ERG SES H 14, Teachers' Professional Development
Identifying and acknowledging the key role of professional competence in modern societies, this article attempts to define it with reference to vocational teachers. Corresponding to the lack of a unanimous definition (Buiskool et al., 2010), the author performs a conceptual analysis of vocational teachers’ professional competence, as presented in research published from 2010 until 2018. The study objectives are to explore the different perspectives adopted by researchers in their effort to understand and use the concept of professional competence. Moreover, the focus remains on identifying the nature and the components of competence as they are perceived and applied for vocational teachers.
In previous research, the concept of competence is discussed as motivation (Bandura, 1977), intelligence (McClelland, 1973), performance (Boyatzis, 1982; Spencer & Spencer, 1993; Winterton, Delamare-Le Deist & Stringfellow, 2006) and finally as the central notion of competence-based-education (Mulder & Winterton, 2017), since it has been used by the psychology (White, 1959), the management (Nordhaug & Gronhaug, 1992), the human resources (Levy-Leboyer, 1996) and the education discipline (Grant et al., 1979). Defined and categorized based on a variety of its trait (Garavan & McGuire, 2001), like learners characteristics, levels of acquisition and fields of practice, competence and especially professional competence has been associated with quality, professionalism and responsibility. While its everyday use can add more meanings in the discussion, it can therefore not be reassured that researchers share the same understanding, especially with reference to a specific profession. The literature is abundant of studies referring to competence and professionalism; very few only achieve to construct a solid definition of the term that is later applied on research. How do researchers approach the concept and what is the role of its definition in the development and application of research?
In the locus of this article are vocational teachers. As professionals with dual identities, they face a constant demand for updating their competence in both their vocation and the teaching profession (Fejes & Köpsén). Hence, they experience a reality sometimes described as dual and some others as one, their vocational teacher professional practice. In this framework the understanding of professional competence for vocational teachers is the basis for further studying and developing their professionalism.
With aim to explore the dimensions of the phenomenon under study, the variety of concept meanings, and the importance of context in its construction (Tähtinen & Havila, 2018), conceptual analysis method (CAM) follows the data collection process of a systematic literature review. For this article, the search was realized in the EBSCOhost and the Scopus databases, during the period 2010 - 2018. The search included three searching blocks. The first contained the terms professional OR vocational OR occupational, the second was competen* OR skill and the third one entailed the phrase vocational teacher as such. Only peer reviewed articles were included. The selection of articles was made based on relevance to the topic and the application of a quality criterion, the existence of a definition of professional competence whether complete or not, resulting in a review body of 50 articles. The content of the articles was coded and analyzed with the use of the NVivo software. The data was split in three categories based on if they presented a definition constructed by the authors, a definition adopted by other scholars or the presence of a very weak definition (mainly description or examples of the concept). Dealing with multidimensional concepts inevitably leads to issues of ambiguity, namely homonymy and synonymy (Tähtinen & Havila, 2018). For the competence concept both issues are present. Competence is used to convey a series of different meanings (homonymy), like qualifications or professionalism, and on the contrary many concepts are used to declare competence (synonymy) (e.g. skills and competency). Conceptual analysis method offers the possibility of reconstructing the concept through highlighting and exploring these ambiguity (Sartori, 2009). For the present study, the researcher did a brief search on the meanings of the terms professional and competence in online dictionaries to detect issues of homonymy and synonymy, that were later considered while performing the qualitative content analysis. A qualitative content analysis was required to gasp the wide range of meaning competence is attributed with. Applying a qualitative content analysis, the researcher searched for definitions of professional competence within the data. Hence, only competence definition was a predefined category. “Through reflexive and recursive movement between concept development” (Altheide as cited in Bryman, 2012, p. 559), the researcher identified other categories that were of interest and related to the initial concept, for instance expertise and standards. This process allowed for a systematic and analytic approach and avoided a rigid perspective.
Findings indicate a distinct lack of competence definition in studies that extensively use it. Consequently, the understanding of the concept is left on the reader. Moreover, many articles describe the concept of competence barely by referring to its components (knowledge, skills, attitudes, values). Only few studies entail a solid definition of competence or competency, often borrowed by previous research and serving the purpose of sharing a common understanding with the reader. The presented definitions are rarely developed by the researchers themselves. Furthermore, studies seem to be consistent with the use of the terms competence and competency, applying the first as a general umbrella notion and the later as the term describing a specific ability or behavior. Instead of competence and competency the term skill is also detected but in a smaller extend. Additional findings demonstrate the association of the concept under discussion with performance and behavior drawing links to the influence of the psychology discourse on the concept. However, the term is also related to quality and professionalism, especially with regards to its functionality. Competence and competence development is often presented as the bridge between education and labor market, between learning and employability. Other concepts related to competence include standards and qualifications as well as the idea of expertise. With regards to professional competence, it is described and understood always in relation to the profession’s standards, often determined by formal qualification descriptions. Approaching competence in a more functional and pragmatist way, most studies describe professional competencies through their indicators, hence as tasks that vocational teachers need to perform. A question rising is of course the level of acquired or exercised competence, with scales of expertise presented in many studies. Clear definition of the levels is lacking; however, this aspect of the notion is always underlying.
Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: Toward a Unifying Theory of Behavioral Change, Psychological Review, 84 (2), pp. 191-215. Boyatzis, R. E. (1982). The competent manager: A model for effective performance. New York: Wiley. Bryman, A. (2012). Social Research Methods. Fourth edition. Oxford University Press. Buiskool, B.J., Broek, S.D., van Lakerveld, J.A., Zarifis, G.K., Osborne, M. (2010). Key competencies for adult learning professionals – Contribution to the development of a reference framework of key competencies for adult learning professionals. (Final Report to European Commission, DG EAC, Project number: B3542). Zoetermeer: Research voor Beleid Fejes, A., & Köpsén, S. (2014). Vocational teachers’ identity formation, Journal of Education and Work, 27 (3), pp. 265-283. Garavan, T., & McGuire, D. (2001). Competencies and workplace learning: Some reflections on the rhetoric and the reality. Journal of Workplace Learning, 13 (4), pp. 144-163. Grant, G., Elbow, P., Ewens, T., Gamson, Z., Kohli, W., Neumann, W., Olesen, V., Riesman, D. (1979), On Competence. A Critical Analysis of Competence-Based Reforms in Higher Education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Levy-Leboyer, C. (1996). La gestion des compétences. Paris: Les Editions d’Organisation. McClelland, D. (1973). Testing for competence rather than for ‘intelligence’. American Psychologist, 28 (1), pp. 1-14. Mulder, M., & Winterton, J. (2017). Introduction in Competence-based Vocational and Professional Education. Bridging the Worlds of Work and Education. Springer. Nordhaug, O., & Gronhaug, K. (1992). Strategy and Competence in Firms, European Management Journal, 10 (4), pp. 438 - 442. Sartori, G. (2009). Guidelines for Concept Analysis, in D. Collier and J. Gerring (eds) Concepts and Method in Social Science. The Tradition of Giovanni Sartori, pp. 97-150. New York: Routledge. Spencer, L. M., & Spencer, S. M. (Eds.). (1993). Competence at work. New York: Wiley. Tähtinen, J., & Havila, V. (2018). Conceptually confused, but on a field level? A method for conceptual analysis and its application. Marketing Theory, 147059311879667. doi: 10.1177/1470593118796677 White, R. (1959). Motivation Reconsidered: The Concept of Competence. Psychological Review, 66, pp. 279-333. Winterton, J., Delamare-Le Deist, F., & Stringfellow, E. (2006). Typology of knowledge, skills and competences. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities.
00. Central Events (Keynotes, EERA-Panel, EERJ Round Table, Invited Sessions)
Network 1. Continuing Professional Development: Learning for Individuals, Leaders, and Organisations
Network 2. Vocational Education and Training (VETNET)
Network 3. Curriculum Innovation
Network 4. Inclusive Education
Network 5. Children and Youth at Risk and Urban Education
Network 6. Open Learning: Media, Environments and Cultures
Network 7. Social Justice and Intercultural Education
Network 8. Research on Health Education
Network 9. Assessment, Evaluation, Testing and Measurement
Network 10. Teacher Education Research
Network 11. Educational Effectiveness and Quality Assurance
Network 12. LISnet - Library and Information Science Network
Network 13. Philosophy of Education
Network 14. Communities, Families and Schooling in Educational Research
Network 15. Research Partnerships in Education
Network 16. ICT in Education and Training
Network 17. Histories of Education
Network 18. Research in Sport Pedagogy
Network 19. Ethnography
Network 20. Research in Innovative Intercultural Learning Environments
Network 22. Research in Higher Education
Network 23. Policy Studies and Politics of Education
Network 24. Mathematics Education Research
Network 25. Research on Children's Rights in Education
Network 26. Educational Leadership
Network 27. Didactics – Learning and Teaching
The programme is updated regularly (each day in the morning)
- Search for keywords and phrases in "Text Search"
- Restrict in which part of the abstracts to search in "Where to search"
- Search for authors and in the respective field.
- For planning your conference attendance you may want to use the conference app, which will be issued some weeks before the conference
- If you are a session chair, best look up your chairing duties in the conference system (Conftool) or the app.