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!).

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