Using Bloom’s to Write Competency Descriptions

How do you construct a competency framework?

One of the first questions customers ask when beginning a competency management implementation is, “How do we categorize and construct our competency statements and library?” It’s a great question, one that touches every point of the skills and competency management business process. It’s also a question that doesn’t have one single answer, as it really is dependent upon the organization and their processes. Here are five key considerations to keep in mind when making this decision:

Navigation: Does the competency library follow a sound hierarchical competency structure with clear parent-child relationships?

Ownership: Which groups own the competency framework? 

Competency Assessment Type: How are the competencies assessed? 

Assessment Process: How are the candidates assessed? 

Commonality of Competency: Are global competencies shared across various groups?


There are a variety of approaches you can take to construct and structure your framework. In this post, we’ll explore using an established learning design methodology — Bloom’s Taxonomy. 

The post below was originally published by Jason Ramos on LinkedIn.

What does the term competency mean in terms of Bloom's taxonomy?

In this article, I introduce a simple method that my company, Competence IQ, utilizes to create unique competency management frameworks and descriptions for our clients. We call it the BBCF, or Bloom’s-Based Competency Framework. In order to keep this article brief, I will assume that you have a basic understanding of Instructional Design (particularly, job and task analysis) and Bloom’s Taxonomy (specifically, the Cognitive domain). If you need a refresher of Bloom’s, here’s the Wikipedia link.

Competencies are measurable standards of skills, knowledge, abilities, and attitudes that determine the desired performance and behaviors for a specific role at a particular level. Competence may be acquired through education, training, and experience. Because [skills gaps] in competencies drive the demand for learning, they are directly linked to educational objectives. It, therefore, makes sense to use the proper Bloom’s Cognitive domain verbs to compose competency descriptions and their corresponding tasks. This technique is particularly useful for my fellow learning professionals because the competency statements can easily be converted into gap-filling educational objectives.

Many of us, particularly learning professionals, are familiar with the concepts illustrated in the graphic below, which suggests certain action verbs appropriate to progressive skill levels.


Many of us are also familiar with competency maps, such as the generic one below.


To create a Bloom’s-Based Competency Framework, we combine both to produce a framework, such as the four-level competency framework below.


In the framework above, notice the following:

  • The framework is specific to a job role. (Field Service Specialist)
  • The framework includes a combination of Registers. (Technical, Leadership, Sales, Safety, Compliance, etc.)
  • The competency levels (Basic, Intermediate, Advanced, Master) distinguish a trainee from an expert. For most companies, the Advance level is the “competent” level.
  • Bloom’s verbs are used in the competency description for each level. Generic ones are provided.
  • Bloom’s verbs are used in the competency task descriptions for each level.

Here’s an example: 

Level 1 – Given the Acme tool at the workshop, the specialist will  be able to do the following in a reasonable amount of time:

  • Describe the purpose and function of the tool. 
  • Describe at least three applications of the tool. 
  • List the tool’s major components.
  • Describe the purpose and functions of the tool’s major components.
  • Explain how to find documentation about the tool.

What are the advantages of using Bloom's to write competencies?

BBCF has many advantages. Here are a few:

Filled competency gaps through training development: If training is indeed the solution to fill skills gaps, the competency descriptions convert to overall course goals and tasks convert to course terminal objectives.

Granular assessment methodology: Assessments are specific, observable, and measurable. Either you can or can’t perform the indicated task.

SMART competency statements: The verbs essentially become SMART goals — Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Reasonable, Time-bound.

Implementing competency management with strategic competency statements

Creating a competency framework can take less time and effort by combining the principles of Bloom’s Taxonomy, selecting appropriate verbs, and leveraging from the examples above.

Almost all established companies have some sort of competency management “system.” But only a handful are ahead of the game with systems that can meet compliance requirements and produce a measurable positive impact on the bottom line, all by allowing the business to manage its talent strategically.

Obviously, there’s more to competency management than just the competency framework. There’s competency management software, a worthwhile investment that will give your company a competitive edge. Want to continue the conversation? Speak to a skills advisor.

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