1. There is no single standard definition for a “competency.” In fact, there are as many definitions
as there are advocates for competencies. A standard definition is essential to ensure accurate communications and to share relevant education and training information.
a. Quotes from a cursory literature review.
(1) “The words "competence," "competency," and "competency model" are problematic. Many definitions and conceptual frameworks have been advanced over the past several years in an attempt to reduce the confusion and, consequently, to improve the state-of-the-practice regarding their use (Folley , 1980; Blank, 1982; Boyatzis, 1982; Zemke, 1982; Marlowe & Weinberg, 1985; McLagan, 1990; and Kolodziejski, 1991).”
(2) “Zemke (1982) interviewed several experts in the field to determine "precisely what makes a competency" (p. 28). He concluded that there was no unified agreement about what makes a competency and what does not:”
"Competency, competencies, competency models, and competency-based
training are Humpty Dumpty words meaning only what the definer wants them
to mean. The problem comes not from malice, stupidity or marketing avarice,
but instead from some basic procedural and philosophical differences among
those racing to define and develop the concept and to set the model for the
way the rest of us will use competencies in our day-to-day training efforts. (p.
(3) Parry (1996) “A competency is a cluster of related knowledge, skills, and attitudes that
affect a major part of one’s job (a role or responsibility), that correlates with performance on the job, that can be measured against well accepted standards, and can be improved via training and development (Parry 1996, p50).”
(4) “It is easiest to think of a "competency" in its most generic form as any underlying characteristic an individual possesses and uses which leads to successful performance in a life role (adapted from Boyatzis, 1982).”
b. Definition examples.
(1) Thesis, Naval Post Graduate School, Developing a Core Competency Model for Information Systems Management Officers in the United States Army, CPT P. Dewight Hunt and MAJ Stephen T Willhelm, stated “A competency is a cluster of related knowledge, skills, and
attitudes that affect a major part of one’s job (a role or responsibility), that correlates with performance on the job, that can be measured against well accepted standards, and can be improved via training and development (Parry 1996, p50).”
(2) The US Army defines competency as defined "Competency" as “A cluster of related
knowledge and skills that affect a major part of one’s job (a role or responsibility), that correlates with performance on the job, that can be measured against well accepted standards, and can be improved via training and development.”
2. Competencies are derived from an analysis of a job and are of value for structuring jobs, providing on the job training, designing and developing formal education and training, evaluating job performance, and integrating the work of team members.
3. There are also team/organization competencies.
MacAllister, D. E., US (757)-877-4699 1
1. The term, Competency Based Education, has been used for many years [At least since the 1970s and probably since the 1960s when job performance tasks were instituted.]. Some older references are:
a. Blank, W. E. (1982) Handbook for Developing competency based training programs. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall
b. American Society for Training Development (1983). Models for excellence: The conclusions and recommendations of the ASTD training and development competency study, Baltimore, MD: ASTD Press.
c. Thesis, Naval Post Graduate School, Developing a Core Competency Model for Information Systems Management Officers in the United States Army, CPT P.Dewight Hunt and MAJ Stephen T Willhelm. “Competency models have been around for 25 years. David McClelland and David Berlew created them in the early 1970’s. In the last 4-5 years, competency
models have become mainstream.”
2. It appears the term Competency Based Education/Training represents a variation/renaming of the Instructional Systems Design (ISD) model. This has been defined a number of different ways by practitioners. It addresses individual tasks (competencies) and skills/knowledge needed to perform skills and competencies. Some literature identifies both skills and knowledge as competencies. Competency Based Education/Training does not address unit (organization/team) training.
3. Holland College has an international reputation in Competency Based Education. In accordance with Holland College Competency Based Education, it uses an occupational analysis to identify, organize, and plan (design) curriculum. This analysis process identifies competencies and establishes standards. It recognizes levels of performance on any skill using the workplace as the benchmark.
4. The American Society for Training Development (ASTD) has a Competency Based Education/Training model.
5. Competency Based training has been introduced across Australia. It is found in upper secondary schools, colleges, universities, and workplace training schemes. An example of a competency is, “Assemble a widget , and test IAW Australian Standard 12345. Trainee to be
supplied with all necessary components, tools, and relevant procedures manuals. Time limit 15 minutes.”
Adopt the following definition of a competency.
“A clearly defined and measurable activity (cluster of related knowledge
and skills) accomplished by an individual. It is the lowest behavioral level in
a job (role or responsibility) that is performed for its own sake. It must be
specific; usually has a definite beginning and ending; may support or be
supported by other competencies; has only one action and, therefore, is
described using only one verb; generally is performed in a relatively short
time (however, there may be no time limit or there may be a specific time
limit); and it must be observable and measurable against a standard with
well delineated criteria. The task title must contain an action verb and
object and may contain a qualifier and should contain no more that 165
MacAllister, D. E., US (757)-877-4699 2