Issues Concerning Related Topics Such as Skills, Competence, Abilities and Capabilities

  • Paul HagerEmail author
  • David Beckett
Part of the Perspectives on Rethinking and Reforming Education book series (PRRE)


Following the previous chapter’s discussion of the macro-level concept of practice, as a vehicle for understanding the nature of human performances, this chapter focuses on related, more micro-level concepts, such as skills, competence, abilities, capabilities, dispositions and capacities. Three major common unresolved issues surrounding these concepts are identified. First, when seeking to elucidate human performances, there is a prevailing tendency to employ these concepts to atomise the performances into their component parts. The sum of these parts is assumed to be equivalent to the original whole. This results in failure to account for the holism and relationality of human performances and the central role of professional judgement within them. Second, these micro-level concepts are typically deployed in conjunction with the assumption that the individual agent is the appropriate unit of analysis for understanding human performances. This fails to take account of crucial social aspects of such performances. Thirdly, the significance of these micro-level concepts is often masked by the common tendency to focus on the more overtly cognitive aspects of human performances. This tendency results in ‘thin’ understandings that overlook many other crucial aspects of human performances, such as affect, know-how, the role of judgement and the influences of contextual factors. Part II (i.e. Chaps.  6 8) and Part III (i.e. Chaps.  9 and  10) of the book will together provide a resolution of these issues.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Arts and Social SciencesUniversity of Technology SydneySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Melbourne Graduate School of EducationThe University of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia

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