Competency based learning and development

Why do organisations invest in competency based learning and development?

In my experience organisations invest in competency based learning and development to cut out the irrelevance of content not related to occupational performance among the products offered by many learning and development providers. This saves both time and money since the focus of developent is on specific competencies and not on areas where employees are already capable.

What is Competence?

Competence is an observable characteristic of expertise. It is not the expertise itself, but the explicit and tacit knowledge that underpins that expertise.

Competency Based Learning Design.

Competency based learning and development is focused upon developing the skills of knowing how and knowing why. An essential design discipline in competency based learning is that the activities we design to support skills development include the development of understanding and enable us to assess that understanding in a variety of contexts.

How can learners develop and demonstrate understanding?

When designing competency based learning and development initiatives, we can test understanding via a variety of methods:

  • Literal questions, these are questions where we can find the answer directly in the learning materials. To answer the questions we first need to locate the text and carefully read to find the exact words that tell us what the questions asks. These questions help us to recall, revise and reinforce learning
  • Deductive questions and problem solving activities: the learners demonstrate use of their knowledge via problem solving activities to draw conclusions from information provided.
  • Inferential questions – reading between the lines to test and go beyond the information provided. This helps us to make judgements, compare and contrast and develop reasoning based on evidence
  • Evaluative/response activities – making critical judgements and taking appropriate action relating to the information provided. This enables learners to develop a critical stance based on information from a range of sources and to take an idea from one context and apply it in another
  • Authorial intent: Questions related to industry specific case studies that ask us what the writer has done and why in the context described.

So, back to the question “Why do organisations invest in competency based learning and development?” The answer is simple, they want a return on investment and that is demonstrated by employees who know what, how, why and when and that competence doesn’t develop when employees are faced with generic learning experiences because then the question is


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