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The 7 Competences of the Sustainable Professional

When Competence Based Education was widely introduced in Higher Education, in the first decade of the 21st century, Roorda frequently received questions about competences for sustainable development.

The main question was: "What do you think: should SD be one or more separate competences, to be added to the existing competence profile? Or does our current competence profile already cover everything?"

The answer, according to Roorda, was somewhere in the middle. Yes, there are competences that are vital for professionals (and hence for students) if they want to contribute to SD. But these competences should not be added to existing sets of competences as an "extra": they should be integrated in them, as SD should be an integrated element of the skills and the behavior of all professionals.

As a part of his PhD research, Roorda decided to develop a tool for the integration of SD into competence profiles of BSc and MSc programs. The result, as discussed in Roorda's dissertation (2010), is called RESFIA+D: an acronym, where the seven characters stand for the seven competences the system consists of.

RESFIA+D is described in several books by Roorda.

RESFIA+D is also explained in English in the final section of Fundamentals of Sustainable Development, and in Dutch in the closing chapter of Basisboek Duurzame Ontwikkeling.

English description

Instrument for Education Development

Instrument for HRM and for Personal Professional Development            

Dutch images

The system of RESFIA+D consists of six generic competences, that apply - or should apply - to each and every professional, regardless of the discipline, line of business, the level at which the professional works, or whether a paid job is involved, or a (perhaps unpaid) voluntary task.

Each of the six generic competences ("RESFIA") is divided into three more detailed competences, as the above image shows. So, there are 18 detailed generic competences in total.

The 7th competence is "Disciplinary" ("+D"): it is not generic but specific, i.e. differing for every kind of discipline. Hence, it is actually a very large group of competences, as each discipline and every profession has its own demands and characteristics.

RESFIA+D makes use of 7 "levels of competence". Four of them, levels 3 till 6, are suitable targets for higher education. For that reason, these levels have been made explicit for all of the 18 generic competences, as the following image illustrates for one of the 18.

You can download the complete Set of Competence Cards, with the level descriptions for all 18 generic competences.

Instrument for Education Development

Thanks to the detailed level descriptions, RESFIA+D is applicable as an assessment instrument for study programs in higher education, in other words: as an Education Development Instrument. It has been applied as such in a range of universities.

For an education assessment, a group of persons is composed, together representing the assessed study program and its stakeholders: managers; lecturers; non-teaching staff; students; recent alumni; and highly experienced representatives of the professional field. Together they form a group of ca. 10 or 12 people. Apart from the composition of the group - and things like setting the date, time & location, nothing specific needs to be prepared for the assessment; so it is low in time consumption and in cost.

The exception to this rule is, if it is desired to define the disciplinary ("+D") competences for the specific study program - if this was not done somewhere else yet. In that case, a careful investigation needs to be made in order to define those disciplinary competences in a valid way. This has been done e.g. for the competence profile of educators, resulting in 3 disciplinary competences for them - plus the associated level descriptions for the levels 3 till 6.

During the assessment, for each of the 18 (or more) competences three questions are posed by the assessor to the group, to be discussed and answered in consensus after studying the detailed level descriptions:

1. Which should be the minimum level all students should have reached at graduation? (This is the "Ambition".)

2. Which is the level that is demanded in the present competence profile? (The "Profile".)

3. And finally: Which is the level that is actually realized in the curriculum? ("Reality".)

Often, the three answers differ for many competences; and so, the group sets an improvement task for itself. This is illustrated by the next image, showing the outcomes of a RESFIA+D assessment in 2012.

One of the strong aspects of RESFIA+D is that the improvements are not prescribed by external persons (such as the assessor) or institutions; rather, it is the team of the study program that decides that improvements are necessary.

Instrument for HRM and for Personal Professional Development

RESFIA+D can also be used as an instrument for personal professional development. A professional can apply the RESFIA+D Self-test, which is available in English in The Seven Competences of the Sustainable Professional, and in Dutch in  De Zeven Competenties van de Duurzame Professional.

If several employees of an organization apply RESFIA+D in this way, the model becomes an HRM instrument, which is the 3rd kind of application.

If an individual professional not only fills out the Self-test him- or herself but also invites others to do this for him or her, a 360 degrees feedback is received.

To complete the test, the assessee also fills out his or her ambitions for the next years, thus creating a Personal Development Plan.

The result of an actual personal assessment is shown here.

Here are the essential images in Dutch: