graduate programs, as well as reading various materials, critically evaluate educational experiences and socialize what is done to learn from both, the successes and difficulties.
  3. Making planning processes based on competencies simple. The emphasis on the concept of competencies has lead to the development of educational planning methods in great detail, sophistication and with multiple components, both for the curriculum as well as for the teaching sessions and assessment processes. This, in practice, is complicating the work of teachers, administrators, supervisors and advisors, because it involves to fill in a variety of formats and spend considerable time doing it, while the challenge is to implement the approach with students and support them to reach the exit profile established. Planning is necessary, but should be addressed simply and considering the fundamentals. The teacher, as a professional with criteria, may be free to do the respective complementation or adaptations according to the needs each one has.
  4. Apply complex thinking in oneself, with others and the environment, and not to accumulate much more knowledge about complex thinking. Many teachers spend time reading the works of Professor Edgar Morin, and even sign in for courses and postgraduate programs about his work. The main challenge is not to learn more about complex thought but have it and practice it to be able later to form it in students, so they act with understanding, relevance, flexibility, bonding, creativity and ethics.
  5. To transcend traditional approaches to competencies. There is still too much emphasis on addressing competencies from behaviorism and functionalism, al though educational institutions declare explicitily they follow constructivism. Traditional approaches have provided major contributions to the understanding and application of competencies, but it’s time to find other references, and this is why is important to consider social-formation, an approach that has a systemic vision around education and human talent management based on relevant performance and ethics.
  6. To address the educational quality assessment systemically. Very often educational quality assessment is done by applying tests to determine cognitive achievement, and this leaves aside multiple intelligences, performance facing real problems and ethics. Furthermore, rarely quality of education is assessed considering the socioeconomic environment, students’ nutrition, the quality of educational materials, the social and family environment, management of principals, the way teachers work, the conditions of the study sites, the influence of different media, among multiple interrelated elements. The socio-formative approach seeks precisely that quality education is addressed by considering the different factors that influence and that each actor in the process take its responsibility with facts.
  7. To transform traditional tests for assessment of learning into competencies-based testing. Progress has been made to have competencies-based educational reforms, but the tests that continue being applied in most Latin American countries to determine cognitive achievement remain under the traditional methodology, focusing primarily on content. It is necessary to transform testing, so that tests focus on performance levels and problems rather than content. This is a great challenge mainly in Chile and Mexico, countries with advances in the curriculum under competencies, but whose national assessment tests for cognitive achievement remain by subjects.
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