A competency is defined as a combination of knowledge, skills, and ability. Think of it as a unit involving all of these components concurrently. For example, you can have plenty of textbook knowledge, but if you have not had an opportunity to put that knowledge into practice, you will discover skill gaps. Likewise, you may successfully follow a training plan, but if you find yourself in a situation where the dog is not responding as hoped and you are unsure about how to modify the original plan, you have just discovered knowledge and ability gaps.
There are two often-cited critical elements to competency-based learning:
- They can be assessed.
- They can be applied.
I would add a third.
3. They should prompt individuals to engage in reflective practice.
This is where the portfolio fits in. Assembling artefacts that represent your learning requires that you provide clear rationale for why and how a particular item relates to a stated competency. In that process, you will likely begin to pose self-reflective questions, for example:
- Am I being thorough enough in the evidence I am providing?
- Did I really learn what a particular course claims to teach?
- Would I benefit from more reading, more practice, another course, having someone observe and provide feedback on my work, and so on?
The PACTA BC Portfolio Pathway is based entirely on satisfying competencies that align with the dog training industry needs. These needs demand broad knowledge and understanding of the profession, as well as applications of specifics in a variety of settings or contexts. For example, implementing a series of puppy classes involves many competencies ranging from canine development to the administrative abilities to bring the project to fruition.
Since competencies are created for the purpose of assessment (both self and external), they need to be carefully crafted. A dog training professional needs to have knowledge about dogs, skills in applying the knowledge of dogs to train them, and the ability to employ the knowledge and skills effectively. Together, the knowledge, skills, and ability make up a competency that can be assessed.
Competencies are well understood in trades and other practice-based professions. There are many examples of programs, apprenticeships, and assessments that are guided by clear and robust competencies. The PACTA BC Education Committee is using established guidelines for reference to inform our work.
Now back to the drawing board! The Education Committee is deep into the process of writing competencies for the Portfolio Pathway project. Our goal is to create clear and relevant competencies and provide flexibility in how applicants provide evidence to satisfy them.
Sylvia Currie, Education Committee Chair
- New Regulation and Education Models for Animal Care and Training in BC
- Portfolio Pathway
- Update: Portfolio Pathway Project