Identifying Educational Goals in terms of Graduates’ Competencies: Some Important References

Posted on August 16, 2010


Author:  Sanjay Goel,


In this article, I discuss various classifications of graduates’ competencies. Some of these are horizontal while some others are  vertical classifications. Many  of these were explicitly proposed as competency classifications whereas others like Bloom’s model are my interpretations from the perspective of competency classification.

Though all these models have been used by several education researchers, most of these have not yet attracted any noticeable attention of computer sciences faculty as well as  CS education researchers.

I find these as highly relevant wrt designing the goals for software engineers’ education.  Here is a very brief summary of some important references.


In 1956, Benjamin Bloom  arranged the educational objectives into six major levels in a hierarchical order. Beginning with the simplest level and increasing in complexity, these levels are: Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis and Evaluation.

Anderson and Krathwohl

Anderson and Krathwohl modified Bloom’s taxonomy by adding another dimension of knowledge types: Factual, Conceptual, Procedural, and Meta-cognitive. They renamed the levels of earlier dimension from nouns to verbs. They also interchanged the positions of the uppermost two levels.

Costa’s model of intellectual functioning

In 1985, based on this taxonomy, Costa  proposed his model of intellectual functioning with the following three levels:

  1. Recalling information
    1. Remember: repeat, match, …
    2. Show understanding:  paraphrase, give example, locate, summarize, …
  2. Making sense of gathered information
    1. Use understanding: operate, apply, demonstrate, infer, relate, …
    2. Examine: compare, diagram, categorize, point out, question, outline,  …
    3. Create:  compose, design, prepare, modify, formulate, plan, compile, …
  3. Applying or evaluating information
    1. Decide: judge, predict, estimate, select, conclude, rate, evaluate, …
    2. Supportive evidence: prove/support your answer, why or why not? …

Kennedy’s  perspectives on professional expertise

Kennedy  proposed four alternative perspectives on professional expertise: technical skills, application of theory or general principles, critical analysis, and deliberate action. If we view these perspectives as manifestations of different types of emphasized competencies, these   can also be used as a classification of competencies. Kennedy observed that different perspectives were dominant in different professions and engineering education shifted its emphasis from the first to the second perspective after the 1950s. Passow has called for an appropriate balance of all these four perspectives for designing engineering educational programs.

Categories of competencies expected of college graduates (Stark et al)

Stark et al  advocated to blend the professional and liberal education, and also classified the competencies expected of college graduates into three broad categories: traditional professional competencies, liberal professional competencies, and attitude. As per their classification, traditional professional competencies comprised of conceptual, technical, and integrative competencies as well as career marketability. The second category of liberal professional competencies included interpersonal (communication), contextual, and adaptive competencies as well as critical thinking and leadership capacity. The third category of attitudes integrated professional identity, professional ethics, scholarly concern for improvement, motivation for continued learning, and aesthetic sensibility.

Marzano’s Revised Taxonomy

In 2000,  Marzano proposed his modifications as a two dimensional taxonomy:  (i) knowledge domain comprising of information, mental procedures, and psychomotor procedures, and (ii) processing in cognitive, meta-cognitive and self-system  providing the following hierarchical levels of processing:

  1. Cognitive system:  processes all the necessary information, and
  2. Retrieval
  3. Comprehension
  4. Analysis
  5. Knowledge utilization
    1. Meta-cognitive systems: sets goals and keeps track of how well they are being achieved
    2. Self-system: decides whether to continue the current behavior or engage in the new activity

Various Competency Classification Schemes Cited by García-Aracil and Van der Velden

García-Aracil and Van der Velden  have studied the required competencies of graduates with reference to the requirements of the new situation in the European labor market. They have cited the following earlier competency classification schemes proposed in the last twenty years:

1        Becker: general and firm specific,

2        Nordhaug: firm specific, task specific, and industry specific,

3        Heijke: acquired at school and of direct use in later work, acquired at school which facilitate acquisition of new competencies after school, and those that are acquired mainly in work context,

4        Bunk: specialized, methodological, participative, and socio-individual, and

5        Kellerman: general academic, scientific operative, personal professional, socio-reflexive, physiological handicraft.

Coate’s  schema for curriculum design

Kelly Coate   developed a schema for curriculum design. It included three overlapping domains of ‘knowing,’ ‘acting,’ and ‘being.’ She suggested that the crucial aspect of this schema is the domain of ‘being.’


1.  Adela García-Aracil and Rolf Van der Velden,  Competencies for young European higher education graduates: labor market mismatches and their payoffs, Journal of Higher Education, Springer Netherlands, pp 219-239, February  2008.

2.   Bloom Benjamin S. and David R. Krathwohl, Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: The Classification of Educational Goals, by a committee of college and university examiners. Handbook I: Cognitive Domain, New York, Longmans, 1956.

3.   Anderson, L., & Krathwohl, D. E., A Taxonomy for learning teaching and assessing: A revision of Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives [Abridged]. New York: Addison Wesley Longman, Inc., 2001.

4.   A.L. Costa, Developing Mind: A resource book for teaching thinking, Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development; 3rd edition, December 2001.

5.   Kennedy, M. M., Inexact sciences: Professional education and the development of expertise. Review of Educational Research, Vol. 14,  pp 133-167, 1987.

6.    Stark, Joan and Malcolm A. Lowther. Exploring Common Ground in Liberal and Professional Education, Armount, R. A. and B. S. Fuhrmann (eds.) Integrating Liberal Learning and Professional Education.  New Directions for Teaching and Learning, No. 40, Winter.  San Francisco:  Jossey-Bass, pp 7-20, 1989.

7.   Marzano R. J., Pickering D. & McTighe J. Introduction, assessing student outcomes: Performance assessment using the dimensions of learning model, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), 1993, retrieved from

8.  Sanjay Goel, Competency Focused Engineering Education with Reference to IT Related Disciplines:  Is Indian System Ready for Transformation? Journal of Information Technology Education, Vol. 5, Informing Science Institute, USA, pp 27-52, 2006.

9.   Marzano, R. J., Designing a new taxonomy of educational objectives, Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, 2000.

10.   Kelly Coate, Curriculum, In Tight Malcolm, Ka Ho Mok, Jeroen Huisman, Christopher C. Morphew (Ed.), The Rutledge International Handbook of Higher Education, Routledge, USA, , pp 77-90, 2009.

11.  Sanjay Goel, Investigations on required core competencies for engineering graduates with reference to Indian IT industry, European Journal of Engineering Education, Taylor & Francis, UK, pp 607-617, October, 2006.


13.  Engineering Graduates’ Desired Competencies: Recommendations by Accreditation Boards of Some Countries

14.  Computing Graduates’ Desired Competencies: Some Professional Recommendations


16.  Theories that can help teachers/trainers/e-learning designers to think like educators, help students to improve their learning ability, and also help Software Developers in developing domain competence and readiness

17.  Design of Interventions for Instructional Reform in Software Development Education for Competency Enhancement: Summary of PhD Thesis


Keywords: Software Engineering Education, Computing Education, Computer Science Education, Engineering Education, Information Technology Education, Information Systems Education, College Education, Higher Education, Professional Education


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