A. Bikfalvi1, N. Mancebo1, H. Aramo-Immonen2, A. Rafart1

2Tampere Technical University (FINLAND)
The objective of this paper is to explore the topic of competence assessment and development for the specific case of adults/experienced professionals coursing studies at a public university. Firstly, we theoretically explore the issue of adult education, linking it to motivation. Secondly, we empirically contrast competences of such target. Our data on competences comes from the self-evaluation of a group of adults/experienced professionals using an ICT-based tool, called Cycloid, to evaluate the social and personal competences required for the work-role of project manager. Thirdly, we compare it to young/regular students coursing the same career, namely Technical Architecture.

Competences refer to traits, knowledge, skills, experience and values that an individual needs to accomplish his or her tasks. They are also defined as behaviour models (Roberts, 1997), or as hidden characteristics of personality with an effect on the performance at work (Spencer and Spencer, 1993). Based on these definitions, our rationale is that competence assessment is an important means of anticipating work-role performance, and thus, competence evaluation becomes an important instrument in several stages of human resources development.

In our educational context, the process towards the European Higher Education Area is an opportunity to enrole high degree studies (superior) for those initially coursing medium (technical) degrees. It is interesting to consider a special target group, adult professionals willing to achieve the recognition of a medium degree (Technical Architecture) to a superior degree (Construction Engineering) coursing a 1-year additional pack of specific courses.

The application of Cycloid was conducted during December 2009 at the University of Girona, one out of the nine public higher education centres located in the region of Catalonia in Spain. Testing the six groups of competences provided by the tool (self-knowledge, self-control, cognitive capability, motivating oneself, empathy, and social skills) 52 subjects filled-in the evaluation complemented with a post-evaluation questionnaire. Their age, gender, background, working experience and not less important motivation made them especially receptive to competence evaluation and a special group to consider.

Based on existing literature, we formulate the following research questions:
What are the different competence strengths and weaknesses perceived by target participants?
Is there significant difference between regular students and adult students in terms of differences?
What might be possible explanations for the detected differences?

The main results show the following: the five competences perceived as main strengths are: trustworthiness, initiative, emotional awareness, collaboration and commitment, while the five main weaknesses (areas that should be targeted with development tools) are: stress tolerance, language proficiency, relationship building, communication and innovativeness. On the other hand, regular students coursing the same career show the following results: the five competences perceived as main strengths are conflict management, collaboration, analytical thinking, commitment and developing others, while the five main weaknesses (areas that should be targeted with development tools) are: stress tolerance, language proficiency, flexibility, self-assessment and responsibility.
A series of explanations and implications are provided in the paper.