The Competency-Based Language Teaching
Most of the approaches and methods developed so far focus on the inputs of language learning. Conversely, the Competency – Based Education (CBE) is a movement focused on the output of learning. The CBE addresses the issue of what students expect to do with the language they want to learn. The movement was born in the United States in 1970 and it refers to an educational experiment that outlines the definition of educational objectives in terms of specific knowledge, skills, and behaviour.
The Competency-Based Language Teaching (CBLT) is an application of the fundamental principles of CBE for language learning. This approach was common in the late 70s, but only recently has re-emerged in some parts of the world, such as Australia.
The CBLT is based on the perceptual and functional nature of language. It is meant to teach the language in relation to the social context in which you use it. The language always serves as a means of interaction and communication between people. For this reason, this approach is used especially when the students have special needs and/or particular roles.
The learning exercises used in CBLT activities can be considered to be systematically designed to achieve a specific competence. These tasks are real tasks and “can be connected to any domain of life, but especially in survival-oriented and/or work related situations”
Typical situations for which these skills are developed are for example: job applications or interviews.
According to Auerbach (1986) there are eight characteristic features to distinguish the Competency-Based Language Teaching: 14
1. It focuses on society related issues. The goal is to teach the language in order to prepare students for the diverse needs of the world.
2. It focuses on life skills to underline that language is still taught as a means of communication in practical tasks.
3. The focus is on what students can do with language, as well as with certain behaviours.
4. The skills taught in the programme should be separated into modules and or into manageable parts, so that the teacher and the students can manage the content and fulfil their objectives.
5. The student tests’ results are of public domain, known and shared by both the students and the teacher. Therefore, students can see their mistakes, correct them and know clearly what behaviours and skills are expected of them.
6. Evaluation is continuous and permanent, meaning that students are tested before the course to determine what skills they lack, and are tested again after receiving instructions to check if they have achieved the necessary skills or not.
7. Mastery is demonstrated through the achievement of objectives. The evaluation is based on the results obtained from the specific behaviour of the students, rather than by traditional assessment.
8. Individualised and focused attention are given to each student, the instructions given by the teacher are not based on time but on the progress that each student makes. Therefore, the teacher needs to focus on each individual student in order to help in those areas where skills are lacking.
The teacher is required to provide a positive and constructive feedback in order to help students improve their skills. The teacher should give clear orders and explanations to make sure that every student understands the task that he/she going to face. Another function of the teacher in CBLT is to select learning activities and to design a curriculum based on the skills that students are about to acquire.
The skills that students learn are clearly defined in public, so that “the student knows exactly what is to be learned”15.
The main objective of the pupil in the Competency-Based Language Teaching is to be able to adapt and transfer the knowledge from one environment to another.
At the beginning of the course, students must go through a primary survey, in which the teacher determines the level of competence at the beginning of the course. After that the students are grouped on the basis of “their level of proficiency, their pace of learning, their needs and their social objectives to learn the language”