Education methods – Competency versus Capability

In today’s tough employment market, employers want capable people who know how to learn; are creative; have a high degree of self-efficacy; can apply competencies in novel as well as familiar situations; and work well with others.

For those looking to further their education and skills in Australia, students have been traditionally and predominantly offered competency based learning. Competency based learning involves the acquisition of knowledge and skills. Whilst this model has had success, the recent and ongoing skills shortage in Australia has exposed this methods many shortcomings.


One of the most recent models to challenge traditional competency based learning, one that looks at outcomes as well as process, is that of capability based learning.


Put simply, whilst competency based education can ensure students a piece of paper qualifying them, capability based learning will also ensure capable students that have the diverse and necessary skills to be successful in their chosen profession. This is why institutions such as Harvard University are now offering capability based learning programs.


So is why capability is based learning more successful in further education?


When adults in particular, are looking to further their education and skills, they want to be treated as adults and as such expect to be involved in their education. For an adult learner in a traditional competency based class room environment, just being lectured at often causes them feelings of resentment or frustration.


More importantly in order for learning to take place, a person must internalize the information; merely seeing or hearing is not enough. Therefore, learning requires activity. Active participation by the learner is preferable to lengthy periods of passive listening and viewing.


An important aspect of capability based learning is that it acknowledges the fact that students come to courses with experiences and knowledge in diverse areas. Adult students for this reason excel when using capability style practical learning activities which enable them to draw and build on their prior skills and knowledge. This method of learning also encourages students to build insight into what is likely to work and what is not. They are readily able to relate new facts to past experiences and enjoy having their talents and knowledge explored in a teaching situation.


Capability based learning exercises are an excellent teaching method as they build on prior experience and provide opportunity for practical application of materials/theories covered


Perhaps the most important aspect of capability based learning, is application of new skills in a learning environment. This is because complete understanding has only taken place when the learner is able to apply or transfer the learning to new problems or situations. First, the learner must have been helped to recognise or discover generalisations relating to the topic or task. Then opportunities must be provided for the learner to apply the generalisations or procedures to a variety of new, realistic problems or tasks.


To keep pace with the world market, Australian learning and training institutions need to move towards capability based learning methods, because what good is a piece of paper when there are a lack of practical skills to back it up?

Emma Baker

Emma Baker is a senior consultant for Latus. Emma has a background in communications and marketing, with a focus on business development. Her primary focus for Latus is assisting in spearheading the growth and direction of the company´s marketing initiatives in Australia as well as; channel development, strategic partnerships, brand image, and customer acquisition through both online and offline advertising. Emma resides in Melbourne Victoria and holds a degree in Business from Victoria University and Arts, from the University of Ballarat.

More Posts

Posted in Industry News, Logistics Training.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *