Frequently, if we assert that a particular individual is ‘highly competent’ it is not uncommon also to suggest that the same person is very capable. Not surprisingly, in such circumstances, some authors point to blurring of boundaries if not confusion when words such as competence, capacity and capability are used, frequently together  if not interchangeably (Boras & Edquist, 2013; Vincent, 2008). Nevertheless, competence, and competence building seeks to combine knowledge and skill thus enabling in this instance—Academic Developers (AD) —to teach peers and senior leaders within their organisations about innovative pedagogies, while being similarly knowledgeable regarding research and leadership. Such responsibilities are particularly onerous, requiring both breadth and depth, with a commitment to sustained learning, thus investing in their own competence building while simultaneously being able to transform the competence of others. This competence building is executed so that not just the individuals concerned actually benefit, but those colleagues with whom they come in contact. Understood in this manner, competence building is a core element of AD’s individual and collective responsibility, while seeking to have a (trans-) formative influence on the ongoing formation of others, with potential to transform learning environments and the organisations and their leadership in which they function.

The concept of learning trajectories highlights the timelines in which competence and competence building occurs. This term makes the diversity and multidimensionality of learning processes salient (Lahn 2011, p. 53). Secondly, to speak of trajectories rather than developmental processes takes the diversity and multidimensionality of the learning processes into account. Thirdly, this term points to the embeddedness of trajectories in systems that vary along temporal and spatial dimensions. Experiences are interpreted and reconceptualised in creative ways along stretches of timelines. The processes of exploring different experiences in relation to one another are important in processes of competence building, as these bring together different signs, symbols and experiences into new senses of ‘meaning’ (Wells, 1999). This kind of meaning making give direction for further development of trajectories both for individuals and groups (Vygotsky, 1978; Lahn 2011).


Boras, S., & Edquist, C. (2013). The Choice of Innovation Policy Instruments. Submitted to a Journal Paper no. 2013/04. Retrieved from

Lahn, L. C. (2011). Professional learning and epistemic trajectories. In: S. Ludvigsen, A. Lund, I. Rasmussen & R. Säljö. Learning across sites: new tools, infrastructures, and practices. Oxford, UK: Routledge.

Vincent, L. (2008). Differentiating Competence, Capability and Capacity. Innovating  Perspec tives, 16(3), 1-2.  Retrieved from

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: the development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Wells, C. G. (1999). Dialogic inquiry: towards a sociocultural practice and theory of education. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Published Nov. 2, 2015 4:19 PM - Last modified May 31, 2016 2:54 PM