We have asserted above that a competency is the ability to perform a task to a certain standard. Competency-based assessment is therefore no more than assessment that requires the actual performance of tasks to a level of proficiency that at least meets the required standard. Competency-based assessment may involve the performance of tasks involve cognitive learning, psychomotor learning and/or affective learning.
In the regulated professions where an entry-to-practice standard has been set in the form of occupational competencies, competency-based assessment involves assessment of the extent to which a candidate for registration possesses the required competencies. This can be a significant challenge: an occupational competency involves the actual performance of a task in the workplace; however, candidates for registration are generally not in a position to function in the workplace. For entry-to-practice assessment regulatory bodies typically rely on assessment vehicles such as:
- Written, oral and practical examinations
- Practicum placements
- Self-assessments and portfolios
- Completion of approved education programs
In none of these assessment vehicles is the candidate in a position to directly perform occupational competencies. Instead, assessment relies on the observation of indicators from which proficiency in occupational competencies is inferred.
We define an indicator as a task that can be observed within an assessment vehicle, completion of which provides an indication of the candidate’s possession of a competency.
In general, indicators are assessment-vehicle-specific.
The validity and reliability with which an indicator relate to proficiency in an occupational competency will vary with the nature of the assessment vehicle. For example, if we are interested in assessing competencies related to communication and relationship-building, indicators assessed in an oral examination or a practicum placement will be significantly more valid than those assessed in a written examination.
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