Newsletter 27 Competency Based Assessment


Competency Based Assessment (CBA) for the appointment of school principals, deputy-principals and Heads of Department. In Gauteng and the Western Cape Provincial Departments have encouraged School Governing Bodies (SGB) to request CBA from their respective Provincial Education Department (PED) for the nomination of school principals. This test has been in use for the appointment of school principals and may soon be extended to Deputies and Heads of Department. Department of Basic Education (DBE) in collaboration with the nine provinces will soon promulgate regulation - as statutory requirements for all school principal appointments - to ensure (1) contractual performance management and (2) CBA. Currently the law gives SGB - in collaboration with teacher union stakeholders - the responsibility to nominate suitable candidates for the posts whilst provincial department must ratify these nominations.

DBE will have to amend the statute to further regulate signed performance contract and CBA. By law these amendments and regulations must be negotiated with the teacher unions because it impacts on the conditions of service of teachers. In the absence of this regal mandate SGBs must ensure that they consult teacher unions before requesting the provincial education departments to perform CBAs – this must be done in the form of a proposal submitted and fully motivated by the SGB at the first planning meeting to prepare for the interview – before the envelope of applicants is opened. Parties should listen to the various views at this meeting and communicate the minutes of the meeting to the provincial education department. The proposal considered by the provincial education department must include a rationale from the SGB, views of the various stakeholders, application and weight of the outcome of the test towards the final scoring and suitability of the list of nominees.

It is my contention that the DBE must consider all direct and indirect variables within direct and indirect influence of the appointed school principal. The relationship of the interplay of this set of very complicated variables needs to be determine ahead of signing the performance contract. Another matter for consideration is the fact that a contract is precisely that – both parties have duties and obligations, it is negotiated and finally agreed to by consensus of give-and-take. Will school principals have the opportunity to negotiate such a contract with legal support (or para-legal) prior to signature?

In 2002 T.E. POTGIETER and R.P. VAN DERMERWE of the Department of Industrial and Organisational Psychology at the University of Port Elizabeth did a research on CBA in the workplace. The “paper explores assessment in the workplace with a specific focus on using a competency-based approach. A normative process model for developing a competency-based assessment battery is also presented. The model is derived from practical experience and research in the development of competency-based assessment batteries and is rooted in a person-based approach.”

Here are some extracts!

“Competence - A review of the related literature reveals that ideas and thinking surrounding the notion of competence is far from uniform and that the term has different meanings in different contexts. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that competence is essentially an abstract concept that can only be defined and measured through behaviour or performance.”

“Competency-based assessment and traditional norm-referenced psychometric assessment are sharply contrasted in their methods of evaluation of results (Hager& Gonczi,1994).The difference is that competency-based assessment assesses the performance of an individual against a pre-determined standard, while norm referenced assessment compares the performance of an individual against the performance of a selected group.”

“According to Hager & Gonczi (1994), competency-based assessment must be seen as a process, rather than a single test or measure and the main approach of data gathering should be by means of systematic observation, using direct methods, rather than only paper-and-pencil tests. This integrated approach means that in most cases the assessment will include psychological constructs, (e.g. decision making, coping with stress and interpersonal skills) and for this reason the assessment remains within the ambit of the definition of a ‘‘psychological act’’ with all of its legal requirements and associated codes of professional and ethical conduct.”