How to: Describing Competency Development

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Competence description entails how persons can apply knowledge, skills and attitudes after learning. Therefore, description of learning outcome is a communication intrument with the learner and with third persons. Furthermore, a certificate or whatever method one uses informs about the facilitators and their organization, its values and their capacities. Credibility and trustworthness are crucial aspects here. This articles gives orientation toward realistic and informative descriptions of competency development.

Higher education and schools are in an easier position than providers of non-formal or informal learning . The first certificate learning efforts simply with grades, not explaining the criteria behind them or the personal qualities a person has. But people trust these organizations and through standardization in the formal education, people feel, that the grades might be comparable . However, non-formal education providers cannot simply assess persons through such kind of grades and diploma. Here whether comparability is possible as every context and learning provider is different and every group. Instead they have to show their credibility and quality through qualitative, precise, and realistic certificates.

Explain Your Context

Explain, in what kind of framework the learning took place. Try to quantify this as well

Description

Example

Education Format

Seminar, training, academy, workshop, project week, project, international encounter...

The academy for sustainable engagement

Basic Facts

Where, how long, what kind of experts/trainers, what kind of group, selection criteria

The academy took place in London, and brought during five days twenty European students from 10 countries came voluntarily together with experts from NGOs and civic education. Out of 200 online applications the best 20 participants were selected.

Pedagogical Approach

how learning took place, what kind of learning idea was behind the venue? non-formal education, peer education, networking, capacity building for activists, experts in the field of ..

It connected activists and their experience. It shaped an interactive space for exchange by using methods that stimulate involvement and co-shaping of the process. Participants developed cooperation activities supported by guidance through peer coaches. Experts' inputs to the topics of ecology, civil activism and fundraising deepened the knowledge of the participants. The academy was organized by the partners ... already the tenth time.


Differentiate

On classical school certificates teachers differentiate with numbers to what extent one fulfills the requirements. A competence based approach might have better results when describing more clear, in example:

Description

Example

practical competence

XYZ is able to perform the task....

XYZ is able to develop a project concept

foundational competence

XYZ understood what to do and why to do the task or set of tasks...

XYZ understood the concept of active citizenship and how personal initiatives contributes to a civil society

applied competence

XYZ demonstrated the ability to perform a set of tasks...

XYZ developed a project concept in a team, they developed an action plan, a time plan, and a budget.


Use active words

Active Words

Lazy Words

analyze justify explain

getting familiar perceive getting to know with

Lazy words are describing lazy people. Without mobilizing any energy I can perceive something or become familiar with a topic. The following table of active words might replace some common lazy words:[1]

Act

Apply

Analyze

Argue for..

Assess

Assume

Categorize

Check

Choose

Collaborate

Collect

Combine

Compare

Conceptualize

Construct

Connect

Conclude

Criticize

Dare

Discover

Discuss

Distinct

Decide

Design

Develop

Diagnose

Estimate

Evaluate

Explain

Express

Experiment

Find out

Formulate

Illustrate

Improve

Include

Interact

Implement

Judge

Label

List

Localize

Observe

Organize

Outline

Plan

Present

Prove

Reflect

Repeat

Reproduce

Remember

Reinforce

Shape

State

Sketch

Solve

Support

Test

Transfer

Transform

Understand

Use

Validate

Verify


Describing Learning Outcome

For describing the outcome the beforehand formulated goals and the factual competency development of participants are relevant. As we keep all three dimensions in mind, it can be useful to distinct between the three competence learning domains knowledge - skills - attitude.

  • Topic 1:
    • Knowledge aspect: Participants knows...
    • Skill aspect: participants can do...
    • Attitude aspect: participant perceives, evaluates ...
  • Topic 2:
    • Knowledge aspect
    • Skill aspect
    • Attitude aspect

...


Describing Specific Qualities and Behavior

Following the idea of resource orientation we might appreciate specific qualities of a participant. Here we recommend a look on the different competence fields[2] and to choose one or two specific qualities. Check: File:Template-key-competencies.pdf

Task specific factual competence

Expertise in a specific topic, identifying adequate solutions for tasks, knowledge how a topic is related to other fields and within a field

Methodological competence

Ability to choose methodology and to evaluate outcomes. Acting consciously, adequately and in a goal-oriented way. A

Social competence

Ability to shape relationships and to interact. Reflecting different interests, needs and tensions.

Personal competence

Attitude to responsibility, democratic values, self-learning; Ability to act autonomously and in groups, in a self-organized and reflective way: Observing and evaluating challenges, requirements or options.

Exemplary Descriptions

One might enrich this appreciation with one or two exemplary descriptions taken from the learning event. Here a descriptive approach is better than those in a laudatio style. Descriptive observation helps the third party to build their mental picture of a person better.

One should prevent using exaggeration

phenomenal, outstanding, fantastic, extraordinary...

One should try not to evaluate

consequently, adequate, competent, superior...

A focus might be set on descriptive terms within a description of a situation

what happened, what a person did and what impact this action had on a situation.



References

  1. Olivia Vrabl: Schritt-für-Schritt-Anleitung zur Formulierung von Lernergebnissen (intended learning outcomes) in: Johann Haag, Josef Weißenböck, Wolfgang Gruber, Christian F. Freisleben-Teutscher (Ed.): Kompetenzorientiert Lehren und Prüfen; Basics – Modelle – Best Practices; Tagungsband zum 5. Tag der Lehre an der FH St. Pölten am 20.10. 2016; p. 15ff.
  2. German "Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training" (BIBB): K. Hensge, B. Lorig, D. Schreiber: Kompetenzstandards in der Berufsausbildung; Abschlussbericht Forschungsprojekt 4.3.201 (JFP 2006)