The Competence Balance

The Competence BalanceThe recommendation of the European Commission on validation of non-formal and informal learning indicates that by the year 2018, solutions should be implemented in each Member State of the European Union to allow citizens of Member States to confirm competence acquired outside of the formal education system. Validation of the effects of learning, understood as knowledge, skills and social competence acquired as a result of education, are therefore important in increasing employment and mobility of potential employees and foster motivation towards lifelong learning.

This applies in particular to persons facing lack of acceptance, especially in their professional life. Such situation is often caused by socio-economic conditions and lack of appropriate qualifications. Council Recommendation of 20 December 2012 on the validation of non-formal and informal learning, specifies four components of validation, which comprise the entire process. Emphasis is placed on identifying education needs, training progress documentation, assessment of effects and certification of competence obtained, which should comply with European standards and be accepted in every EU country.

The project prepared by the Voivodeship Labour Office in Krakow (WOP Kraków), titled: “Building a national qualifications system – pilot implementation of a national qualifications system”, has been initiated within the framework of the Integrated Qualifications System. Both the project and the information campaign on its existence are co-funded by the European Union from the European Social Fund. The Educational Research Institute in Warsaw (IBE) is also a partner in the initiative.

The goal of the paper is to present a detailed description of the process in which the method and tools are developed, as are necessary for determining the effects of learning, in accordance with the competence balance method. The competence balance method developed was based on assumptions of three psychological concepts which encapsulate different ways of thinking about man: behavioural, cognitive and humanistic. In order to develop a method which is credible, accurate and reliable, an overview of existing methods for quality tests have been performed, a cohesive operation model has been established and a standard for the process of test preparation has been prepared.

A definition has also been formulated of the balance of competence method, allowing identification and precise documentation of effects of learning – resources of knowledge, skills and social competence. The entire process of working on its development has also been presented and described, from preparing initial guidelines to the pilot stage, in which the form of proposed methods and tools was tested and honed.

Thus, the balance of competence method was developed as an authored compilation of qualitative methods – a combination of the biographical interview and the specific structure of a behavioural interview, which is conducted in accordance with a specific order. The paper also describes in detail the concept of actions included in the method and all components (tools and forms) contributing to the stage of identifying and documenting the effects of learning.

The competence balance chart, with its dual role of a document and tool for evaluation, allows preparation and reporting of information collected about the candidate. The scope of information which should be included in the competence balance chart will also outline the goal which the candidate specified in the application form. Furthermore, thanks to the competence balance chart, he or she will receive feedback – a summary of achievements so far and guidelines helpful in determining next steps, assessment of own strengths and weaknesses. The chart will also allow evaluation of the learning effects, knowledge, skills and social competence possessed. Apart from the process of verifying and confirming competence, the information obtained may become an important source of inspiration for the participant in planning for further education.

Above all else, however, the balance of competence is a process for identifying and analysing knowledge, skills and competence of an individual, his or her abilities and motivation, so as to develop a precise, effective plan for career development. Also important is the standardisation and unification of all tools used for verification of specific competencies, which are also a clear description of the process of education and obtaining a specific professional qualification.

In summary, the balance of competence is one of the possible ways to conduct the stages of identification and documentation of effects of learning, with elements of formative evaluation as part of the validation process. The summary and recommendations of the project also include the most important information on conducting the balance of competence process, applying the method
and tools developed, and preparing vocational counsels.

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