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competence v competency

English translation: potential to perform versus actual performance

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GLOSSARY ENTRY (DERIVED FROM QUESTION BELOW)
English term or phrase:competence v competency
English translation:potential to perform versus actual performance
Entered by: Elizabeth Lyons
Options:
- Contribute to this entry
- Include in personal glossary

15:32 Sep 6, 2005
English to English translations [PRO]
Art/Literary - Linguistics / Usage
English term or phrase: competence v competency
Ok, I really do try to avoid using this empty word as much as I can, but sometimes it's unavoidable. ;-)

When (and how) do you use the one or the other?

Would somebody please explain the difference to me - is there one?

I apologize if it's a "Non-PRO" question; please recharacterize the question if need be. Thank you very much for your help. :-)
Derek Gill Franßen
Germany
Local time: 19:48
potential to perform vs actual performance
Explanation:
They are usually used synonymously, but I believe their subtle distinction lies in potential versus actual ability. In other words, competence as a general characteristic vs demonstrated skill in performing an actual task in the area where one has this potential.

Selected response from:

Elizabeth Lyons
United States
Local time: 10:48
Grading comment
As for the great explanations, I'd like to thank everyone who contributed - I do feel like I have a much better understanding of the two terms. As for snappy definitions that will work well in the glossary, I'll go with the rest of the peers and award the points here - thank you Elizabeth. Again my thanks to all! :-)
4 KudoZ points were awarded for this answer



Summary of answers provided
4 +4potential to perform vs actual performance
Elizabeth Lyons
3 +3see explanationJoanna Borowska
3 +1synonyms, but ...
Alaa Zeineldine
4competence = ability (in general); competency = tests to access knowledge and ability
Elizabeth Castaldini
4general skill vs measurable characteristic
Angela Dickson
3(->)
Michael Beijer
3no difference
suezen


Discussion entries: 3





  

Answers


16 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 3/5Answerer confidence 3/5
no difference


Explanation:
according to my 3-volume Websters. But I agree that it's a sticky one.

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Note added at 17 mins (2005-09-06 15:50:51 GMT)
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This link may help ...?
www.infed.org/biblio/b-comp.htm - 27k

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Note added at 19 mins (2005-09-06 15:52:25 GMT)
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From the same website:

introduction | what is competence? | competency and product approaches | curriculum as process | conclusion | further reading |
Over the last decade the discourse around education and training has shifted. We now tend to use a pseudo-commercial language of markets, investments and products. The interest in 'competence' and ‘competency’ has been part of this move. A significant pressure behind this in the UK, according to proponents like Jessup (1989: 66), has been the supposed lack of relevance of vocational provision and the need to compete with other economies. Courses and programmes were alleged to concentrate on the gaining of knowledge and theory and to neglect performance (‘and it is performance which essentially characterizes competence’ op cit). Vocational qualifications were to be recast into statements of competence relevant to work

The move has been heavily influenced by the development of management thinking and practice and, in particular, the rise of 'scientific management' (after F. W. Taylor). Basically what he proposed was greater division of labour with jobs being simplified; an extension of managerial control over all elements of the workplace; and cost accounting based on systematic time-and-motion study. All three elements are associated with the rise of competence and, indeed, the concern with curriculum (Kliebart 1983). This is certainly the current that has run through the construction of a system of national vocational qualifications. As Davies and Durkin (1991: 7) have commented the allocations of power are unmistakable in the new system. 'In charge - the employer, with his or her needs paramount; next as an unavoidable necessity the "engagement of the individual worker", in so far as his or her interests are useful to the employer; and finally, very much as a poor relation - the education service'.

It is both a testament to the continuing power of functionalism and scientific management, and to the lack of sustained reflection within education, that a narrow notion of competence has gained such ground. We can see competence and competencies used as part of the everyday language of teacher education, further education, community work, youth work and community education. It appeared to ‘solve’ various problems - of relevance, of access, of privilege and of comparability and transfer. The government introduced via the National Council for Vocational Qualification a national CBET (competence-based education and train ing) system.




What is competence?
In the discussion that occurred in the 1980s in the UK competence was basically approached as ‘the ability to do a particular activity to a prescribed standard (Working Group on Vocational Qualifications 1986). UDACE proclaimed that ‘competence is concerned with what people can do rather than what they know’. They went on:

This has several implications:

firstly if competence is concerned with doing then in must have a context…;

secondly, competence is an outcome: it describes what someone can do. It does not describe the learning process which the individual has undergone.

thirdly, in order to measure reliably someone’s ability to do something, there must be clearly defined and widely accessible standards through which performance is measured and accredited;

fourthly, competence is a measure of what someone can do at a particular point in time. (UDACE 1989: 6 quoted by Tight 1996).

The language of competence is often misunderstood. This is, according to CeVe, because of its association with vocational training and skill rather than understanding. There is some truth in this. The notion of competence described above is a pale and demeaning shadow of the Greek notion of aretè or that of virtus in ancient Rome. Brezinka (1988: 76) describes this as a relatively permanent quality of personality which is valued by the community to which we belong. In this sense it is not simply a skill but is a virtue; a general sense of excellence and goodness. It involves being up to those tasks that life presents us (op cit).

In much current usage this notion has been whittled down to the ability to undertake specific tasks; it has been largely stripped of its social, moral and intellectual qualities. Perhaps the best way of approaching this is to make a distinction between competence (and competences) and competency (and competencies). This is something that Hyland has done usefully with regard to the development of NVQs in the United Kingdom. He argues that there is a tendency to conflate the terms. Competence and competences are broad capacities (which a close relation to the sort of virtues that Brezinka was concerned with). In contrast competency (plural comp etencies) is narrower, more atomistic concept used to label particular abilities or episodes. In the case of the former we might talk of a competent informal educator; in the latter a competent piece of driving. In this way the first, capacity, sense of the term refers to the evaluation of persons; whereas the second, dispositional, sense refers to activities.


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Note added at 21 mins (2005-09-06 15:54:07 GMT)
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Sorry, I only meant to send you that last paragraph ... I have a problem with my mouse which 'jumps' back after I've clicked!!

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Note added at 22 mins (2005-09-06 15:55:44 GMT)
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I tend to agree that competence seems a broader concept as opoosed to having one specific competency.

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Note added at 23 mins (2005-09-06 15:56:52 GMT)
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sorry ... as opposed to ...!

suezen
Local time: 19:48
Works in field
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
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26 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 3/5Answerer confidence 3/5 peer agreement (net): +3
see explanation


Explanation:
Maybe you'll find this helpful:

Competence means both “a sufficient amount to live on, to meet one’s needs” and “having legal or practical ability to perform.” Competency means the same things but is less frequently used, except in educational argot, where competencies are the various skills pupils are to be taught and teachers are to be prepared to teach. The plural competences occurs infrequently.
http://www.bartleby.com/68/76/1376.html

Joanna Borowska
Poland
Local time: 19:48
Specializes in field
Native speaker of: Polish

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  xxxooooo
8 mins
  -> thank you :o)

agree  Will Matter
3 hrs
  -> thanks!

agree  jorgestreb: I found this the most helpful explanantion
857 days
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38 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +4
potential to perform vs actual performance


Explanation:
They are usually used synonymously, but I believe their subtle distinction lies in potential versus actual ability. In other words, competence as a general characteristic vs demonstrated skill in performing an actual task in the area where one has this potential.



Elizabeth Lyons
United States
Local time: 10:48
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 12
Grading comment
As for the great explanations, I'd like to thank everyone who contributed - I do feel like I have a much better understanding of the two terms. As for snappy definitions that will work well in the glossary, I'll go with the rest of the peers and award the points here - thank you Elizabeth. Again my thanks to all! :-)

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  jennifer newsome
47 mins
  -> Hi Jennifer : ) Thank you.

agree  flipendo
1 hr
  -> Flipendo! Hi there. Thanks, too. : )

agree  Will Matter: Nice answer and good explanation. I concur.
3 hrs
  -> Thanks will : )

agree  xxxAlfa Trans
1 day38 mins
  -> Hi there Marju : ) Thank you!
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1 hr   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5
general skill vs measurable characteristic


Explanation:
I've seen 'competency' in various HR contexts (social services, NHS) in the UK - it refers to something that can usually be tested, for example a nurse's ability to perform a certain procedure. There will be a battery of competency requirements before e.g. a promotion can be obtained.

Competence, at least as a description of someone in the workplace, is much more subjective and general.

The former is a bit jargon-y, but does fulfil a useful function as I see it, and is distinct from the latter.

Angela Dickson
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:48
Specializes in field
Native speaker of: English
PRO pts in category: 12
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1 hr   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5
competence = ability (in general); competency = tests to access knowledge and ability


Explanation:
That's what I have found it to be.

www.ncpublicschools.org/accountability/testing/competency
meded.iusm.iu.edu/Programs/ComptCurriculum.htm
www.asu.edu/admissions/requirements/competencyrequirements....

Elizabeth Castaldini
Local time: 13:48
Works in field
Native speaker of: Native in PortuguesePortuguese
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3 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 3/5Answerer confidence 3/5 peer agreement (net): +1
synonyms, but ...


Explanation:
I believe that linguistically the two words are synonyms. However, in the corporate world, especially in the US, the term "core competency" has taken root as a special corporate term. While "core competence" is also occasionally used, the form "competency" may have better recognition and may gain more respect in this context.

Alaa Zeineldine
Egypt
Local time: 19:48
Native speaker of: Native in ArabicArabic, Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 11

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  rjbemben: Sometimes we need to go with popular usage rather than delve for deeper meanings, especially in marketing.
570 days
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1809 days   confidence: Answerer confidence 3/5Answerer confidence 3/5
(->)


Explanation:

‘competence’ – minimum acceptable standards of performance

‘competency’ – the behavioural repertoire underpinning excellent performance.




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Note added at 1809 days (2010-08-20 22:19:17 GMT) Post-grading
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Also, in a business document you will find they refer to 'competencies' (things they want their employees to have), rather than 'competences.' So, if it's Management nonsense your working on (oops, did I just say that?), then stick to 'competencies.' Like this:

1. "In contrast to corporate core competencies, personal core competencies are things you do for the company that dearly set you apart from others--skills that make you special and valuable."

2. "The following is a summarized list of the 31 competencies listed by "cluster" (similar competencies related to a common skill set) (...)".

3. "What are the core competencies needed in this century? Harvard Graduate School of Education professor Helen Haste has identified five that we should begin teaching our students. We business managers should also consider how to bring these skills to our companies and careers."

4. (def.) "An integrated bundle of skills and technologies that contribute to an organization's competitive success."


    Reference: http://www.satc.org.uk/30/competence-and-competency/
Michael Beijer
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:48
Native speaker of: Native in DutchDutch, Native in EnglishEnglish
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