Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Competence Description for Personal Recommendations: The Importance of Identifying the Complexity of Learning and Performance Situations

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Competence Description for Personal Recommendations: The Importance of Identifying the Complexity of Learning and Performance Situations

Article excerpt

The concept of competence is strongly associated with post-secondary education (e.g., Mulder, Wesselink, Biemans, Nieuwenhuis, & Poell, 2003; Stoof, Martens, & Van Merrienboer, 2007; Westera, 2001) as well as professional development (e.g., Eraut, 1994). Many work organisations and educational institutes use the concept of 'competence' for describing performance ability for particular occupations or jobs or for describing educational objectives. For instance, in the Netherlands, the competence requirements of good quality teachers are classified in seven competences: interpersonal competence, pedagogical competence, subject knowledge & methodological competence, organizational competence, competence for collaboration with colleagues, competence for collaboration with the working environment, and competence for reflection and development (SBL, 2004). Similarly, psychology students of the Open University of the Netherlands have to acquire three competences: (1) research competence, (2) diagnosis competence, and (3) intervention competence.

For competences development of learners and professionals, target competences and corresponding competence development opportunities have to be identified. Thereupon, learners may acquire the target competences by participating in so-called Competence Development Programs (CDPs). A CDP is an ordered set of learning activities, either formal or informal, that are used to build competence in a certain discipline or job (Herder et al., 2006; Koper, 2006). An example of a CDP is a sequenced set of courses to be followed in order to get a Master of Science degree in psychology. Currently, many formal and informal CDPs exist, from different educational institutes and communities of practice, at different levels of proficiency, and situated in different disciplines, domains or job settings. Finding and choosing an appropriate CDP is not that easy for learners. The CDP has to match learners' individual competence goals (e.g., MSc in Psychology), and their personal preferences (e.g., study location, didactical methods). Also, the course entry requirements should match learners' already acquired competence profile (e.g., bachelor degree in psychology). Many learners do not have the adequate skills to find out which CDPs are offered and which are appropriate. Thus, these learners need to be supported when looking for an appropriate CDP. Within educational institutes, study advisers can be consulted for this, but when choices concern learning activities of more than one educational institute or even outside institutes, advice is scarce. Recently, Personal Recommender Systems (PRS) for learners are developed for that purpose. A PRS provides personal recommendations for learners aimed at finding and selecting CDPs that best match their needs (Drachsler, Hummel, & Koper, in press; Van Setten, 2005). In an information-based PRS for learners, information concerning desired and acquired competence profiles are combined (Hummel et al, 2007).

In order for a PRS to provide personal recommendations for a learner, a competence description is needed that enables comparison of information concerning individual target competences and acquired competences on the one hand, and CDP-related information on the other. In this article, first the current competence descriptions will be described and examined for their usefulness for PRSs. Second, the term context will be conceptualized and the term learning and performance situation (LP-situation) will be introduced. It is argued that relevant complexity factors typify a LP-situation. Third, advantages and disadvantages of including LP-situations and, consequently, complexity factors, in characterizing CDPs are addressed. We claim that, although valuable for its purpose, current competence descriptions should be extended with a description of the LP-situation. An adjusted, augmented competence description, including LP-situations, is suggested. …

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