02 SES 11 B, Transitions: Reflections on VET Programs and Practice
Competence is still a widely used concept to describe capabilities – mostly of employees – to perform in a certain way in organisations. Although a long and ongoing debate primarily about measuring competence and secondary about competence development exist, the concept itself is only partly founded on theories. It sometimes seems that “competence” is used as a matter of fact, as it were a real object like an arm or a head. Rather, it is a social construct, only viable if it grounds on a common understanding of what it should stand for. And this common understanding seems to be still missing after a debate that last at least since the 1980s. What could be helpful is the offer of some theoretical framework that goes beyond what was already discussed by Chomsky, White et al. This contribution will try to formulate such a framework. Therefore, it will start with a short overview of the theory discussion of competence in the past, and discuss the relationship between competence and qualification. In a second step it will try to explain why the close relationship between competence and performance is one of the problems not only to measure competence but moreover to get to a decent understanding of competence itself. That will lead to thoughts about how to get to a theoretically founded explanation of competence. The most used way is to define a desired performance and afterwards derive a relating competence. The paper will show why this is problematic and offers an alternative for explaining competence on basis of action theories by analysing the relationship between action, performance, situation and competence.
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