ARN has noted that more and more professional bodies are developing sets of competencies which frame different aspects of professional skills, knowledge and practice. Professional bodies put competency frameworks to a variety of uses including defining qualifications, accrediting courses and assessing applications for membership (Williams, Hanson & Friedman, 2012
PARN’s current research project, Analysing Competency Frameworks, has shown that, while accreditation of courses and/or individuals is the most common reason professional bodies develop competency frameworks, many are used to guide professionals CPD activities. One way of achieving this is to develop a tool that allows professionals to self assess their learning needs against pre-defined competencies for a given job role. The job role might be a current role or a desired future role, and career development is another key function that competency frameworks can play.
We created a number of definitions for analysing the features of competency frameworks. What we call ‘domains’ are the top level categories used to structure competency frameworks. These domains might contain one or more sub-categories which are used to organise what we term ‘competency statements’ which define the specific competencies expected of a professional. Our research has revealed that some features of competency frameworks are closely related to their purposes.
Of the frameworks we analysed that were created to give guidance, the majority were focused on helping individuals define their skills and aspirations in terms of career development, professional learning and CPD.
We found that CPD orientated frameworks had on average a relatively low number of domains compared with those created for other purposes. When it comes to the number of competency statements, CPD orientated frameworks contained a far lower number on average than those intended for setting practice guidelines.
We also found that those domains, the top level categories in a framework, were often generic rather than profession-specific. There were ten common generic domain categories of which CPD was one. The choice of whether to include CPD as a domain category will depend on the purpose of the framework and the importance attached to it within the profession which the framework sits within.
Before beginning development of a framework designed to support professionals through CPD, a decision needs to be made about who will be using the framework. If it is to be for guiding professionals of a range of skill levels, the framework can be designed in a way which suits people at various career progression levels. One approach is to define core competencies that all professionals should develop leaving other aspects up to the individual, while other approaches can include setting a range of possible ‘levels of attainment’ for each competency.
Aside from guiding individuals, introducing a competency framework for CPD can be very useful for an organisation, as the process of its development can inform the development of e-portfolios and can spur on discussion and decisions about the kinds of outputs that are relevant for professionals in the sector.
Competency based assessment is becoming common for organisations providing accreditation but also for CPD purposes. If you’re looking to develop a competency framework for similar reasons, PARN can help you. Look out for upcoming PARN publications on the topic, or contact us to discuss bespoke consultancy.
To find out more about our current and upcoming research: