Competence o competency?

Pubblicato il 7 novembre 2014

Quando si cerca di fare riferimento alla letteratura internazionale sulle competenze, nasce subito un problema: qual’é la traduzione di “Competenze” in inglese? Spesso (anche in documenti in italiano) si parla ad esempio di skills. Ma allora: competence, competency, o skill? O altro? Sono sinonimi o ci sono differenze?

Sembra una domanda facile, ma ecco che inizia qualcosa che somiglia a una caccia al polipo: appena pensi di averlo preso, c’é qualche tentacolo che scappa da qualche parte…

Caccia la polipo. Immagine da mexico.cnn.com

Caccia la polipo. Immagine da mexico.cnn.com

Non é una questione oziosa. Di cosa si parla quando si dice “competenze”? Cerchiamo di capirlo, un passo alla volta. Baby steps. Cominciamo da qui, da una questione linguistica.


Dunque, si dice Competence o Competency? O Skill? O Ability?

Possiamo provare con Wikipedia, ma non ci aiuta gran che. Vediamo che dice:

  1. Competency fa un redirect su Competence, come se si trattasse della stessa cosa. Quest’ultima dice che Competence is the ability of an individual to do a job properly.
  2. skill is the learned ability to carry out a task with pre-determined results often within a given amount of time, energy, or both
  3. Ability sembra essere un concetto più articolato.

Ability may refer to:

  • Aptitude, a component of a competency to do a certain kind of work at a certain level, which can also be considered “talent”….The innate nature of aptitude is in contrast to achievement, which represents knowledge or ability that is gained through learning.
  •  Intellectual ability (Intelligence): logic, abstract thought, understanding, self-awareness, communication, learning, having emotional knowledge, retaining, planning, and problem solving
  • Knowledge, a familiarity with someone or something, which can include facts, information, descriptions, or skills
  • Skill, the learned ability to carry out a task with pre-determined results
  • Power (social and political), the ability to influence people or events
  • Capability (disambiguation)
  • Superpower_(ability), a popular culture term for a fictional superhuman ability
  • Intellectual giftedness:an intellectual ability significantly higher than average.

Insomma, come si dice in USA, si apre un can of worms

A can of worms... da arnoldit.com

A can of worms… da arnoldit.com

Tentiamo coi dizionari.

Collins:

  • competencethe condition of being capable; ability
  • competencya less common word for competence
  • skill: 1) special ability in a task, sport, etc, esp. ability acquired by training, 2) something, especially a trade or technique, requiring special training or manual proficiency
  • abilitypossession of the qualities required to do something; necessary skill, competence, or power

Cambridge: (in due versioni: inglese (EN) e americana (US))

  • competence: EN) the ability to do something well ;
  • competency: EN) an important skill that is needed to do a job: 
  • competence/competency US) skills or knowledge to do something well enough to meet a basic standard:
  • skill: EN) an ability to do an activity or job well, especially because you have practised it, US) a special ability to do something
  • ability: EN-US) physical or mental power or skill needed to do something

Oxford Dictionary:

  • competence, also competencyThe ability to do something successfully or efficiently
  • skillThe ability to do something well; expertise:
  • ability: 1) Possession of the means or skill to do something 2) Talent, skill, or proficiency in a particular area:

Macmillan:

  • competence:  the ability to do something in a satisfactory or effective way
  • competency:  an ability to do something, especially measured against a standard (ma anche un sinonimo di competence)
  • skill: the ability to do something well, usually as a result of experience and training
  • ability: 1) the fact of being able to do something, oppure 2) the level of skill that someone has in a particular job or activity, 

Longman:

  • competence, also competency: 1) the ability to do something well, 2)  skill needed to do a particular job
  • skill: an ability to do something well, especially because you have learned and practised it
  • ability: 1) the state of being able to do something, 2) someone’s level of skill at doing something

Possiamo tentare una sintesi? Secondo i dizionari:

  • ability sembra essere il termine più generico.
  • skill (4 dizionari su 5) é  legato all’aver imparato tramite l’avere messo in pratica, specialmente in una accezione legata al training (addestramento)
  • competence: la capacità di fare bene qualcosa – secondo alcuni diventa competency se legata a un lavoro, o misurabile secondo un qualche standard

wikipedia invece associa la skill con l’aver appreso (in generale), e la lega ad un concetto di misurabilità.

Non ne abbiamo cavato tanto…


Cercando in rete si trovano anche le seguenti definizioni:

  • Competence is an ability or capacity acquired through learning, exposures to the tasks and series of trainings.  This ability is engaged to suffice the performance of a particular job.
  • Competency is an in-born skills or talents of a person. Competency is a skill or knowledge given by God.  It is within the inner self.

Interessante, ma sono definizioni attendibili e accettate, o sono solo due delle tante possibili? Proviamo ad addentrarci in letteratura.


Anche qui é un guazzabuglio. Un lavoro interessante é quello di Francoise Delamare Le Deist & Johnatan Winterton, “What Is Competence?”, Human Resource Development International, Vol. 8, No. 1, 27 – 46, March 2005, che ha esaminato almeno 150 articoli (tante sono le referenze citate in bibliografia).

Ne estraiamo alcuni passaggi:

If competence is important, it follows that its meaning is also important, since without a common understanding there is little chance of integration, alignment or mobility in practice. However, despite the central role of competence, there is considerable confusion surrounding the term, which reflects conflation of distinct concepts and inconsistent usage as much as differences in systems, structures and cultures of Human Resource Development  and Vocational Educational Training.

The concept of competence or competency (‘competence’ generally refers to functional areas and ‘competency’ to behavioural areas but usage is inconsistent, as shown below) dominated the management strategy literature of the 1990s, which emphasized ‘core competence’ as a key organizational resource that could be exploited to gain competitive advantage

In sostanza: c’é una notevole confusione sul termine (di competenza), a causa di differenti definizione del termina date implicitamente o esplicitamente da vari autori, e di differenti significati in settori diverse quali quello del management, quello delle risorse umane e quello educazionale.

Gli autori poi insistono sul tema:

There is such confusion and debate concerning the concept of ‘competence’ that it is impossible to identify or impute a coherent theory or to arrive at a definition capable of accommodating and reconciling all the different ways that the term is used.

Different cultural contexts influence the understanding of competence and this is especially important in relation to the extent to which competence is defined by cultural literacy involving group identities such as race, gender, age and class (ascription), as opposed to demonstrable behaviour (achievement).

Weinert lists nine different ways in which competence has been defined or interpreted:

  • general cognitive ability;
  • specialized cognitive skills;
  • competence- performance model;
  • modified competence-performance model;
  • objective and subjective self-concepts;
  • motivated action tendencies;
  • action competence;
  • key competencies;
  • meta-competencies.

Altro che “competence o competency”…

Morale della favola: non c’é una definizione universalmente condivisa. Volta per volta occorre andare a vedere che definizione usano gli autori, sperando che sia esplicita!

Ma allora, come escono Winterton e Delamare da questo labirinto? Sostanzalmente riconducono le principali accezioni a tre diverse scuole di pensiero:

  • Un approccio comportamentistico (US)
  • Un approccio funzionale (UK)
  • Un approccio multi-dimensionale e olistico (Francia, Germania, Austria)

La questione viene poi approfondita in un altro (lungo) articolo: “Typology of knowledge, skills and competences: clarification of the concept  and prototype”, Jonathan Winterton, Françoise Delamare – Le Deist and Emma Stringfellow (2005)

Questo é stato tra i documenti utilizzati dalla UE per dare fondamenta al lavoro che ha portato alle sue Raccomandazioni, che in Italia sono state poi recepite dal Ministero competente. Dunque, toccherà approfondire…

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