13 Assessment

Relating competencies to formal and informal evaluation of performance

High level context: Assessing competencies is critical when determining performance proficiency. It’s important to ensure that competencies are being measured in context with the activities and tasks that require them, and by the individuals and teams using them.


Who: Professional association or licensing body

What problem: Skill and competency profiles from different jurisdictions vary in both scope and language, making it difficult to assess similar credentials at face value.

What context: We are developing a framework for evaluating the skills of trained professionals from different jurisdictions against a consistent standard for practice.

This will help: By providing a consistent strategy to assess competence against a defined industry standard.

Who: Employer (e.g. HR department, Managers, Executives)

What problem: We need to connect ongoing professional development to our organization’s needs and job roles.

What context: I would like to integrate assessing competencies required for different roles into our ongoing performance management process.

This will help: By providing a validated process to align competencies with formal learning and training needs.

Assessment and evaluation have different contexts and meanings, depending who you ask. For some, assessment is formal, and evaluation is a more casual, ongoing activity, and for others it’s the reverse. In either case, competencies include supporting information (e.g. performance criteria), which form the basis for assessment, whether through a formal testing process, or through a combination of observation, reflection, and feedback.

What is critical in determining assessment approaches are ensuring:

  • Linkages between performance criteria and appropriate assessment methods.
  • The importance of alignment – are you evaluating what is being asked for in the performance criteria? Are you drawing on the underlying skills and knowledge for scope?
  • Scope – you must be assessing all of the performance criteria in one way or another. Using a holistic assessment approach, you may be able to assess multiple competencies at the same time.


  • Review competencies and supporting information
  • Identify performance criteria and supporting skills and knowledge
  • Determine how each of the performance criteria could be assessed (e.g through direct observation, self-assessment, testing, etc.)
  • Determine the assessment approach
    • Will formal assessment be required for this competency?
    • Are there other competencies that could also be assessed at the same time (e.g. tasks that require multiple competencies)?
    • How will assessments be recorded and graded? Do you have a rubric or specification tied to a proficiency scale?

This toolkit is not intended to specifically provide guidance in the development of formal assessments, but since assessment may be an intended use of your competency framework it bears mentioning a bit about using proficiency scales and rubrics here.

Using proficiency scales and rubrics

Proficiency scales and rubrics are key to formal assessment of competencies. Because much of determining competence is related to observing real-world performance, it is important to do everything possible to remove subjectivity from the assessment process.

Proficiency scales set out the range of assessment. They can be very simple – such as a competent/not competent or pass/fail approach, or have multiple levels such as the typical “beginner to expert” scale illustrated earlier. Some assessment approaches will use a numerical scale (e.g. from 1-5 or 1-10, or a percentage), but in any case a rubric is necessary to set the criteria for those doing the assessment. The type of scale usually is linked to the nature of the competency – for example, the assessment of competencies related to safety and high-risk activities often have a binary pass/fail scale attached. You either work safely or you don’t, and there may be a specific threshold that needs to be met to ensure the safety of everyone.

Rubrics specify how to assign a rating to the proficiency scale. For a binary pass/fail they should be specific enough to identify and clarify what was or was not demonstrated during the assessment in order to achieve the result, and for a scale with multiple levels, detail the criteria specific to the attainment of each level. Rubrics are also helpful for people using competency frameworks for ongoing professional development or performance reviews, as they provide detailed information about what is expected.




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eCampusOntario Open Competency Toolkit Copyright © 2021 by Dennis Green and Carolyn Levy is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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