Knowledge Center

Competency Proficiency Levels

The outer ring of the Learning Framework represents progressive levels of proficiency that apply to every competency: Awareness, Application, Mastery and Influence.


Defined: Basic stage. Awareness indicates that a person can perform the competency at its most basic level, or as much as necessary, and requires regular supervision and direction. This person focuses on building foundational skills and is curious to know more about operational and strategic applications of the competency (and processes). 

How a person is described when tackling a competency at this level: observer, learner, follower, beginner, novice, inquisitive, motivated.

How Awareness is demonstrated: The individual has a common knowledge or understanding of the competency. The individual has the level of experience acquired by fundamental training, formal education and experiential learning. The individual demonstrates Awareness within the context of higher ed by:

  • Comfortably discussing or asking about terminology, concepts, principles and issues related to this competency
  • Applying relevant resources and reference materials in this competency
  • Initiating assistance to further clarifying this competency
  • Consistently and equitably applying the competency

Defined: Intermediate stage. Application indicates that the person can perform the competency at the standard required level, i.e., able to display the competency at the required level, without supervision; and has the ability to question and/or initiate improvement without instruction. This person knows the foundational skills, focuses on the operational applications and wants to know (more on) how to improve the competency (and processes) strategically.

How a person is described when tackling a competency at this level: initiator, capable, knowledgeable, systematic, achiever, diligent.

How Application is demonstrated: The individual is able to successfully complete tasks as requested and without assistance. On most occasions, the competency is performed independently. Occasionally, the individual initiates action or makes rudimentary improvements without being prompted. The individual demonstrates Application within the context of higher ed by:

  • Comfortably developing tools and resources related to this competency for training.
  • Communicating or distributing resources both internally and externally to all intended constituents.
  • Seeking help from experts, but also providing guidance to individuals with basic knowledge (Awareness).
  • Continuing a commitment to applying and/or making fundamental improvements to the competency.

Defined: Advanced stage. Mastery indicates that the performer has fully mastered the competency, works without supervision, is capable of instructing others on the competency, and is capable of solving or applying the competency to a wide range of new or different situations. This person has mastered the foundational and operational aspects of the competency and is primarily focused on strategy. Though focused on strategy, this person is securely attuned to the foundational skills necessary to perform the competency (and processes).

How a person is described when tackling a competency at this level: strategist, expert, credible, forward thinking, innovative, skillful.

How Mastery is demonstrated: The individual is able to provide guidance, troubleshoot and answer questions related to this area of expertise and the field where the skill is used. The individual demonstrates Mastery within the context of higher ed by:

  • Aptly applying this competency foundationally, operationally and strategically.
  • Anticipating future consequences and trends accurately, recognizing strategic opportunities for change, creating competitive and breakthrough strategies
  • Challenging practices associated with this competency
  • Guiding others through the interpretation and application of this competency

Defined: Advanced stage. Influence indicates that the performer is able to look beyond circumstances or title to spark change in actions, behavior, processes and relationships to achieve a common goal that is strengthened by trust (ex. demonstrates exemplary leadership by modeling the way, inspiring a shared vision, challenging the process, enabling others to act, and encouraging the heart). This individual has moved beyond the measurable stage of a competency and is in a position to shape/define the competency and related structures, strategies and innovations. This person is exclusively focused on short- and long-term strategy, innovation and advocacy, as well as ensuring the long-term success of the institution.

How a person is described when tackling a competency at this level: Influential, credible advocate, expert, impactful, change agent, motivator, inspirational, transformer/improvement-maker.

How Influence is demonstrated: The individual is an empowering leader, influences innovation, and inspires collaboration to advance cross-functional interactions of areas of expertise and/or competencies.  The individual demonstrates the proficiency within the context of higher ed by:

  • Identifying and defining what long-term success means for this competency
  • Connecting individuals and ideas within the competency and across related competencies
  • Seeking innovation and transformation practices as it relates to the mission and strength of the institution