31 December 2006

Competence--A Vanishing Commodity?

Competence is often stated to exist at four levels:

1. Unconscious incompetence (unaware of lack of competence)
2. Conscious incompetence (becomes aware of incompetence)
3. Conscious competence (competence with conscious effort)
4. Unconscious competence (acquires competence without conscious effort--automaticity)

The learner or trainee always begins at stage 1 - 'unconscious incompetence', and ends at stage 4 - 'unconscious competence', having passed through stage 2 - 'conscious incompetence' and - 3 'conscious competence'.

.... It's essential to establish awareness of a weakness or training need (conscious incompetence) prior to attempting to impart or arrange training or skills necessary to move trainees from stage 2 to 3.

People only respond to training when they are aware of their own need for it, and the personal benefit they will derive from achieving it.

The final level of "unconscious competence" is exemplified by Michael Jordan's performance on the basketball court, the blazing downhill skiing of a gold medalist, or the onstage musical improvisations of a master jazz musician. The master doesn't have to think--he just does. In ordinary life, automatic competence is seen in language fluency, or simply walking while chewing gum.

Emotional competence is vital to the overall competence of the individual.

Self Regulation

Managing your internal states, impulses and resources

* Self control: keeping disruptive emotions and impulses in check
* Trustworthiness: maintaining standards of honesty and integrity
* Conscientiousness: taking responsibility for personal performance
* Adaptability: flexibility in handling change
* Innovation: being comfortable with novel ideas, approaches, and new information


Emotional tendencies that guide or facilitate reaching goals

* Achievement drive: striving to improve or meet a standard of excellence
* Commitment: aligning with the goals of the group or organisation
* Initiative: readiness to act on opportunities
* Optimism: persistence in pursuing goals despite obstacles and setbacks

A recent study of New Zealand schoolchildren discovered the close relationship between attitudinal competencies (curiosity, perseverance, communication) and traditional scholastic competencies in mathematics, literacy, and problem-solving.

The model shows that there are strong relationships between the attitudinal competencies, and also between mathematics and literacy. It also shows moderate associations between the attitudinal competencies and logical problem-solving, and with literacy. Sixty-five percent of the variance in literacy scores could be accounted for by scores in communication, curiosity, perseverance, and logical problem-solving. The link between the attitudinal competencies and mathematics appears to be indirect, with more direct associations between the former and logical problem-solving and reading comprehension.

A look at necessary competencies to rehabilitate juvenile offenders by the State of Pennsylvania, zeroed in on five:

After examining the research, we settled on the following definition—competency development is the process by which juvenile offenders acquire the knowledge and skills that make it possible for them to become productive, connected, and law abiding members of their communities and selected five core competency domains—areas in which one could reasonably expect young people in trouble with the law to build and demonstrate competencies depending on their age and stage of development. These domains are:

1. Pro-Social Skills
2. Moral Reasoning Skills
3. Academic Skills
4. Workforce Development Skills
5. Independent Living Skills

These domains do not represent a complete list of the competency areas or skills that young people need in order to succeed in life or all the things parents might want for their children. But research indicates that these are the competency areas that matter most for success in school, work and life; that strengthening these areas increases resistance to delinquency; and that deficits in these areas put juveniles at risk for continued involvement in the juvenile justice system.

A child's sense of his/her own competence (self-efficacy) also influences subsequent performance:

Efficacy beliefs are influenced by acquisition of cognitive skills, but they are not merely a reflection of them. Children with the same level of cognitive skill development differ in their intellectual performances depending on the strength of their perceived efficacy. Several factors may account for the predictive superiority of efficacy belief over acquired skills. Children vary, in how they interpret, store, and recall their successes and failures. As a result, they differ in how much self-efficacy they derive from similar attainments. Moreover, in judging their capabilities, children evaluate social influences that contribute to efficacy beliefs independently of skills. Academic performances are the products of cognitive capabilities implemented through motivational and other self-regulatory skills. The efficacy beliefs that children form affect how consistently and effectively they apply what they know. Perceived self-efficacy, therefore, is a better predictor of intellectual performance than skills alone.

Many educators misunderstood Bandura's point in the quote above. The educators thought that if the students' self-esteem was raised, that academic progress would follow automatically. Self-efficacy beliefs in academics are based on many things--including grade and test score feedback. Students are not the idiots that educators often think. Students can judge if they get a good grade for no reason. Such artificial attempts to boost self-efficacy beliefs are destined to fail.

Current trends in government education tend to eradicate personal competence of schoolchildren, while simultaneously boosing self-esteem.

This blog has devoted several posts to the issue of psychological neoteny, and the role of current educational practices in promoting maturational failure in children and young adults. It requires little imagination to see a direct connection between personal incompetence, and the failure to acquire the mature skills of emotional competence, due to perverse educational methods and policies.

In a free society, the parent is responsible for the child's education and maturation. That responsibility cannot be placed in anyone else's hands.

Here is an old oriental proverb that expresses a similar concept as the four levels of competence:

  • He who knows not, and knows not that he knows not, is a fool - shun him, (= Unconscious Incompetent)
  • He who knows not, and knows that he knows not is ignorant - teach him, (= Conscious Incompetent)
  • He who knows, and knows not that he knows, is asleep - wake him, (= Unconscious Competent)
  • But he who knows, and knows that he knows , is a wise man - follow him. (= Conscious Competent)

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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