Capability and competence

The debate between capability and competence is an interesting one, especially in terms of the way we approach our understanding of professional practice.  In some instances, these terms are used interchangeably to indicate some measure of the skills we have, either collectively as a troupe, company or organisation or individually; evaluating our own practice against a standard.  Hase (2000) argues that the relationship between the two ideas is more hierarchical than exchangeable stating that; 

‘Capable people are those who: know how to learn; are creative; have a high degree of self-efficacy; can apply competencies in novel as well as familiar situations; and work well with others. In comparison to competency, which involves the acquisition of knowledge and skills, capability is a holistic attribute’ (Hase 2000: 1)

Depending on your profession, there are a variety of other formal and established definitions.  In terms of creative practice, the definition of Hase is of greater interest.  It positions capability as something that is transdisciplinary, where we as a capable people find innovative and creative ways to solve problems and apply knowledge and skills.  We then integrate those capabilities with others leading to sharing of practices and the formation of networks and communities (linking back to last semester)

Competence is the aggregation of the skills and knowledge you need to enhance and improve your capability.  I can see that is a somewhat simplistic interpretation because many educators will define competence as a measure of performance.  You are competent in using that knife to peel an apple.  They break the competence down to a range of steps and skills that you can use to ensure that you are improving your ability (capability?).  In terms of your inquiry, perhaps an understanding of both capability and competence is important to satisfy your curiosity or find out stuff about your area of interest.  Stephenson (1998) positions competence as something in the ‘here and now’, something that you measure and identify that you have or don’t.  However, capability involves the idea of planning for the future and is active process of making something happen by identifying creative combinations and innovative approaches.  An inquiry has two sublimely simple parts to it;

What do I already know? >>>>>What do I need to know?

Your competence is measured by your existing knowledge and the skills you have to acquire new ideas, or apply thinking and learning to new situations.  Capability comes from how you think through that, find and understand patterns in the observations and data you collect and determine whether the things you identify make sense in your world, for your practice and perhaps for the wider profession we operate in. 

All of this seems like a complex and perhaps intellectual debate, and in some ways it can be.  Thinking and learning emerge from doing.  Doing is rooted in competence.  Competence measures how we do things.  But how do we decide what to do? How do we decide that we can do it better?  How do we decide there is a different way to do it?  How do we know that Bob and Betty are doing it better than we are?  How do learn from their doing?  We experiment.  We test.  We trial.  We watch.  We observe.  We ask questions.  We develop an understanding of why things happen.  We practice.  We share and we analyse.  In short, we inquire.  This is the heart of enhancing capability.  It is looking forward and recognising the ever evolving potential we have to impact on our practice and that of others (especially Bob and Betty’s!).

4 different ways to ask the same question

Inquiry is a very powerful tool for the exploration and understanding of practice. It is positioned in the notion of being curious, of finding things out that interest us and others. Inquiry should also have some sense of significance, in that it should mean something to you, to your industry, to your peers.

Inquiry is not simply a process of finding out what people think. Sure, that may be part of it, but inquiry can also be about comparing what people think to what experts in the field have written. It may be testing your own opinions. It might be finding out that if I change one thing what impact will that have on the rest of the world, like pushing down one domino and setting off a chain reaction.

Inquiry can also get you out in the field, talking to people and interacting with a wider professional network. This can also take the form of working with peers in impacting directly on your practice or profession through testing and implementing a change in your workplace and then evaluating the impact of that change.

Let’s start this discussion with an example. I would like to know about why people use YouTube. It has been around 5 years, I know it’s popular. I use it a lot both personally and as part of my practice as a teacher. I know a lot of other people but use it, but I am curious about why they engage it. My own perceptions are that there is a lot of junk there, things get put up and taken down a lot. Often the sound and picture quality aren’t great, yet I use I still use it!

Researching YouTube part 1 – why?

This YouTube video was made by a university student in the US. It asks a simple question of a diverse range of people. That question is…’why we tube?’

So, what did you get from watching that? I saw a whole heap of observations about the motivations behind why people use YouTube. Those observations vary from it being voyeuristic to it simply being fun. The people interviewed were real people, speaking hopefully openly and honestly about the internet usage? What did this tell us about YouTube?

Researching YouTube part 2 – how?

The next part of this is a video from a guy who is showing a practical example of how YouTube is used by people to interact with lawmakers. This type of research is different. He isn’t asking people for their opinions. He is using a case study or example to make an observation on how YouTube can be used, and perhaps making an inference or suggestion that the experiences of these kids from West Virginia might be applicable or useful to other situations which require a conversation or dialogue to be started.

Researching YouTube part 3 – how many?

These two links have been collected in different ways. One is research conducted by a private market research company for the purpose of identifying how many hours’ people spend watching TV (and as part of this, watching online video). This research would be used by marketers and advertisers as a way of measuring the value of using TV advertising. The second link comes from YouTube itself. It describes the number of people who are using YouTube currently. Now, have a think about these two sources of information. What issues arise for you?

What type of trust would you place in each of these sets of data? Would you trust them equally, or in different ways? In what ways does the reliability of the information vary from article 1 to article 2? How might you use this information to help in your understanding of why people use YouTube?

Research YouTube part 4 – Making connections
The final link is for an academic journal article on the connection between YouTube and the formation of social networks.

It argues that in some ways YouTube alters the public and private behaviours of the users, and those changed behaviours are used by youth to ‘carve out’ private space amongst a highly observed and recorded society, and that these users are fully aware of the practices required to maintain their desired level of privacy or anonymity.

So, all four resources are different types of inquiry. They are generally researching the same thing, the motivations that underpin or inform people’s usage of youtube. They tell us different things about that phenomena, and they have different implications for our practice. I can also this information in different ways. I might cite or quote the academic article. I might show the video in a class I am teaching about social networking, or I might apply the West Virginia example to my own practice (could students submit questions to a class discussion via YouTube). So, as you are thinking about your inquiry, dig deep into what people have already found out about your area. Use search engines like Google, or the library catalogue and databases to find out what has already been done. It doesn’t mean that you should stop if you think that your area has already been researched. Maybe, you have a different insight, or a different situation that might reinforce or challenge the other stuff. Either way, look at each piece of information with a critical eye. Can you trust it? How reliable is it? How was the data collected? Who collected the data?