Light Developing Competence
“Competence is a three-tined pitchfork. Intellectual competence, physical and manual skills, and interpersonal competence are the tines. But the handle is most important” (Chickering and Reisser, 1993, p. 53). For development to occur, there must be a handle. Sense of competence is attributed to one’s confidence that one can cope with challenges and successfully accomplish tasks (Chickering and Reisser).
On Wednesday of this week in my first-year course themed Difficult Dialogue During Turbulent Times: Leadership, Moral Courage, Critical Hope, I asked the students to anonymously share on sticky note paper what challenges they had during their first week and how had they received support during their first week transition into the university.
Here were a few of the student responses
The manner in which a student develops varies based on the individuality of each student. Students are navigating their transition into the university for the first time. The first six to eight weeks is critical in students beginning their college journey to develop sense of competence as they best transition into the university environment.
Here is an excerpt defining the dimensions of sense of competence from my co-authored manuscript titled, “Development and Validation of the Sense of Competence Scale-Revised”:
The intellectual ability involves confidence in mastering academic material, gaining intellectual capacity and building critical thinking skills. Most importantly, intellectual skills comprise the ability to reason, solve problems and participate in active learning opportunities (Chickering and Reisser, 1993). Chickering and Reisser urge faculty members and college administrators not to strictly define intellectual competence as “skills at passing tests or mastery of some ‘essential’ knowledge,” (p. 63) but also as the ability to listen, question, reflect, and communicate. In addition, students should be an active participant in searching for knowledge rather than using a more passive approach.
Physical and Manual
Physical and manual abilities contribute to a student’s sense of competence. These skills come from a variety of activities being either athletic or artistic in nature. These skills are derived from participation in athletics and recreational sports, attention to wellness, and involvement in per-forming arts, tangible creations, and hands-on learning (Evans, et al., 1998, Chickering and Reisser, 1993). For a few students, participation in such activities become a vocation while for others the skills become an avocation. Vocation is defined as a career pursuit or routine, while avocational activities are described as hobbies or leisure pursuits. Physical skill development seems obvious when one learns to kick a soccer ball, take photographs, dance or sculpt. However, little research exists illustrating the development of these skills while in college (Chickering and Reisser, 1993).
Along with physical ability as a component of developing competence comes the facility to interact with others. A student’s interaction with others contributes to their level of interpersonal competence. Interpersonal skills include things like listening, self-disclosing, and participating in dialogue that brings insight and satisfaction (Chickering and Reisser, 1993). These skill sets assist students in building thriving friendships and relationships as well as prepare the student for being an active citizen (Chickering and Re-isser, 1993). Intellectual, physical and manual, and interpersonal abilities are all components of developing competence. However, it is important to point out that a student’s overall sense of competence is subjective; sense of competence stems from how an individual student feels about their achievements and can trust their own abilities. Some students may take their level of competence for granted by having strong interpersonal skills, while other students may think no matter what they achieve it is never enough leaving them unsure of their abilities (Chickering and Reisser, 1993). University administrators who strive to provide opportunities for students such as electives and extracurricular activities will create a foundation for students to build upon during their time in college. Through these opportunities students are challenged, they begin to grow and build confidence which leads to the development of competence. University administrators are faced with the task of identifying methods for measuring sense of competence to discern a student’s development and self-confidence in their abilities.
Administrator’s can use data from the research to modify their institution’s academic and social environment to enhance the development of students’ intellectual, physical and manual, and interpersonal skills. The use of the SCS-R offers a method for assessing college students’ competence and provides reliable measures and valid estimates of a student’s personal assessment of their sense of competence. This framework offers higher education administrators a psychometrically sound instrument for measuring student academic success and persistence while allowing for practical application to change the university environment.
In addition, it is important to point out that sense of competence may vary based on the complexity of students’ identities during the time of transition into the university. With the disparity of research conducted on under-represented groups and the increase of older adults returning to education more research is needed to better understand these multi-faceted subpopulations. My hope is for future research to dedicate time to refining the SCS-R through the use of larger cross-validation samples in which respondents represent diverse target populations for a range of student populations independent of dominant culture representation.
INTEREST IN USING THE SURVEY FOR ASSESSMENT OR RESEARCH PURPOSES
I license the SCS-R for assessment and research at no cost. For the use of the SCS-R instrument I ask that a formal request be emailed to me directly (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com) to receive approval for any upcoming assessment project or research study.
I am happy to answer any questions regarding survey, I would love to hear from you if you need more information.
Chickering, A. (1969). Education and identity. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Chickering, A., and Reisser, L. (1993). Educa-tion and identity (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
McFadden, C., Skaggs, G., & Janosik, S. (2013). Development and validation of the Sense of Competence Scale-Revised. Journal of Applied Measurement, 14(3), 318-331.