Other cross-structure relationships

(9th in my logic of competence series)

My previous post covered how to do common competence features in different structures, typically where the structures share context. But what about when the two structures are from quite different starting points? Equivalences are harder to identify, but it may be useful to document other relationships.

My earlier post on the basic structures taken separately contrasted the UK LANTRA NOS’s with the QAA‘s Subject benchmark statement in the area. The way in which these are put together is quite different, and the language used is far from the same.

But there may be a good case for relating these two. What would happen if someone who has a qualification based on NOSs wanted to give evidence that they have attained Subject Benchmarks? Or, more likely, what if someone who has a vocational qualification in, say, agriculture wants to select modules from a degree course in agriculture, where the intended learning outcomes of the university’s degree course refer to the appropriate Subject Benchmark Statement? Even if there are no equivalences to note (as discussed in the previous post) we may see other useful relationships, such as when something in one structure is clearly part of something else in another structure, or where they are not equivalent, but they are meaningfully related. Let’s see what we can find for the (not atypical) examples we have been looking at.

Starting hopefully on familiar ground, let’s look at the generic skills related to the LANTRA unit CU5 that I’ve mentioned before. Element CU5.1, or unit CU5 in the 2010 Veterinary NOSs, is called “Maintain and develop personal performance”, and this seems related to the Benchmark’s “Self-management and professional development skills”. They appear not to be equivalent, so we aren’t justified in creating a skos:exactMatch or skos:closeMatch relationship between those two structures, but we could perhaps use skos:relatedMatch (another SKOS Mapping Property) to indicate that there is a meaningful relationship, even if not precisely specified. This might then be a helpful pointer to people about where to start looking for similar skill definitions, when comparing the two structures. The Benchmark seems to be generally wider than the NOS unit, and perhaps this would be expected, given that graduate level skills in agriculture should cover something that vocational skills do not. Here, “moral and ethical issues” and “professional codes of conduct” are not covered in the NOSs. Perhaps the closest correspondence can be seen with the Benchmark’s “targets for personal, career and academic development”, prefaced at “threshold” level by “identify…”, “typical” level by “identify and work towards…” and “excellent” level by “identify and work towards ambitious…”. In the NOS, the individual must be able to: “agree personal performance targets with the appropriate person”; “agree your development needs and methods of meeting these needs with the appropriate person”; “develop your personal performance according to your agreed targets, development needs and organisational requirements”; and “review personal performance with the appropriate person at suitable intervals”. They must also know and understand (among other things) “how to determine and agree development needs and personal targets”. Personally, I’m not sure whether anything deserves a skos:closeMatch property — probably what we would need to do would be to get the relevant people together to discuss the kinds of behaviour covered, and see if they actually agree or not on whether there was any practical equivalence worthy of a skos:closeMatch.

There is also a definite relationship between the Benchmark’s “Interpersonal and teamwork skills” and the NOS’s “Establish and maintain working relationships with others”. Again, it is difficult to identify any very clear relationships between the component parts of these, but despite this lack of correspondence at fine granularity, it seems to me that the five ability points from the NOS are more than covered by the five points appearing at the “typical” level of the Benchmark. There are two other SKOS Mapping Properties that might help us here: skos:broadMatch and skos:narrowMatch. These correspond to skos:broader and skos:narrower, but applied across different structures, rather than within one structure. Thus we could potentially represent that LANTRA CU5A (2010) has a “skos:broadMatch” in the Benchmark’s Interpersonal and teamwork skills, “typical” level. Conversely, that “typical” Benchmark component has a “skos:narrowMatch” in LANTRA’s CU5A.

On the subject-specific end, again there are plenty of areas where you can see some connection, but hard to see very clear distinct relationships. As you might expect, there is a tendency for the NOSs to deal with specific skills, while the Benchmark deals in more general knowledge and understanding. The horticultural PH16 NOS unit is titled “Respond to legislation affecting consumer rights”, while the Benchmark has various “subject-specific knowledge and understanding” to do with “social, economic, legal and technological principles underlying the business management of farm or horticultural enterprises”. Probably, people meeting this part of the Benchmark standard at a good enough level have skills that include that unit of the NOS, so we could in theory note a skos:broadMatch relationship between the NOS unit and that part of the Benchmark. But we could only do that (for any area) if we had URI identifiers available to mark the relevant sections unambiguously, and at present there are few if any competence structures where URIs have been officially assigned to the parts of the structure.

It seems unlikely that an agriculture graduate would be wanting accreditation of a LANTRA NOS unit, but if someone did, supporting systems could potentially make use of these relationships represented as SKOS Mapping Properties. More likely, someone who has covered the LANTRA NOS would be able to save a lot of time in putting together a shortened agriculture degree programme if all the skos:broadMatch relationships were documented, as it would be relatively easy to design a tool that allows efficient comparison of the relevant documentation, as a support to deciding whether a particular module at degree level needs to be taken, or not. This seems likely to be a similar process to Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL) in which the university accredits previous attainment in terms of their degree programme. It could also be adapted to APEL (E = “Experiential”) if the individual brought along a portfolio of evidence for attaining relevant NOSs. These processes are important in the likely future world where tailoring of degree courses becomes more common.

It looks like I have finished the coverage of the essential logical features of competence structures that I believe could usefully be incorporated in an interoperability specification. To repeat a point I have inserted in the introduction to this series, I would be delighted to discuss any of these posts one-to-one with interested people. It remains to bring all these points together in a way that is easier to follow, through the judicious use of diagrams, to discuss other emergent issues, and to talk about how we could work towards the practical implementation of such competence structures. The first diagram offered is a concept map, together with definitions.

6 thoughts on “Other cross-structure relationships

  1. I don’t know that the structures your using in this example are necessarily completely different contextually. I would say that LANTRA accreditation has the potential to be used in very much the same context as Agricultural graduate work. While the structures for accruing the credits/accreditation are different I think it’s quite easy to make the semantic connections between their shared competencies.

    I think it would be much more interesting to evaluate competencies across two entirely different disciplines between entirely different structures. For example, do the competencies required to be a lawyer that specializes in zoning and property law overlap with the competencies required to become a licensed real estate agent enough that passing the bar in a given U.S. state would, with the proper career evidence in terms of law specialty, allow the individual to be granted a real estate license from that state. Kind of a stretch as an example. But that was the first thing that came to mind.

  2. Hi (sorry you don’t seem to have a name :-) )

    The issue you point to is hard to resolve for any particular case, and I believe impossible to resolve in general.

    What does seem to be very widely held is that there is a set of “core”, “key”, “employability” or “transferable” skills, and though different formulations all seem to differ, it is clear that they are all talking about much the same range of abilities.

    Beyond that, we may all wonder how much of one set of skills and competencies may transfer from one context to another, but in the end it is more or less educated guesswork. We have to study or ask people who have themselves transferred between the two contexts, and ideally several people not just one or a few. Because that would take so much time and effort, we probably should rely for the time being on the most educated guesswork we can get hold of.

    Or you could see it as a matter of assessment. Get a competent X, and assess them for the competence needed to be a Y. To me, the most convincing long-term answer would be this, plus people volunteering to keep up a portfolio blog in which they record details of which of the required skills they did not feel competent about.


  3. Hi Simon,

    My name is Kyle, pardon the keyword laden moniker.

    Yes, I agree to some extent that it would be impossible to resolve all cases of that kind through any singular means. In reality, it would almost be simpler to just have the property lawyer try his hand at the real estate licensing exam and see if he passes than to have some sort of base case study comprising a portfolio blog that records an example lawyer cum real estate agent’s thoughts on the required skills for the field that he or she felt lacking in competence about once transferring between the two disciplines.

    I just felt a discussion of competency across different industries AND structures would be interesting. Though, your implication is likely correct that it would probably not be possible nor worth the time to develop a cross-structure/cross-industry competency transference system as it would be very unlikely for those making the transfer to have the same level of competency to warrant the transference of accreditation in one way or another.

  4. Alan, perhaps I didn’t express myself clearly enough… I meant “relatively easy” in the sense that it would be much easier to design such a tool on the basis of having the semantic links in place than doing so without their presence. Though that, I admit, doesn’t say very much…

    I have yet to look at MUSKET closely, though I do hope to do so soon.

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