International Congress on Archives
recognised and form the basis of training for that specific industry. Standards contain
descriptors of outcomes to be achieved and criteria for performance.
This definition reflects a positivist paradigm, assuming that skills and tasks can be broken down into
objective parts, separate from the person, their values and experiences.
Another interpretation of competencies or descriptions of practice reflects a more humanist paradigm.
Competencies define skills and knowledge in a more holistic way, by considering context and social
relationships, not confusing performance with competence, and not being so closely tied to a particular
In this paper, I will use the terms:
competency standards to refer to the vocational or occupational aligned skills and knowledge
that can be measured through demonstrated performance against current tasks;
competencies when making general references to the concept of skills and knowledge,
developed through the humanist or positivist approaches; and
capabilities to cover the attributes needed for more abstract thinking, reflection, analysis and
creation of new knowledge. These are sometimes called competencies, but also capacities,
behaviours or qualities.
To close this summary of concepts, this paper takes the position that professional development is
primarily concerned with developing the capabilities and knowledge of professionals rather than
demonstrating performance. Furthermore, the purpose of professional development is to support a
profession, which Cox argues has to:
constantly challenge and develop theory and practice;
promote the behaviour of its practitioners for the benefit of the community, through a sense of
altruism or service; and
believe in a sense of identity through a culture that has shared values and norms.
Cox believes it is these qualities that separate a profession from an occupation.
Discussion about current and emerging landscape
Having defined some key concepts, I will now address the issues concerning the contribution of
competency standards to professional development. I will look at trends, problems, new initiatives and
sources of hope.
Question 1: What are some key continuities and trends that will impact on the education of archivists
and records managers in the future?
The quest to articulate the skills and knowledge needed for archives and records professionals has
engaged the archival community for many years. The literature in this area is considerable and I can
hope only to describe some in this paper. Table 1 illustrates the range of different interpretations of
what archives and records professionals need to understand but is by no means comprehensive.
National Training Information Service (NTIS), `Competency Standards', NTIS Website:
(accessed 4 June 2004).
C Chappell, A Gonczi & P Hager, `Competencybased education', in G Foley (ed), Understanding Adult
Education and Training, 2
Edition, Allen & Unwin, St Leonards, Sydney, 2000, p. 192.
Chappell, Gonczi & Hager, p. 194.
R Cox, American Archival Analysis: The Recent Development of the Archival Profession in the United States,
The Scarecrow Press, Metuchen, New Jersey, 1990, p. 26.
R Slaughter, Futures for the Third Millennium, Prospect Media, St Leonards, Sydney, 1999, p. 242.