In Europe, learning outcomes are defined by competences. Competence consists of knowledge, skills, and attitudes. This is typical for School Education and practiced this way during the last decade(s).
But is it really always that easy? Are competencies always the result of a learning process?
In the ESCO definition of the European Commission (European Skills, Competences, Qualifications and Occupations) you will find:
“The term competence is broader and refers typically to the ability of a person – facing new situations and unforeseen challenges – to use and apply knowledge and skills in an independent and self-directed way.”
The ESCO definition of a competence looks like this:
“competence means the proven ability to use knowledge, skills and personal, social and/or methodological abilities, in work or study situations and in professional and personal development.”
If you have a look to the ECVET Toolkit (https://www.ecvet-toolkit.eu/) you will find:
“statements of what a learner knows, understands and is able to do on completion of a learning process, and which are defined in terms of knowledge, skills and competence”.
Reading all this the question occurs: Is not competence always the same? And – are in Vocational Education and Training learning outcomes, defined as knowledge or skills, valid?
The answer is YES, and I’ll give you an example:
The is the company “Tyre Fit” selling and fitting tyres for cars. A customer is entering the selling room and asks for winter tyres of his car. He is showing the car certification to the salesman. The salesman only must have the knowledge to classify the various parameters of the needed tyre – nothing else.
During his specific education he got the knowledge to decide which tyre will fit to which car and which parameters or regulations must be kept ensuring safe driving with this tyres.
The customer has bought the tyres and enters the workshop of the tyre reseller to get the tyres fixed on his rims. The worker there has learned how to take down the old tyre and to mount the new one. This are skills – nothing else. The worker must be able to handle the machine to disassembly the tyres from the rim and after this to mount the new ones and finally to balance the wheel.
This is an example that in specific cases competences are not versatile to be used as a description for learning outcomes, but in each case, it is necessary to analyse and evaluate how the learning outcomes can be described best. This can be simple knowledge as well as simple skills or complex competences.