Capability and Competency – A step towards VET Reform

copyright-symbols-and-rules-you-need-to-know-04 2015

Intellectual Property of Dr. Bruce D. Watson, DEd Melbourne and attributed authors as noted.

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For Private individual use. All rights reserved.


A merged concept including capability and competency could be helpful in Reforming the VET System. I am working on something at present – not fully developed but happy to post here for reaction and comment.

The VET System uses a very narrow conceptualisation of Competency that has since been rejected through advances in educational theory, practice and research. The understanding of competency has come a long way since the task-based or behaviourist conceptions over 50 years ago. The task-based approach is excessively reductionist, assumes that the whole is not greater than the sum of the parts and ignores such factors as context and personal attributes.

Competency should be conceptualised in terms of an amalgamation of attributes, such as knowledge, skills and attitudes. In a workplace, competency should take into account the complex interaction of attributes that underpin occupational performance. It seeks to link general attributes to the context in which they will be used and therefore avoids the problem of ridiculously long task lists by selecting key tasks or elements that are central to the practice of an occupation.

Such an integrated approach allows for a range of appropriate situational responses and the potential to develop them to meet changing needs in healthcare providers. The integrated conception of competence therefore encompasses all aspects of work performance, not only narrow task-related skills.

Documenting and understanding capabilities may inform the development of units of competency but the two are not interchangeable. The relationship between competency and capability can be observed in a competency model adapted from the work of Trichet and  Leclere as shown in Diagram 1.

1. [The model focuses] on how to represent competency as a rich data structure. The heart of this model is to treat knowledge, not as possession, but as a contextualised multidimensional space of capability either actual or potential. The …model…involves three important elements: an orientation towards and focus upon activity-based teaching and learning

2. the identification and integration of appropriate subject matter content within a broader teaching and learning context represented by a hierarchy of competencies

3. the straightforward identification of the assessment that would demonstrate successful teaching and learning


Competency Competence describes what individuals know or are able to do in terms of knowledge, skills and attitudes at a particular point in time
Source In this context, a person who provides “the competency”, for instance a healthcare worker.
Proficiency level Degree of mastery of a skill or area of knowledge
Capability The sum of expertise and capacity. Describes the extent to which an individual can apply, adapt and synthesise new knowledge from experience and continue to improve his or her performance
Subject matter content Knowledge, skills, attitudes, attributes
Taxonomy In this competency model taxonomy is a classification hierarchy of capabilities; a framework for correlating educational attainment with evidence of qualities that relate to abilities relevant to the performance of work roles.
Evidence In this context, evidence may be thought of as successful teaching and learning outcomes including summative assessment.
Tool In this context, it may be thought of as formative assessment and teaching methodologies
Situation Context

[1] Trichet, F. , Leclere, A., A framework for building competency-based systems dedicated to human resource management. Lecture notes in computer science. In Sitthisak, O. et al, ib id


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