Module 6.Studying in the European Higher Education Area.

Part 2: Methodological issues

2. The concept of competence

Before getting into the key concepts in this section, we need to look at the concept of «competence» itself, so that we would be able to understand what teachers might be expecting in the classroom teaching and learning dynamics within the EHEA.

Already, in the year 1993, Spencer & Spencer define competence as:

People’s underlying characteristic, directly related to his/her performance, which describes a superior or efficient achievement in a give task or situation.

Let us analyse this definition in detail. Conceiving competence as an “underlying feature”, assumes that students already possess a certain capability; then, learning does not mean that teachers and students start from scratch, but that competences are built by improvements made through the learning process. Learning is conceived as an activation of students’ underlying competences. As one could understand, the student is then put in the core of the learning process; s/he is the point of depart.
Then if we assume that competence is directly related to peoples’ performance, one could predict students’ future professional development by systematic training in a set of competences. Finally, if this is related to a superior/efficient performance, this means that some units of measure are available.
De Miguel et al. (2006: 40) state that competences are divided into transferable and generic skills, in every degree (Law, Languages, Engineering, etc.); then, the learning process is aimed at developing both of them by way of modules/subjects’ contents.

Competences consist of:

Knowledge and intellectual skills (theories, classifications, etc.) which may also be divided in:
a.1. General knowledge, related to the overall learning experience
a.2. Academic knowledge related to a certain subject
a. 3. Professional knowledge

Abilities and transferable skills (organizing, manipulating, designing, etc.), where we find:

  1. Intellectual skills
  2. Communication skills
  3. Interpersonal skills
  4. Personal organization and management skills

Attitudes and values (responsibility, independence, initiative), divided into:

  1. Attitudes and values for professional development
  2. Attitudes and values related to personal engagement


Access the following link:
Access “competences” and check the list of transferable/ specific competences
Try to identify which competences are developed if:
-A translation project is to be implemented by a team of students; they need to translate a set of economic and legal documents, so that they would need to contact other professionals (lawyers, magistrates, etc.)
-A student needs to prepare a report on their traineeship experience, then s/he needs to present her/his main conclusions to her/his tutor in an oral presentation.
-Students need to collect information on a [topic], and then write an essay on [topic- specialized]. The task is to be implemented during 3 weeks and then sent via email to the teacher (who acts as the real initiator of the professional task, in this activity of simulation)



 Do you know what the Europass is?


For a template:

Example: Language Passport:

Know assess the way “language competence” is expressed in the Europass. Try to express your first foreign language level in terms of competence


What’s your opinion on the Europass?

Try to complete your own Europass.



Here you have a job offer, as explained the EHEA and the Bologna Process tries to respond to learners’ academic, personal and professional expectations. Now, read this job offer and try to identify the competences desired by the company.


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