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Modeling competencies for supporting work‐integrated learning in knowledge work

Tobias Ley (Know‐Center, Graz, Austria)
Armin Ulbrich (Know‐Center, Graz, Austria)
Peter Scheir (Knowledge Management Institute, Graz University of Technology, Graz, Austria)
Stefanie N. Lindstaedt (Know‐Center, Graz, Austria)
Barbara Kump (Knowledge Management Institute, Graz University of Technology, Graz, Austria)
Dietrich Albert (Department of Psychology, University of Graz, Graz, Austria)

Journal of Knowledge Management

ISSN: 1367-3270

Article publication date: 24 October 2008




The purpose of this paper is to suggest a way to support work‐integrated learning for knowledge work, which poses a great challenge for current research and practice.


The authors first suggest a workplace learning context model, which has been derived by analyzing knowledge work and the knowledge sources used by knowledge workers. The authors then focus on the part of the context that specifies competencies by applying the competence performance approach, a formal framework developed in cognitive psychology. From the formal framework, a methodology is then derived of how to model competence and performance in the workplace. The methodology is tested in a case study for the learning domain of requirements engineering.


The Workplace Learning Context Model specifies an integrative view on knowledge workers' work environment by connecting learning, work and knowledge spaces. The competence performance approach suggests that human competencies be formalized with a strong connection to workplace performance (i.e. the tasks performed by the knowledge worker). As a result, competency diagnosis and competency gap analysis can be embedded into the normal working tasks and learning interventions can be offered accordingly. The results of the case study indicate that experts were generally in moderate to high agreement when assigning competencies to tasks.

Research limitations/implications

The model needs to be evaluated with regard to the learning outcomes in order to test whether the learning interventions offered benefit the user. Also, the validity and efficiency of competency diagnosis need to be compared to other standard practices in competency management.

Practical implications

Use of competence performance structures within organizational settings has the potential to more closely relate the diagnosis of competency needs to actual work tasks, and to embed it into work processes.


The paper connects the latest research in cognitive psychology and in the behavioural sciences with a formal approach that makes it appropriate for integration into technology‐enhanced learning environments.



Ley, T., Ulbrich, A., Scheir, P., Lindstaedt, S.N., Kump, B. and Albert, D. (2008), "Modeling competencies for supporting work‐integrated learning in knowledge work", Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. 12 No. 6, pp. 31-47.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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