There is much talk about theories and definitions of competence, and there are many different perspectives. Some speak about exclusive epistemologies by which competence-based practices are being framed as a technical-instrumental; others contend that those practices are integral or holistic, and based on a variety of different knowledge theories.
Various alternative concepts have been brought to the fore to express what is needed to be successful in personal growth, education, employment and societal participation: capabilities, attributes, expertise, talents, excellence and more. The boundaries of these concepts are not clear. Some state that they are just positions on a proficiency scale which ranges from no, via mediocre to excellent competence. Indeed, professional competence can leave much to be desired, but also way over what can be expected. Was the rescue of Apollo XIII a matter of superior expertise, brilliant capability or extreme competence? The question is, does this word game really matter? Essential is that the crew of the mission returned to planet Earth safely. And that all involved were able to solve life threatening challenges. In this melting-pot of contradicting interpretations, is there room for convergence and synthesis? Can different approaches which seem opposite and unbridgeable be reconciled? These, and more, questions will be raised during the international conference on competence theory, research and practice.
•Marissa van den Berg