What is Competence and or Competency?

NL 53 What is Competence and or Competency?

Capt Teo
By Capt. Richard Teo

In the last issue of this Newsletter, a summary of the Crew Connect 2015 presentation on “Managing the Learning Environment” expressed the views of the audience, prompted by presenters, Paul Russel, Glenys Jackson and Richard Teo. What was most apparent was that, a good proportion of the highly knowledgeable and experienced audience was not fully informed as to what competence or competency in maritime education and training (MET) really entailed. It is easy to express doubts about someone’s competence or lack of it but really how fair or justified are we when we make such statements? A competency is simply defined in terms of,

● what a person is required to do well (performance), at the work place
● under what conditions it is to be done (expected work place conditions) and
● satisfies or meets the exemplar (benchmark – standards e.g. STCW convention)

If you take in the feedback and information that has been circulating about how mariners and aspiring officers do not meet expectations on the job, this indicates that there are issues in the learning and doing processes and expectations at the work place. There are issues also in how people perceive standard of competence and how competences or skill- sets are performed at the work place. The cause appears to be the manner in which, knowledge, skills and attitudes (basic components of competence) are transferred from the expert to the learner at the institution, at the work place and other sometimes dubious learning spaces. It is important to realise that each level of competence or competency comprises the exact transfer of the sufficient requisite knowledge, attainment and practice of the skills for the functions, tasks and roles that the knowledge underpins and then applying those knowledge and skills with the right accompanying attitudes, that is correct, safe, timely and economical to the scope of work to be performed and completed at hand and consistently throughout the person(s)’ career. The concept of competence includes all aspects of work performance – not only task skills. The assessment of competence involves a demonstration of competence(s) (knowledge, skills, and attitudes) in all of the dimensions of the competence:

● Task skills
● Task management skills
● Contingency management skills
● Job/role environment skills
● Transfer competences to others Including
● Underpinning Economic & commercial application skills.

Transfer of Competence

As the term implies, competence is the praxis that mariners must possess when performing at the work place, afloat and ashore. Yet feedback indicates that there are deficiencies. Many MET institutions put learners through intensive teaching, learning and study programmes culminating in lengthy examinations with secret questions. These study programmes are almost entirely subject oriented, knowledge based and subsumed through rote and memory. Successful graduands then head to sea and pick up the finer points of seamanship prior to becoming ships’ officers, deck and engineers. Many graduands fail to recognise any connections with what they have learned (learning objectives to subjects – knowledge) at the institutions and what they have to do at sea (learned work outcomes – performance standards and competences – knowledge, skills & attitudes). It stands to reason that competency based education to learning, training and assessments, (CBETA) as required by the STCW convention, as the preferred way to proceed may not have become praxis. Latterly, the Philippines Maritime Authority, MARINA and the Commission for Higher Education, (CHED) have mandated outcome based education (OBE) as the methodology for transfer of competences. OBE encompasses CBETA. (Source – teachthought)


Figure 1 – From Pedagogy to Andragogy and Heutagogy Train, Train, ReTrain, ReTain! 7

CBETA and OBE are very sophisticated methods of programme delivery. It embraces adult learning methods (Andragogy) as against previous traditional pedagogy (children). In recent times heutagogy has become quite prominent due to advent of media learning and the internet of things (IOT). Some distinctive characteristics are,

● Delivery is learner-centred where learners become self-directed, self-managed and accountable for their learning.
● Teaching staff now have a greater responsibility to ensure that all learning and doing is transparent and efficient in the management of learning resources, environment and spaces.
● Teaching staff too must be updated and valid with competency based teaching and assessment qualifications and skills.  What is Competence and or Competency?
● There is a shift in paradigm that crosses cultural borders and mindsets. Unavoidably, there has been much resistance to change when you count how many MET intuitions still deliver the traditional way, despite CBETA being the preferred methodology since the 1995 amendments.
● Learning and doing must have outcomes that are demonstrable under rigorous assessment rubrics and methods.

It is important to realise that teaching is not just about class room techniques and methodology. There will be little or no rote. Certainly the didactic teacher standing in front of the room will become a thing of the past. Volume of learning facilitated by the teacher must match the assessments that must be conducted using agreed universal assessment tools and rubrics that are fair and rigorous. These rubrics set the measure against the standard performance criteria (criterion referenced) and foundation skills, not graded knowledge and information (cognitive) only. All learners and assessors must work together on the requirements of each competence(s) assessment and all requirementsoutcomes fully and clearly made known and available during the assessment. These assessments are transparent and conducted (Rules of Assessment) progressively, not at the end of each term or semester. The principal three domains of learning (Blooms Taxonomy), cognitive, psychomotor and affective must be assessed and clearly indicated as “Evidence” for each competence or sets of competences (Skills set) that are assessed and achieved. It is imperative that each assessment is based on the published performance criteria and foundation skills. Competence is only attained when 

each performance criteria accompanied by the foundation skills have been met in full. Availability of the teacher(s), facilities and teacher skills in facilitating learning and doing must also extend beyond the class room. See Figure 2 – Learning Environment.

Learning Environment NL 53

Figure 2 – Learning Environment More on these in my next article, “Untangling the Competence Dilemma”. 

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