Svårigheter i att definiera begreppet kompetens

[Difficulties in defining the notion of competence]

  • Birgit Schaffar University of Helsinki
Keywords: Competence, etymology of competence, educational policy, definition, philosophy of science, Wittgenstein

Abstract

This article discusses theoretically and philosophically difficulties in defining the notion of competence. ‘Competence’ is a key-concept in today’s educational discussion, where it combines both a psychological meaning of an inner disposition, and a sociological meaning as a category that organises tasks and power-relations in public and private institutions. A short historical overview shows that ‘competence’ has a complex etymology that explains these different layers of possible usages and the different ontological and epistemological assumptions that arise from them. Still, the article argues that an ambiguous notion is not a notion with an indistinct meaning. In concrete situations, ‘competence’ just has different meanings. Inspired by Wittgenstein, the article takes a philosophical view on science and methodology and argues that the strive to define ‘competence’ unequivocally can be understood in different ways. Notions have to be defined unambiguously to make empirical measurements possible. But definitions are running the risk to ignore important meaningful usages for the sake of what is empirically possible to measure and what kind of political interests there are in measuring certain aspects of a complex notions. Finally, it is argued that an ambiguous notion implies risks of undermining critical voices in the discussion about global educational policy.

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Published
2019-05-28
How to Cite
Schaffar, B. (2019). Svårigheter i att definiera begreppet kompetens. Nordic Journal of Vocational Education and Training, 9(1), 111-128. https://doi.org/10.3384/njvet.2242-458X.1991111
Section
Peer-reviewed research articles