Competence concepts mapped

(10th in my logic of competence series)

In this series of posts I’ve used many terms as a part of my attempts to communicate on these topics. Now I offer definitions for or notes about both the concepts I’ve used in the blog posts so far, and related ones drawn from a range of other work, and I link to posts where the ideas behind these concepts are discussed or used prominently. Then, towards the end of this post (placed there solely for readability) there is a map of how the concepts I’ve used relate to each other.

There are two main sources for borrowed definitions: first, the European Qualifications Framework (EQF); and second, the European Standard that is currently in the process of being published, EN 15981, “European Learner Mobility Achievement Information”, and its published precursor, CEN Workshop Agreement CWA 16133. While I was nothing to do with the creation of the EQF, I am a joint author of CWA 16133 and EN 15981.

Definitions and notes

term in definition and notes
ability 1;
something that a person is able to do
(Abilities cover both skills and competences, and are normally expressible in the form of a clause starting with an active verb. EQF uses the word “ability” in both definitions. Many learning outcomes are also abilities.)
assessing body organisation that assesses or evaluates the actions or products of learners that indicate their knowledge, skill, competence, or any expected learning outcome [CWA 16133]
assessment process process of applying an assessment specification to a specific learner at a specific time or over a specific time interval [CWA 16133]
assessment result 5; recorded result of an assessment process [EN 15981]
assessment result pattern People most often look for patterns in assessment results, like “over 70%” or “rated at least as adequate” rather than specific results themselves: not many people are interested in whether someone has scored exactly 75%. This concept represents the idea of what people are looking for in terms of assessment results.
assessment specification description of methods used to evaluate learners’ achievement of expected learning outcomes [CWA 16133] This covers all the documentation (or the implicit understanding) that defines an assessment process.
awarding body organisation that awards credit or qualifications [EN 15981]
common contextual term 3;
In any domain, or any context, there are concepts (at various levels of abstraction) that are shared by the people in that domain, that serve as a vocabulary. It is important that the terms used within a domain for the related frameworks, standards, ability definitions, criteria and conditions are consistent in their meaning. This box indicates the need for these concepts to be common, and that terms should not be defined differently for different purposes within a domain.
criterion or condition of performance or assessment 5; (see below)
educational level one of a set of terms, properly defined within a framework or scheme, applied to an entity in order to group it together with other entities relevant to the same stage of education [EN 15981]
effect, product, material evidence material results of a person’s activity If something material endures, it can be used as evidence. If there is nothing enduring, the original evidence need to be observed by witnesses, after which the witness statements substitute for the evidence.
employer agent employing an individual
employer activity actions of the employer
framework or occupational standard 3;
description of an occupational or industry area, conceivably including or related to job profiles, occupational standards, occupational levels or grades, competence requirements, contexts, tools, techniques or equipment within the industry
generic work role what is signified by an appropriate simple phrase appearing in a job advertisement, job specification, or occupational standard
industry sector 4; system of employers, employees and jobs working in related areas that share some of: common concepts and terminology; contexts; a framework or standards; or job requirements
job description or requirement 1;
expression used to describe what abilities are required to perform a particular job or undertake a particular role
knowledge / understanding outcome of the assimilation of information through learning [EQF] (Knowledge is the body of facts, principles, theories and practices that is related to a field of work or study. In the context of the European Qualifications Framework, skills are described as cognitive (involving the use of logical, intuitive and creative thinking) or practical (involving manual dexterity and the use of methods, materials, tools and instruments).)
level 4; educational level (q.v.) or occupational level (q.v.)
material and social reality This means all of the common objective world, whether described scientifically, or according to social convention, or in any way.
occupational level 4; one of a set of terms, properly defined within an occupational framework, associated with criteria that distinguish different stages of development within an area of competence
(This is often related to responsibility and autonomy, as with the EQF concept of competence. There may be some correlation or similarity between the criteria distinguishing the same level in different competence areas.)
person as agent This represents the active, conscious, rational aspect of the individual.
personal activity set or sequence of actions by a person, intended or taken as a whole
(An activity may be focused on the performance of a task, or may be identified by location, time, or context. Activities may require abilities.)
personal claim 1;
statement that an individual is able to do specified things
practiced skill ability to apply knowledge and use know-how to complete tasks and solve problems [EQF]
(In the context of the European Qualifications Framework, skills are described as cognitive (involving the use of logical, intuitive and creative thinking) or practical (involving manual dexterity and the use of methods, materials, tools and instruments).)
qualification status awarded to or conferred on a learner
(Many formal learning opportunities are designed to prepare learners for the assessment that may lead to an awarding body awarding them a qualification.) [latest draft of MLO: prEN 15982]
record of experience or practice 3; (This refers to any record or reflection about things done, but particularly in this context about tasks undertaken.)
task specification for learner activity, including any constraints, performance criteria or completion criteria
(Performance of a task may be assessed or evaluated. Specified tasks are usually part of job descriptions.)

Criteria and conditions

One particular area that is harder than most to understand is represented by the box called "criterion or condition of performance or assessment" — and this is evidently fairly central to the map below, being the most connected box, and directly connected to the concepts which I originally proposed as logically basic: personal claims may be about meeting these conditions or criteria; job descriptions or requirements may have them included.

Assessment and performance criteria and conditions as general terms are fairly easy to understand in themselves. For assessment, they specify either the conditions under which the assessment takes place, or the criteria by which the assessment is measured. For performance, conditions in effect specify the task that is to be undertaken, while criteria specify what counts as successful performance.

What is less easy to see is the dividing line between these and the ability concepts and definitions themselves, and perhaps this is due to the same fact that we have reckoned with earlier — that how much is abstracted in an ability concept or definition is essentially arbitrary. One can easily read, or imagine, definitions of ability that include conditions and performance criteria; but some do not.

For the purposes of the concept map below, perhaps the best way of understanding this concept is to think of it as containing all the conditions or criteria that are not specified by the ability concept or definition itself; recognising that the boundary line is arbitrary.

To make common sense and to be usable, conditions and criteria have to be grounded in material or social reality — they have to be based on things that are commonly taken to be observable, rather than being based on theoretical constructs.

Concept map

The following diagram maps out several of the ways that the concepts above can be understood as relating to one other. Note that generic language is used in a neutral way, in that for instance the verbs are all in the present tense. However, many of these relationships are in fact tentative or possible, rather than definite, and they may be singular or plural.

Map of related competence concepts

Map of related competence concepts

The diagram is a concept map constructed with CmapTools, and includes various other concepts that I haven’t discussed explicitly, but on which I have suggested definitions or notes above. I reckoned that these other concepts might help explain how it all fits together. As always with these large diagrams, a few words of caution are in order.

  • This is of course only a small selection of what could be represented.
  • It is from a particular point of view, and cannot be perfect.
  • Such a map is best looked at a little at a time. Focus on one thing of interest, and follow through the connections from that.

I hope that the definitions and the concept map are of interest and of use. What the map does not clarify sufficiently is the detailed structure and relationships of ability concepts and structures that contain several of them. This will follow later, but before that, I will review the requirements I have collected for implementation.

2 thoughts on “Competence concepts mapped

  1. Very intuitive!

    Would you consider making the concept map available as a “dynamic” map, i.e. with links to relevant material. Is it OK with you if we (as readers…, me as an individual) jump in and try a ‘go’ for a next version?!?

    Again, thank you for a very motivating reading!

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