Competency Categories


Through the literature, it is possible to find different classifications of competencies. The most common category identifies general or basic competencies and specific competencies. Gonzalez & Sanchez (2003) grouped competencies into categories such as: basic competencies, which are the basis for the learning process, personal competencies, which allow individuals to be successful in different life experiences, and professional competencies, which guarantee that the tasks and responsibilities are met. Hearn, Smith, Southey & Close (1995) divide competencies into two classes, technical competencies, which are unique to each profession and non-technical competencies such as abilities, attitudes, and knowledge, which are generic to all professions.  According to Echeverria (2001) professional competencies are: technical, methodological, participatory and personal. From the following chart, it is possible to recognize a clear description of some kinds of competency:

 The DeSeCo Project’s conceptual framework for key competencies classifies competencies in three broad categories. Each category, with a specific competency focus, provides a challenge in developing and implementing educational programs. First, individuals need to be able to use an extensive range of knowledge and abilities for interacting effectively with the environment. This suggests that students need to understand how to use their knowledge and abilities interactively. Second, in an increasingly mutually dependent world, individuals need to be able to engage with others, as they will meet people from a range of backgrounds. Third, individuals need to be able to take responsibility for managing their own lives, adjust their lives in the broader social context and act autonomously (DeSeCo, 2005).

In identifying key competencies, it is necessary to consider psychosocial pre-requisites for a successful and a well-functioning life. There are key competencies necessary for adapting to a world characterized by change, complexity and interdependence (DeSeCo, 2005).

According to DeSeCo (2005) a framework of key competencies consists of a set of specific competencies, connected in an integrated approach. Consequently, the underlying features across the categories of competencies are:

1.       Moving beyond taught knowledge and skills

In many OECD countries, the value of the educational system is based on flexibility, entrepreneurship, and personal responsibility. Not only are individuals expected to be adaptive, but also innovative, creative, self-directed and self-motivated. As a result, key competencies involve the mobilization of cognitive and practical skills, creative abilities, and other psychosocial resources such as attitudes, motivation, and values (DeSeCo, 2005).

The relevant component in this category is “the ability of individuals to think for themselves as an expression of moral and intellectual maturity and to take responsibility for their learning and for their actions” (DeSeCo, 2005, p.8).

2.     Reflection: the heart of key competencies

Reflective thought and action is an underlying feature of this category. “Thinking reflectively demands relatively complex mental processes and requires the subject of a thought process to become its object” (p.8). Therefore, reflection involves the use of meta-cognitive skills “creative abilities and taking a critical stance. It is not just about how an individual thinks, but also about how an individual constructs experiences more generally, including thoughts, feelings and social relations” (p.9).

3.      Combining key competencies

The special characteristic or diversity in the socio- cultural context demands a further link between the specific competencies. Consequently, “any given situation or goal may demand a constellation of competencies, configured differently for each particular case” (p.9). Individuals who are confronting different situations will apply a variety of competencies depending on the situation. Some factors which affect the development and implementation of new competencies include cultural norms, technological access, and social and power relations among others (DeSeCo, 2005).

The above category of key competencies demonstrates that each competency involves knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values. Beckett & Hager (1993) indicate that, from a relational and integrated view of competency, these attributes are not discrete and independent. As well, all competencies are developed and practiced in different contexts. It is important to emphasize that the competency of reflection is viewed as an opportunity to constantly review, evaluate, and incorporate new competencies which allow the individual to better respond to the ongoing and inevitable change. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: