Community College Faculty and Competency-Based Education: A Grounded Theory Study

Date of Award

Summer 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)

Committee Chair

Bora Pajo

Committee Member

Michelle Geiman

Committee Member

Jeffrey Ferezan


Economic, social, and technological pressures for higher education have resulted in disruption to traditional methods of educational delivery. Competency-based education (CBE), one such disruption, is characterized by a transition in focus on seat time to flexible methods of curriculum delivery and mastery of learning. CBE provides students personalized classroom experiences, and typically involves diverse and customized instructional methods. The purpose of this grounded theory study was to examine views and experiences of community college faculty in transition to competency-based education (CBE) teaching. Faculty support and buy-in to CBE is a known critical element in successful adoption, and the study assessed faculty views and experiences to better understand resistance or acceptance. A total of 96 faculty at a Midwestern U.S. community college participated in an open-ended survey assessing background, motivations to teach, and progression from traditional to digital forms of teaching, including CBE. Findings revealed a critical relationship between fulfillment in teaching and human interaction and reciprocity in classroom settings. While faculty overwhelmingly support the concept of CBE, personal transition typically introduced conflict in teaching experience, and absent new measures of fulfillment, faculty were less likely to support CBE teaching. The study produced the Theory of Fulfillment Dependency (TFD), which states that professional fulfillment is linked to resistance to workplace change. When a new fulfillment naturally occurs in the new changing environment, resistance seems to diminish. If built-up dissatisfaction emerges or incrementally increases, so too does resistance to change.